Biodiversity in Europe is deteriorating dramatically. The survival of thousands of species and habitats is under threat. The European Environment Agency (EEA) State of Nature in the EU report states that more needs to be done quickly to reverse the tide. The objectives set by the EU for 2020 are far from being met.
The environmental agency identifies unsustainable agriculture and forestry, urban sprawl and pollution as its main causes. In addition, Member States do not comply well with EU nature directives and other environmental laws.
That is why, according to CEO Hans Bruyninckx of the EEA, the way we produce and consume food, manage and use forests and build cities should fundamentally change.
This is necessary for the health of nature and human beings. Better implementation of nature conservation policy, focus on nature restoration and more ambitious climate measures are urgently needed, particularly in transport and industry.
Increase endangered bird species
Most of the protected species in the EU are in bad shape, such as the Sakerfalcon and the Danube salmon. Areas ranging from grassland to dunes are also struggling. 47% of bird species in the EU are good, 5% less than in the period 2008-2012, and the proportion of birds with which it is bad to very bad has risen from 32% to 39%.
Improvement in bird populations can be seen in specially designated Natura 2000 sites. This applies, for example, to the casarca or the black guillemot. Also with a number of breeding birds things are better, such as the crane and the red kite.
More decline than progress
A positive development in the report is that Natura 2000 sites have increased in number and area over the last six years. In doing so, the EU has achieved its global objectives. Around 18% of the land and almost 10% of the sea area are now protected. For some species or habitats, conditions have improved, such as the jumping frog in Sweden, the coastal lagoons in France and the lammerge vulture throughout the EU.
But that stands out sharply against the decline. “As much as 81% of habitats are in poor condition, with peatlands, grasslands and dune inhabitants deteriorating the fastest”, says European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Verginijus Sinkevicius. That is 6 percent more than in the period until 2012, with a third of animal and plant species and half of fish species and amphibians deteriorating.
Changes in lakes and rivers, such as dams and water extraction, the arrival of alien species and climate change, make European nature even more threatened. For example, by abandoning farmland grasslands deteriorate and butterfly species and meadow birds are threatened in their existence.
The report appears at the start of Green Week 2020, in which EU countries discuss how biodiversity can contribute to society and the economy and to the recovery after the coronapandemic.
Another UN biodiversity conference will be on the agenda next year. World leaders are looking at a new ten-year plan for biodiversity.