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Two-thirds of EU citizens do not know the meaning of the word 'biodiversity', let alone understand what the threats and challenges to its conservation are. Most EU citizens have never heard of the Natura 2000 network (78 %). However, over two-thirds of EU citizens report personally making efforts to help preserve nature.
What is the level of public awareness about biodiversity in Europe? Are people willing to take action?
Familiarity with the term biodiversity (EU-27) in 2007 (left) and 2010 (right)
Note: How to read the graph: in 2010, 34 % of EU citizens have never heard of biodiversity.
Gallup Organization, 2007. Flash Eurobarometer Series No 219
Gallup Organization, 2010. Flash Eurobarometer Series No. 290.
Recent surveys (1) showed that only about one-third of EU citizens were familiar with the term ‘biodiversity’: more precisely, 38% of interviewees said they knew the meaning of the term (a three percentage point increase compared to 2007) and that few feel well informed about biodiversity loss.
Two-thirds of EU citizens do not know the meaning of the word ‘biodiversity’, let alone understand the threats and challenges to its conservation. That does not mean, however, they are unaware of environmental matters. When the issue is explained to them, over two-thirds consider the loss of biodiversity a serious problem, although more so at the global rather than the local level. The main threats to biodiversity identified by Europeans both in 2007 and 2010 surveys – pollution and man-made disasters – indicate that the level of understanding of the problem is still inadequate.
The survey also reveals that Europeans are unaware of what the EU is doing to save biodiversity: Only one in five has ever heard of Natura 2000, the EU’s main programme for biodiversity conservation, and only 8 % of respondents indicated they really knew what Natura 2000 meant (slight increase compared to the year 2007). Most EU citizens have never heard of the Natura 2000 network (78%). The Natura 2000 programme needs urgent attention as far as communication to the public is concerned.
If the survey is repeated at regular intervals, it will be possible to identify trends and assess the effectiveness of existing and future policies aimed at raising public awareness and participation with regards to biodiversity.
(1) Gallup Organization, 2007. Flash Eurobarometer Series No. 219, Gallup Organization, 2010. Flash Eurobarometer Series No. 290.
Indicator specification and metadata
This indicator is based on a quantitative questionnaire-based survey (Eurobarometer survey on biodiversity) to provide results that can be presented as, for instance (fictional example): '35 % of the European voting population visit a nature reserve at least once a year'. It can include qualitative information, often involving focus groups, for instance (fictional example): 'Discussion in the United Kingdom focus groups has shown that people are highly concerned about the impact of climate change on wildlife'.
% of survey respondents
Policy context and targets
Public opinion is a vital factor in influencing politicians and decision makers. It provides a barometer for public support and interest and is a motivation for individuals at all levels to lead and to take more action. The purpose of this indicator for public opinion is therefore to gauge attitudes of the general public in relation to issues such as: value for money and effectiveness in delivering biodiversity gains through public funding; knowledge of and value (financial and otherwise) assigned to wildlife; awareness of and opportunities to see wildlife and visit wildlife sites; etc.
Relation of the indicator to the focal area
Public opinion is an indication of: 1) attitude towards biodiversity per se; and 2) the attitude of the action taken by politicians and public bodies toward the protection and management (financial and fiscal, public statements, etc.) for biodiversity.
No targets have been specified
Related policy documents
EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy
in the Communication: Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 (COM(2011) 244) the European Commission has adopted a new strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020. There are six main targets, and 20 actions to help Europe reach its goal. The six targets cover: - Full implementation of EU nature legislation to protect biodiversity - Better protection for ecosystems, and more use of green infrastructure - More sustainable agriculture and forestry - Better management of fish stocks - Tighter controls on invasive alien species - A bigger EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss
Methodology for indicator calculation
The standard Eurobarometer was established in 1973. Each survey consists of approximately 1 000 face-to-face interviews per member state (with variations in a small number of countries). They are conducted between two and five times a year, with reports published twice yearly. Against this background 'Special Eurobarometer' reports (of which biodiversity is one) are based on in-depth thematic studies carried out for various services of the European Commission and other EU institutions and integrated in Standard Eurobarometer's polling waves.
Methodology for gap filling
No methodology for gap filling has been specified. Probably this info has been added together with indicator calculation.
No methodology references available.
No uncertainty has been specified
Data sets uncertainty
No uncertainty has been specified
MAIN DISADVANTAGES OF THE INDICATOR
- It is entirely dependant on the questions asked in the survey. Additionally, the answers are directly linked to factors that will vary between countries, for instance:
Economic prosperity (the ability of travel, etc.);
Cultural and socio economic factors (e.g. nature reserve is a playground to visit for some, and some countries, and a place to live and work for others).
- Differing levels of interpretation/response by the public based on socio-economic/cultural factors.
- Only one data point is certain before 2010.
ANALYSIS OF OPTIONS
Several indicators have been considered. The analysis was built on existing initiatives in European countries and the input of various experts.
Some examples can be found of social indicators for public awareness and participation that are being used at a national level in order to evaluate national or local regional biodiversity policy and strategies:
1. Number of Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs) that exist in different habitats as well as the number of local BAPs (LBAPs).
2. Assessment of public enjoyment of woodland.
3. Assessment of ease of access to local green space and countryside.
4. Proportion of households undertaking wildlife gardening.
5. Numbers of visits to nature reserves.
6. The number of adequately trained staff in local environmental administrations.
7. Number of campaigns and rate of citizen participation in national environmental education and awareness raising programmes e.g. garden bird monitoring programmes.
8. The number of national biodiversity projects implemented with stakeholder participation.
9. Level of personal involvement in community groups.
10. Informal or formal volunteering in conservation groups.
11. Awareness of sustainability and Local Agenda 21.
There are other initiatives developed by Defra, United Kingdom (2006) such as measuring volunteer time spent in conservation and number of people volunteering for conservation activity.
Two headline indicators used in Belgium (2006) are:
1. Frequency of visits to nature and forest areas (annual).
2. Membership of non-governmental organizations for nature conservation (1997-2003).
Natura 2000 data - the European network of protected sites
provided by Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV)
Biodiversity (Primary topic)
Typology: Policy-effectiveness indicator (Type D)
- SEBI 026
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoKatarzyna Biala
EEA Management Plan2011 1.2.2 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
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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