Environmental Atlas of Europe
Satellite pictures over the last 30 years show a significant reduction in the extent of ice coverage in the Baltic region, and on-the-spot measuring has proved that the ice is also thinner than it used to be. The season of ice cover has dropped by as much as 44 days.
Thisted in north west Jutland is the most climate-friendly municipality in Denmark. Since the early 1980s, they’ve been using a creative mix of sustainable energy sources to provide heating and power for their 46,000 residents. In recognition of their contribution to renewable energy they were awarded the European Solar Prize in 2007.
During the Soviet era, Dedoplistskaro in south east Georgia was the country’s main production area for wheat and sunflower seeds. That came to an end in 1991 when Georgia became independent and Russia cut off its energy supply. To survive the cold winters, the people resorted to cutting down trees for firewood, stripping the countryside of the windbreaks that protected the crops and soil from the harsh desert winds and provided a natural habitat for many species of animals and plants.
Ten years ago, a group of people in Ireland came together to try to reduce their overall carbon footprint by building an ecological community. They looked at how they could incorporate sustainability into every aspect of their lives – how they could build and power their houses, how they could earn their living, how they could travel and grow their food.
When coalmining stopped, large industrial areas in the Ruhr district in Germany where abandoned. Many of these areas had to find a new destination. While decision makers where still thinking of how to tackle the situation, nature had already decided and many of the abandoned mine areas had turned into beautiful small forests. Pioneer trees were already taking over and a small scale but nevertheless interesting example of urban biodiversity was developing. Though the areas are relatively small, they have the advantage that all the mines used to be connected in the past by railroads. These tracks, now covered with trees and bushes, form a perfect corridor from one site to another, contributing to an even richer biodiversity in the so-called “urban forests”. It is only a matter of time before the first foxes and deer will appear in Rheinelbe.
About 70,000 Sami live in the Arctic regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Originally they hunted reindeer, but since the 17th century they have practised herding as a form of agricultural meat production, passing their knowledge and skills down through the generations.
Almost a third of the Netherlands lies below sea level, and over the centuries the country has developed a highly efficient flood-defence system. The tragic floods of 1953, caused by a storm surge and exceptionally spring tides, led to a range of modern-day engineering so-lutions as well as a heightened awareness in Dutch society of the dangers of sea level rise. But when, in the mid 1990s, unusually heavy rain in Belgium and Germany caused the Rhine and the Meuse to breach their banks and hundreds of thousands of people had to be evacuated, it was clear that long-term action would have to be taken to protect against flooding from river water as well. The government has now launched a wide ranging pro-gramme of adaptation schemes to protect the coasts from sea-level and to create ‘Room for the River’, by establishing unobstructed spaces into which the major rivers can safely over-flow.
About 20 year ago, the Raimat winery, one of the largest in the world, shifted from traditional to sustainable production. Modern technologies like GPS and GIS, allows the winery to monitor pests, fields to be fertilized and biodiversity in their crops much more accurately. These methods enable them use pest controls and natural fertilisers much more local and only where needed. The ultimate goal is to bring back a “natural” balance in the vineyards without compromising the quality of the product or the profitability of the company. The sustainable practices of Raimat have shown to have a very positive effect on preserving local biodiversity and every year the ecological balance in the fields is improving.
Located in Huelva Province South of Spain, the Monte Mediterraneo Foundation has been established in 1994. The commitment that aimed and still supports the founders in their 7 days a week work is combining sustainable farming practices with the ecological development of the landscape and the preservation of the local biodiversity.
In 1994, during a monitoring and evaluation study carried out in the Meditterenean coasts, it has been discovered that Cirali has a potential nesting place (in addition to the existing 17 significant beaches) for caretta caretta turtle. At the moment, significant turtle beaches have reached 20 or 21 and Cirali is one of them.
The Swedish forestry model is built on regenerating forests, so when the old forest is taken away a new forest is established. It is when the forest is young and middle aged that it grows most rapidly, hence absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By monitoring and using modern technology, forest experts indentify trees that should be harvested and trees that should be left behind.
For the first time the waste in Greenland has been analyzed and the result is alarming. All households and industries need to get better at separating their waste. It’s a crucial mission and everyone needs to be involved, if Greenland is to have a cleaner and greener future.
Earth’s climate is changing with the global temperature now rising at a rate unprecedented in human history. The earliest and most intense impacts of these changes are happening in the Arctic, with the last six years (2005-2010) being the warmest period on record. The latest data show that the net loss of mass from the Greenland Ice Sheet is accelerating, far faster than predicted by the International Panel of Climate Change. Last year alone there were 50 more melting days on the Greenland ice sheet than on average, meaning we now see an average net loss of ice mass of 200 gigatons per year - a level that is four times higher than just back in the year 2000.
An Environmental Atlas story about Europe's first Cross-border Biosphere, which combines the two large strips of forests, the Pfälzerwald and Les Vosges du Nord, into a beautiful and vibrant bioreserve. In certain zones of the bioreserve small scale farmers are making a business out of producing high quality organic products.
The film explores how Greenland’s government is requiring high standards of extraction, demanding environmentally sustainable extraction methods as a minimum. The Finance Minister of Greenland, Maliina Abel, is interviewed and presents Greenland’s view and strategy on the matter.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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