Pesticides may only be applied on Natura 2000 sites if the procedure has received prior approval for tolerability in accordance with an exacting authorisation procedure under EU nature conservation law. The Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the German Environment Agency (UBA) have produced a guide for the responsible authorities in the Länder on how to conduct this check. President Maria Krautzberger of UBA said, "When helicopters spray insecticides across large stretches of forest to fight pests, there is a risk for rare species in the protected areas because almost all plant protection products are also toxic to other animal and plant species. The Länder authorities bear a great responsibility through the approval procedure to protect the environment. The application of pesticides in nature conservation areas must remain the rare exception.”
The Natura 2000 network is comprised of sites stretching across the EU which aim to ensure the survival of valuable and threatened species and habitats listed under the Birds Directive and Habitats Directive. New research has shown that the application of pesticides is especially problematic in terms of nature conservation. This is true in particular when the products are spread by helicopter because application from the air cannot target single trees and instead affects larger neighbouring areas.
If impairment of a Natura 2000 site and the associated protected habitat and species cannot safely be ruled out, it is mandatory to conduct an assessment of the implications for the site. Authorisation may only be issued after a thorough investigation. The Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and UBA are explicit in their updated brochure about plant protection with aircraft about the nature conservation regulations which must be complied with when conducting the authorisation procedure for such applications. The guide is available online (in German) here.
The spreading of plant protection products from aircraft is in principle banned in the EU due to the high risk for man and the environment. Exceptions are made in Germany on occasion for application in the tree canopy of forests if threats to the stock are predicted, as can occur in steep slope viticulture. Application of plant protection products in Germany occurs from helicopters only.