Abundant 'natural capital' in Europe's faraway lands
King penguins, South Georgia Image © Liam Quinn
Six European Union Member States have links to 34 Outermost Regions (ORs) and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs). The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published a new briefing on the ways people and their economies in these far-flung regions both depend on and affect ecosystems. It coincides with the 2014 Guadeloupe Conference, which will look at similar issues.
Several EU overseas territories host a very high biological richness, including around 70 % of the species living in the EU and its overseas entities. Natural capital includes this biodiversity and also vital services such as insect pollination of plants or the flood protection provided by forests.
For many EU overseas territories, protecting natural capital is an important element of adapting to climate change. For example, healthy wetlands, coral reefs and mangroves can protect coastal settlements from floods and storms. Moreover, vegetation and other natural systems have an additional value in absorbing carbon emissions, mitigating climate change.
Such natural capital directly underpins the economy in many overseas territories, the EEA briefing notes. Ecotourism is a vital source of income for many places, while several entities are heavily dependent on fishing. Nonetheless, human activity still threatens ecosystems in many overseas territories.
Many species in overseas territories have evolved in isolation, which means invasive alien species pose a more serious threat than in continental Europe. Climate change, increasing tourist numbers and other factors also threaten many species with extinction.
The EEA plans to collate and assess information on overseas territories' natural capital, which may be published as a report in 2015.
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 30 Sep 2016, 04:38 PM