Europe’s biodiversity continues to be eroded, a new European Environmental Agency report suggests

(Originally posted 21.05.15)

Yesterday the European Environmental Agency (EEA) reported that the majority of habitats and species across Europe have an unfavourable conservation status.

 

The new technical report, published by EEA, presents the most comprehensive and complete overview on conservation statuses and trends of European habitats and species covered by the European Union. The report will be used in policy discussions surrounding the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy. The report looks at the state of nature at a European, national and biogeographic scale as well as considering the main pressures and threats behind the trends observed.

 

Key findings:

Britain, along with Belgium and Denmark, reported among the worst results, with around 70% habitats in unfavourable or bad condition.

Only 16% of habitats and 23% of species are reported as ‘favourable’, while 77% of habitats and 60% of species are ‘unfavourable’.

Over half of Europe’s bird species are considered to be ‘secure’, with no foreseeable risk of extinction.

Species and habitats dependent on agricultural ecosystems are doing worse than general assessments, with those dependent on forest ecosystems not doing much better.

Agricultural activities, artificialisation of rivers and lakes, and water abstraction were the most frequently reported pressures on biodiversity.

Habitats are doing worse than specific species, with grasslands suffering from the intensification of farming, wetlands continuing to be drained, and seas being over fished.

 

That said, there have been significant improvements for a number of species over recent years. The status of a number of birds of prey and large carnivores have shown local or regional improvements, however, these have yet to be seen at a European level. It was concluded that the Natura 2000 network, which covers 18% of the EU’s land and 4% of the seas, appears to be an effective conservation measure, benefiting both target and non-target species. The areas with habitats of best quality were found in the Alps and the Black Sea.

 

Several hundred experts across the EU were involved in collecting, processing and reporting of the data creating the country reports for which the EEA report was based on. A number of citizens also took part in the monitoring and surveying of species. However, there were still a number of gaps in the information with Member States investing more in monitoring than others.

 

The EEA Executive Directior, Hans Bruyninckx, concludes that ‘The results are mixed but clear. When implemented well, conservation measures work and improve the status of habitats and species on the ground.’ However, improvements remain limited and patchy with Europe’s overall biodiversity still being eroded with pressures continuing. Bruyninckx goes on to say, ‘We also need to understand that when dealing with maintaining and enhancing biodiversity, it takes time for our actions to make a difference on a large scale. Therefore, we need to reinforce our effort and actions’.

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Abi Gardner

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