Report: Health check for Europe’s protected nature

The DG Environment has issued a report titled „Health check for Europe’s protected nature“, which systematically assesses Europe’s most endangered animals, plants and natural habitats.  This report presents disturbing findings that most of the species and habitats examined were found to have ‘unfavourable conservation status’ and many were in decline.

A summary of the material presented, from the introduction section of the report states:

This ‘health-check’ of Europe’s natural diversity is part of regular reporting under one of the EU’s main legal acts on nature protection, the Habitats Directive. Twenty-five Member States gave feedback, for the period 2001-2006 (i.e. before Romania and Bulgaria joined the Union). Over 1,000 species of animals and plants were assessed, as were more than 200 habitat types, both on land and in the marine environment. The directive, which came into force in 1992, heralded the beginning of strong and innovative EU action on nature conservation. The Natura 2000 network of protected areas is the prime instrument. Taking the concept of nature conservation beyond nature reserves, the network aims to strike a balance between human activity and wildlife in a living and changing landscape. It covers almost one fi fth of the EU land area and around 130,000 km2 of the marine environment, and is still growing.

Reporting

One of the primary objectives of EU nature policies is to ensure that the long-term future of key species and habitats is secure, a situation described as ‘favourable conservation status’. This requires regular monitoring and assessment. National authorities carried out the reporting by looking at the range, area, structure and functions of habitats and, for each species, the range, population, and area of its habitat. Future prospects, threats and pressures were identifi ed for both species and habitats.

Findings

The reports show, for example, that dunes, bogs, and grasslands are the habitat groups with the worst conservation status. Habitats associated with traditional agricultural practices are in particular need of conservation action. Climate change is already having noticeable eff ects in half of wetland habitats. It is clear that threats to invertebrate groups are especially widespread, and that much more knowledge is needed about the marine environment. The fi ndings highlight the critical importance of conservation actions at EU level, in the establishment and development of the Natura 2000 network and beyond, and reveal an urgent need to intensify ecological restoration eff orts at both national and European levels. The knowledge gained will help to direct resources in future.

A learning process

The report clearly indicates that conservation eff orts need to be boosted for many habitats and species. However, the picture is not all negative. There has never been a comparable body of work of this scale and the fi ndings will be invaluable for biodiversity policy for years to come. It should also be remembered that the species and habitats looked at have been identifi ed as the most at risk – so it is perhaps unsurprising that not many have good status. In addition, conservation measures can take a long time before they start to show noticeable eff ects. The process of making these reports was not easy, but valuable lessons have been learnt that will be applied in the next reporting cycle. The results will act as a benchmark for future assessments and provide for a more accurate picture of the state of Europe’s biodiversity.

Read the full report here in PDF.

Citation: Healthcheck for Europe’s protected nature, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2010, ISBN 978-92-79-12870-7, doi:10.2779/49675

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