Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010: proposal for a first set of indicators to monitor progress in Europe

This report documents the achievements of the first phase (2005–2007) of the Streamlining European 2010 Biodiversity Indicators (SEBI 2010) project on the development of indicators to monitor progress towards, and help achieve the European target to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010.

Human actions are fundamentally, and, to a significant extent irreversibly, changing the diversity of life on Earth. Most ecosystems and the biodiversity contained within them have become exposed to multiple pressures, such as habitat destruction, pollution, overexploitation and climate change. In 2005, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment illustrated the severe global impacts that our lifestyles have had over the last 50 years on ecosystems and their ability to deliver the goods and services on which societies and economies depend.  The EU-27 share of the world’s ecological footprint (i.e. a measure of how much biologically productive land and water area is required to produce all the biological resources the world consumes and to absorb the waste it generates) is more than twice its share of the global population.

Europe is a huge, diverse region and the relative importance of different threats varies widely across its bio-geographic regions and countries. Perhaps more than in any other continent, the diversity of Europe’s species greatly depends on man-made landscapes and extensive, small-scale agricultural land use. Remarkably few areas of even the highest conservation value are truly natural today. Therefore, the continuation of traditional methods of land management is essential for the survival of many species.

The 2010 target has brought together many actors involved in biodiversity policy, monitoring and research in Europe to work on the development of a common assessment framework based on indicators.  Having been privileged to receive the steering role for the SEBI 2010 project, the EEA has, in this first phase, observed the major progress made towards achieving consensus on the indicator framework, analytical methods and quality assured data flows. 

Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in the work so far, especially the SEBI 2010 Coordination Team and Expert Groups, and those NGOs who under difficult financial circumstances continue to deliver excellent quality‑assured data flows on many species of priority interest in Europe.

The set of indicators documented in this report is not intended to be comprehensive. Nevertheless, it constitutes a first set with which to monitor progress towards 2010. Some of the indicators directly track the impact on a component of biodiversity, whereas others reflect threats to biodiversity, its sustainable use and integrity. And the set as a whole can be used to help assess the effect of various sectors and sectoral policies on biodiversity.

Different combinations of indicators facilitate different views, which can be used to answer key policy questions, such as: What is the current status?  What are the causes? Why is it important? What action can be taken? The relationship between the messages from the different indicators is naturally complex, but careful assessment will afford policy makers insight into where efforts should be concentrated or existing policies changed.  The SEBI 2010 indicators can also complement other sets of indicators designed to assess progress in other policy sectors (e.g. agriculture, forestry, poverty reduction, health, trade and sustainable development as well as those describing the abiotic environment) and utilise indicators from existing sets. By doing this, existing resources can be used more efficiently and space can hopefully be created for effective investment in new dataflows and analytical methods.

It is hoped that through the publication of this report and associated activities, the SEBI 2010 process can help bring about increased investment and improve the evidence base for assessing progress towards the 2010 target. The monitoring, conservation and assessment of biodiversity depend to a much greater degree on NGO activities than other environmental issues. Also, funding for biodiversity monitoring substantially lags behind investments made by countries in other environmental issues, such as air and water quality and atmospheric emissions. Yet halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010: proposal for a first set of indicators to monitor progress in Europe biodiversity is arguably as important as climate change for future policy action.

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