Assessing biodiversity: where does Europe stand?
In 2002, when the world committed to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, Europe went one step further and pledged to halt the loss completely. A set of 26 indicators, known as 'Streamlining European 2010 Biodiversity Indicators' (SEBI 2010), was compiled to measure change. The first assessment based on SEBI 2010 by the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows that despite progress, biodiversity loss continues. It also identified important gaps in our knowledge.
The EEA's report ' Progress towards the European 2010 biodiversity target ', finds that European biodiversity is still under serious pressure and that the policy response is not yet adequate to halt the general decline. Biodiversity faces grave risks at the level of genes, species and ecosystems.
On 13 July, the European Commission released a ' Composite report' to the European Council and Parliament on the implementation of the Habitats Directive. Responding to the two reports' findings, EEA Executive Director Professor Jacqueline McGlade said:
'Europe's biodiversity is still under serious pressure and faces grave risks. Although we will miss the target of halting the biodiversity loss in Europe by 2010, some progress is being made. As [EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas] said recently in Athens, the post-2010 target should be ambitious, measurable and clear. It should maintain the emphasis given to the intrinsic value of biodiversity while also recognising the value of healthy and resilient ecosystems and the services they provide'.
The next major assessment based on the indicators will be done in 2010.
Key findings from the EEA report
- Substantial progress has been made in protecting habitats. Some 17 % of EU land area is now included in the Natura 2000 network and 16 % protected under national schemes across 39 countries.
- Around 40-85 % of habitats and 40-70 % of species of European interest have an unfavourable conservation status. Grasslands and wetlands across Europe are particularly at risk.
- Legislation on atmospheric emissions, freshwater quality and waste water treatment has reduced the pressure on biodiversity. Specific measures have also relieved agriculture-related pressures, although further efforts are required.
- Water quality has generally improved in fresh waters.
- Overexploitation of marine fisheries remains a threat to marine ecosystems, with some 45 % of assessed European stocks falling outside safe biological limits.
- Invasive alien species remain a threat, increasingly so in marine systems.
- Urban sprawl and abandonment of agricultural land put pressure on natural and semi-natural areas. Forest fragmentation is another key threat and has increased since 1990.