Nature in europe is threatened. And that from several sides. Intensive farming and forestry displaced many animal and plant species. Expansion of residential areas destroys special habitats such as dune landscapes and rocky areas. And pollution does its ubriges.
As a result, biodiversity continues to decline drastically, as a report by the EU’s environmental agency EEA presented in copenhagen on monday shows.
According to the report, despite some efforts and improvements, member states continue to tread water when it comes to protecting biodiversity. The state of conservation of most protected species and habitats is still insufficient, while the populations of many are still declining. A majority of EU-protected species, such as the sausage falcon and the red fish, and habitats such as grasslands and dunes, face an uncertain future if something is not done quickly. Nature conservation guidelines and environmental regulations have not been sufficiently implemented in the process. On a local level, however, there are rays of hope.
"Our assessment shows that the protection of the health and resilience of nature in europe, as well as the well-being of people, requires fundamental changes," declared eea director general hans bruyninckx. There must be fundamental changes in the way food is produced and consumed, forests are managed and used, and cities are built. These efforts had to be accompanied, among other things, by better implementation and enforcement of nature conservation and increasingly ambitious climate protection measures, especially in the transport and energy sectors.
According to the EEA, the report is the most comprehensive collection of data ever undertaken in europe on the state of nature. It covers the period 2013 to 2018 and is based on information provided by the EU countries on the protection of species and habitats in their areas. Eu commission and eea then create a rough overall picture from it.
Germany, like other EU countries, has reported more natural areas and species in poor to bad condition than in good condition, said EEA expert carlos de oliveira romao. About one-third of the breeding birds there are declining, while the proportion of stable populations has increased from 24 to 31 percent. Improvements are seen, for example, in the singing swans, cranes and greylag geese. Two projects had also helped to successfully reintroduce the allis shad into the rhine river.
This is one of several local positive examples pointed out by the EEA. But these had to be significantly increased in number and scope to reverse the overall situation, romao said. The fact that nothing has really changed in the past six years is bad news. "There are no significant improvements. This is disturbing news," he said.
Christoph heinrich, head of nature conservation at WWF germany, said with regard to the decline of some animal species: "these are historic lows. This week, however, the german government, as president of the EU council, also has the chance to initiate a historic trend reversal. Decisions on the common agricultural policy (CAP), the EU biodiversity strategy and fishing quotas for the baltic sea are paving the way for the years to come."
According to the EEA report, some species and habitats in the EU are able to maintain their conservation status, while the majority continue to have a poor to bad status. Of the 463 species of wild birds in the EU covered by the birds directive 2009/147/EC, the proportion in good condition has fallen by five percent to 47 percent and the proportion in poor or bad condition has risen by seven percent to 39 percent.
The status of 63 percent of the nearly 1,400 species covered by the habitats directive 92/43/EEC is poor or inadequate. For habitats, the picture is even bleaker: the status is inadequate for 81 percent and good for only 15 percent. Forests still show the best trends, while meadows, dunes and peatlands are deteriorating strongly.
Brussel is also aware of the situation. "This assessment of the state of nature shows very clearly that we continue to lose our indispensable life support system," declared EU environment commissioner virginijus sinkevicius. The commitments made in the new biodiversity strategy had to be fulfilled urgently in order to reverse this decline – "for the benefit of nature, people, the climate and the economy," says sinkevicius.
In may, the EU commission and its head ursula von der leyen issued the new EU biodiversity strategy 2030. At least 30 percent of the land and sea area in the EU is to be protected by 2030 – currently around 18 percent is protected under the european natura 2000 network. Such flats may be used, but with restrictions. One third of the protected area is to be specially protected and left quasi natural. Damaged areas should be preserved and restored.
Meanwhile, the goals of the biodiversity strategy 2020 will be missed. "We have failed to achieve our stated goal of halting and reversing the loss of biodiversity in the eu," said michael o’briain, deputy head of the commission’s nature conservation department. But there is hope: the new EU commission has made it clear from day one that we are dealing with both a climate and a biodiversity crisis.
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