The national Natura 2000 technical exchange platform was established and is coordinated by ATEN, a public interest group comprising 20 organisations and public authorities involved in managing and protecting biodiversity. The platform allows information exchange between more than 6 000 professionals, bringing together the knowledge, practical skills and experience related to managing the 1 758 land and marine Natura 2000 sites in metropolitan France.
To establish the platform, analysis of the needs among Natura 2000 professionals was carried out to ensure the platform services would be useful. A small secretariat was put in place to monitor the developments in the Natura 2000 management in France and abroad and represent the French Natura 2000 professionals at EU-wide events. The technological context (software and web-based tools) for the effective functioning of the network was put in place.
The platform provides a set of tools for managing the Natura 2000 sites. A web-portal — the Web incubator, providing free, ready-to-use website templates for N2K site presentation — is currently used by more than 25 % of France Natura 2000 sites. A methodological guidance for drafting management plans has been developed and endorsed by the Ministry of Environment and training for its use is provided. Currently, around 95 % of the Natura 2000 sites are using the methodology. The project has also established a free internet-accessible database — SUDOCO — which enables Natura 2000 site managers to upload the site’s conservation objectives and measures and respectively provides them with access to measures implemented in other sites.
In addition, events such as training days (and e-learning) and an annual technical exchange day are organised. This provides an excellent model for collaboration on Natura 2000 management, and the approach has already been followed elsewhere, e.g. through twinning with partners in Romania and across the EU.