Europe is still far from meeting its 2010 target and we risk missing future targets unless we change the way we are managing our environment. The European Environment Agency’s new biodiversity report based on SEBI 2010 indicators assesses the state of biodiversity in Europe and makes recommendations for improving policy effectiveness.
The Agency's new report 'Assessing biodiversity in Europe – the 2010 report' considers the status and trends of Pan-European biodiversity in a range of ecosystems, and the implications of these trends for biodiversity management policy and practice. It makes use of 'Streamlining European 2010 Biodiversity Indicators' (SEBI 2010) as well as other relevant national and regional information sources.
'For change to occur, we first need broader public understanding and appreciation of biodiversity and its role in sustaining our societies and economies. Secondly, policymakers need to understand what is driving biodiversity loss and how we can halt it,' said Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA 'This cannot be made without embedding environment in the economy.'
European biodiversity has declined dramatically in the last two centuries. Today, most of Europe's biodiversity exists within a mosaic of heavily managed land and highly exploited seascapes, largely linked to agricultural, forestry and fishery practices across the region. Major threats include habitat destruction and fragmentation, establishment and spread of invasive species, pollution from agricultural runoff, increasing water abstraction, over exploitation, and the increasing impact of climatic change.
The policies adopted and implemented at international and European levels have had positive impacts on some aspects of biodiversity. For example, forest cover has significantly increased in the last two decades across northern Europe and the status of many waterways has improved as a result of reduced industrial and agricultural pollution. Recovery plans implemented for many threatened species have also had some success.
Conservation measures, where implemented successfully, have had positive impacts. However, a large proportion of habitats and species still have an unfavourable conservation status, indicating the need to intensify conservation efforts.
Conservation activities alone are insufficient to address biodiversity loss because many of the causes emanate from sectors beyond the control of conservation interventions. Other sectors impacting biodiversity, such as trade, agriculture, fisheries, transport, health, tourism and the financial sector must take the economic value of biodiversity into account and be reshaped to support biodiversity conservation.
Policies and measures to address biodiversity loss must be formulated to address all the pressures and threats on an ecosystem, disregarding administrative boundaries on land and at sea, while ensuring cooperation across economic sectors.
Filling knowledge gaps through further monitoring, research and assessment will enable better decision-making and policies on European biodiversity.
Policy framework should be complemented by efforts to raise public awareness aimed at encouraging individual action and to boost public opinion for changes in policy.