20 beautiful images of the delicate diversity of Europe’s wildlife — but a European Environment Agency report warns the continent’s nature is in serious and continuing decline.
Europe’s nature in serious and continuing decline say European Environment Agency
The European Environment Agency (EEA) is an agency of the European Union, whose task is to provide sound, independent information on the environment. Their latest evaluation shows Europe’s nature in serious, continuing decline.
EEA findings point to unsustainable farming and forestry, urban sprawl and pollution being the top pressures to blame for a drastic decline in Europe’s biodiversity, threatening the survival of thousands of animal species and habitats. Moreover, European Union (EU) nature directives and other environmental laws still lack implementation by Member States.
Most protected habitats and species are not in good conservation status and much more must be done to reverse the situation, according to the EEA report, “State of nature in the EU — Results from reporting under the nature directives 2013-2018“
The EEA regularly run photo competitions, and below are a selection of 10 finalist entries in the European Environment Agency’s ‘WaterPix‘ photography competition. Following those, a further 10 images from ‘Environment & Me 2014’. These images show why we need to act now to protect the delicate balance of Europe’s wildlife and ecosystems.
Europe’s protected species and habitats face uncertain future
A majority of EU wide protected species, and habitats from grasslands to dunes across Europe, face an uncertain future unless more is urgently done to reverse the situation, according to the EEA report “State of nature in the EU — Results from reporting under the nature directives 2013-2018 ”.
The report shows positive developments in conservation efforts. Both the number and area of sites protected under the Natura 2000 network have increased over the last 6 years and the EU met the global targets with around 18 % of its land area and nearly 10 % of marine area protected.
Top threats to nature identified
However, intensive agriculture, urban sprawl and unsustainable forestry activities are the top reported pressures to habitats and species, the EEA report says. Pollution of air, water and soil also impacts habitats, as does continued over-exploitation of animals through illegal harvesting and untenable hunting and fishing.
These threats are compounded by alterations to rivers and lakes, such as dams and water abstraction, invasive alien species, and climate change. Abandonment of agricultural land contributes to the continued decline of semi-natural habitats, like grasslands, and their species, like butterflies and farmland birds. The report also points to some positive developments, mostly at national or regional scale.
Policy-wise there is also hope due to the new EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the Farm to Fork Strategy, both core elements of the European Green Deal. The biodiversity strategy aims to strengthen and enlarge the network of protected areas, set up a restoration plan and ensure that ecosystems are healthy, resilient to climate change, rich in biodiversity, and deliver the range of services essential for citizens’ prosperity and well-being.
Apart from these new policies, extra efforts are needed to improve monitoring capacities in Member States to support the targets. Currently, many data gaps persist, especially for marine species and habitats. More data are also needed to fully evaluate the role of Natura 2000 network. Finally, implementation of EU legislation must be significantly improved.
Read EEA Report No 10/2020: “State of nature in the EU — Results from reporting under the nature directives 2013-2018”
This report describing the state of nature in the EU is based on reports from Member States under the Birds (2009/147/EC) and the Habitats (92/43/EEC) directives and on subsequent assessments at EU or EU biogeographical levels. In addition to an overview on species and habitats status, both at national and EU levels, it also addresses the status of the Natura 2000 network and its possible contribution to the status of species and habitats. Finally, the report provides results on progress towards Targets 1 and 3 of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy.