Natura 2000 (N2K) is a network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species, as well as for some rare natural habitat types which are protected in their own right. It stretches across all 28 EU countries, both on land and at sea. The aim of the network is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats that are listed under the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive.
Previously, in 2015 a selection of N2K grassland-rich sites (chosen from within five grassland habitats types, namely, 6210, 6240, 6250, 6510 and 6520) and covering approx. 160.000 km2 was mapped, including a 2km buffer to allow for an analysis of pressures and threats. The mapping product offered a detailed LC/LU product applying a hierarchical nomenclature with 62 classes. The selected sites were mapped for both the 2006 and 2012 reference years.
In 2017, to allow for a harmonisation of the nomenclatures applied to the different local component products (Riparian Zones, N2K and the future Coastal Zone product), a revision of the nomenclature was undertaken which resulted in a reduction of classes. The N2K status layer now differentiates 55 thematic LC/LU classes. Due to the revision of the nomenclature the original dataset had to be re-coded (the old dataset is discontinued) and the new dataset, with an increased area, offers currently a LC/LU product covering approximately 300.000 km2
The mapping exercise will continue until middle 2019 when a final dataset covering approximately 630.000 km2 will be made available. An extension to other habitat types is also foreseen and is currently under discussion.