The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (the Bern Convention) was adopted in Bern, Switzerland in 1979, and came into force in 1982. It is a binding international legal instrument for nature conservation that covers the natural heritage of the European continent and some African states.
The principal aims of the Convention are to ensure conservation and protection of wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats (listed in Appendices I and II of the Convention), to increase co-operation between contracting parties, and to regulate the exploitation of migratory species listed in Appendix III.
Implementation in the UK
The UK Government ratified the Bern Convention in 1982. The obligations of the Convention are transposed into UK law by means of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981 as amended), Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended), Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, and the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.
The Convention was extended to Gibraltar in 2020 and transposed into Gibraltar law by means of the Nature Protection Act 1991 (as amended).
JNCC provides scientific and technical advice to the Government on the interpretation, application and implementation of the Convention. JNCC is also active in a number of the Groups of Experts convened by the Convention.
The Emerald Network is a pan-European ecological network made up of Areas of Special Conservation Interest (ASCIs). The objective of the network is the long-term survival of the species and habitats of the Bern Convention requiring specific protection measures. For European Union (EU) Member States, sites designated as Special Protection Areas (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are their Emerald Network Sites – so prior to the UK leaving the EU, the UK sites which formed the Natura 2000 network were already Emerald Network sites.
Key links for information about the Emerald Network include:
- Emerald Reference Portal https://www.coe.int/en/web/bern-convention/emerald-network-reference-portal.
- Reference documents https://www.coe.int/en/web/bern-convention/documents1.
- Resolution No. 4 (1996) listing endangered natural habitats requiring specific conservation measures (including revised Annex I to Resolution No. 4 (1996), adopted in 2014 by the Standing Committee).
- Resolution No. 5 (1998) concerning the rules for the Network of Areas of Special Conservation Interest (Emerald Network).
- Resolution No. 6 (1998) listing the species requiring specific habitat conservation measures (including revised Annex I to Resolution No. 6 (1998), adopted in 2011 by the Standing Committee).
- Resolution No. 8 (2012) on the national designation of adopted Emerald sites and the implementation of management, monitoring and reporting measures
- Emerald Viewer http://emerald.eea.europa.eu/.
Transfer of UK data to the Emerald Network Database
The UK made a commitment at the 38th Standing Committee meeting of the Bern Convention (November 2018) that UK sites which are currently part of the EU’s Natura 2000 Network (Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) will continue as the UK’s contribution to the Emerald network after the UK leaves the EU.
JNCC and the country nature conservation bodies (CNCBs) then worked to identify how the data should be moved from the Natura 2000 database to the Emerald Network Database. Although the formats of the databases are very similar, the transfer was not straightforward, particularly due to the complexity of relationships between Annex I of the Habitats Directive and Resolution 4 of the Bern Convention. A first tranche of data was moved across in November 2020, and at the 40th Standing Committee meeting (November 2020) the following decision was recorded:
The Standing committee noted that UK sites included in the Natura 2000 Network are already Emerald Network sites and that will be the case for UK sites which are included in the Natura 2000 Network as at the end of December 2020. The Standing Committee also noted that listing for UK sites takes effect as of 11pm GMT on 31 December 2020. The Standing Committee further welcomed that the UK is continuing its work to share the data for the rest of its sites with the Secretariat of the Bern Convention to enable the information on these sites to be displayed in the Emerald Network Viewer.
A second tranche of data transfer was completed in October 2021. This included edits to the sites in tranche 1 and a full resubmission. Overall, the data transfer included 284 SPAs and 657 SACs for Metropolitan UK, and Gibraltar’s two SPA and SAC sites. All these sites were recorded in the list of Adopted Emerald Network sites at the 41st Standing Committee meeting (November 2021).
Further to the update of a number of SACs and SPAs in September 2022 the UK submitted revised data to the Bern Convention in advance of the 42nd meeting of the Standing Committee (held in late November / early December 2022). A change log of the changes is provided in the downloadable resources below.
Details of the translation of individual sites and features are available from JNCC's Resource Hub. This includes the following resources:
- Overview of the translation process (presentation).
- Spreadsheet of features (UK) (Excel) (also available as an open document spreadsheet (ods)).
- Spreadsheet of features (Gibraltar) (Excel) (also available as an open document spreadsheet (ods).
A change log outlining the changes to the UK's national site network of SPAs and SACs between January 2021 and 30 September 2022 is available in spreadsheet format.
Supporting implementation of the Emerald Network in the UK
At the 41st Standing Committee meeting Parties to the Convention discussed issues arising from implementation of the Emerald Network. The Standing Committee concluded that Parties should be requested to respond to the following question:
“Please identify what problems or challenges you face with implementing relevant elements of the Convention and other measures in place for Emerald Network sites”
JNCC has published two reports (Phase 1 Report and Phase 2 Report) which focus on identifying what is required to implement the Emerald Network based on existing Bern Convention Resolutions, Recommendations, Guidance and Processes, without considering the Habitats Regulations or the Habitats and Birds Directives. The reports review those Resolutions, Recommendations, Guidance and Processes to provide advice on how the Emerald Network should be implemented and help to identify issues or gaps in the current documentation.
The Phase 1 and 2 Reports are available from JNCC's Resource Hub.