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Europe's nature under pressure

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Europe's nature under pressure

Greek LIFE support for the Prespa Lakes

(COPENHAGEN) - Intensive farming, urbanisation and unsustainable forestry are contributing to the decline of protected habitats and species in Europe, a review of vulnerable species and habitats showed Monday.

The European Commission's latest assessment of the state of nature in the European Union finds that pollution of air, water and soil also impacts habitats, as well as climate change, over-exploitation of animals through illegal harvesting and untenable hunting and fishing.

It makes clear that if this is not addressed, the decline will inevitably result in the continued erosion of our biodiversity and the vital services it provides, putting human health and prosperity at risk.

The report underlines the clear need for action if we are to have any serious chance of putting Europe's biodiversity on a path to recovery by 2030, as envisaged in the new EU Biodiversity Strategy. In this regard, the full implementation of the goals and targets proposed in the Strategy, as well as in the Farm to Fork Strategy will be essential.

The assessment - based on a more detailed technical report of the European Environment Agency - shows that while there are protected species and habitats that are managing to hold the line despite being subject to major pressure, the majority have poor or bad status at EU level, with some showing continued deteriorating trends.

Among species, birds that are closely associated with agriculture continue to decline, while freshwater fish have the highest proportion of bad conservation status (38 %) primarily due to changes to waterbodies and water-flow and hydropower installations. Among habitats, only 15% of them are in good condition. Restoration of peatlands and other wetlands can deliver nature benefits, but also significantly contribute to addressing climate change, creating employment opportunities in rural and peripheral areas.

The report also shows that targeted conservation action brings results. The Iberian lynx, the forest reindeer and the otter, each of which has been targeted by major conservation projects, are now recovering. Initiatives under the EU LIFE programme, dedicated agri-environment schemes under the common agricultural policy, and the Natura 2000 network with its 27,000 sites continue to have a positive influence, but this needs to be scaled up considerably.

Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius says "we are losing our vital life support system. As much as 81 % of protected habitats are in poor condition in the EU. We urgently need to deliver on the commitments in the new EU Biodiversity Strategy to reverse this decline for the benefit of nature, people, climate and the economy."

Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency said: "safeguarding the health and resilience of Europe's nature, and people's well-being, requires fundamental changes to the way we produce and consume food, manage and use forests, and build cities."

European Commission report

EEA State of Nature technical report

Report – Bringing nature back through LIFE


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