Species diversity (CSI 009) - Assessment published Nov 2005
Biodiversity (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- CSI 009
Key policy question: What is the state and trend of biodiversity?
Land cover change from 1990 to 2000 expressed as % of the 1990 level, aggregated into EUNIS habitat level 1 categories
Note: The table shows the land cover changes expressed as % of the 1990 level - aggregated into EUNIS habitat level 1 categories.
Corine Land Cover, EEA
Temporal coverage for the three data sets
Note: This figure shows the temporal coverage of three different datasets for Habitats, Birds and Butterflies
Trends in birds and butterfly populations in EU-25 (% decline)
Note: The number in brackets show the number of species taken into account for each habitat type
Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring project (EBCC, BirdLife Int, RSPB), Dutch Butterfly Conservation
The indicator links population trends of species belonging to these two groups (birds and butterflies) to the trends in extent of different habitat types deriving from land cover change analysis 1990-2000.
Results vary among species/habitats groups, but it is striking that both birds and butterflies, show a decline in all habitats examined.
The wetland bird and butterfly species population decline can be explained by direct habitat loss as well as habitat degradation through fragmentation and isolation. habitats are shown to have the strongest decline in area (-5%) across EU-25 between 1990-2000, a trend based on detecting changes bigger than 25 hectares.
Heaths and scrubs have a particular high diversity of butterfly species, up to at least 92 species of those surveyed. Direct habitat loss (-2%) as well as habitat degradation through fragmentation and isolation also play a role in the very substantial 28% decline observed amongst butterfly species.
The highest number of species assessed, namely 206 butterfly species and 23 birds species, occur in the farmland habitat. These species are typical of open grassy areas such as extensively farmed areas, grasslands, meadows and pastures. The two species groups show very similar trends of decline, namely -28% and -22% respectively. The main pressures related to this decline are loss of extensive farmland with a low or no input of nutrients, herbicides and pesticides, and an increase in agricultural intensification, which leads, among other factors, to loss of marginal habitats and hedgerows and a higher input of fertiliser, herbicides and insecticides.
The area of woodland and forest habitats has increased by 1% since 1990, which in absolute terms is about 500 000 hectares. However, the species linked to the woodland and forest habitats have declined. The 89 butterfly species occurring in this habitat show a decline by -24% compared to a -2% decline of woodland, park and garden birds. Nearly all forests in Europe are managed to some extent and the various management schemes surely have an impact on species diversity. For example, the presence of dead wood and old growth trees are of importance to birds for nesting and feeding and clearing of forest are an important factor for the forest butterflies.
Specific policy question: How is biodiversity doing in rural areas?
Figure 4 shows there has been a marked decline of European birds since the 1980s. Populations of common and widespread farmland bird species in 2003 are only 71% of their 1980 levels. This is highly significant given the EU objective of halting biodiversity loss by 2010. This decline can be attributed in large part to changes in agricultural practices, including a shift to more intensive practices.
Birds are considered good proxies for biodiversity as they are high in the food chain and so they reflect changes in ecosystems. They also have large European ranges, and are abundant enough to be monitored accurately. The assessment is based on data for 23 common farmland species from 18 European countries.
- Birdlife International www.birdlife.org
- Royal Society for the Protection of Birds www.rspb.org.uk
- European Bird Census Council www.ebcc.info/
- 2003 Environment policy review http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/industry/com2003_745_en.pdf
Trends of butterflies
provided by Dutch Butterfly Conservation
Trends of farmland birds
provided by Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Trends of woodland, park and garden birds
provided by European Bird Census Council (EBCC)
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoKatarzyna Biala
EEA Management Plan2010 (note: EEA internal system)
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.
PDF generated on 25 Jan 2015, 10:00 PM