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You are here: Home / Media / News / Spanish university to lead work for EEA on land use and degradation

Spanish university to lead work for EEA on land use and degradation

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The European Environment Agency has designated Spain's Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) to take a lead role in reinforcing the Agency's work on land degradation.
NEWS RELEASE Copenhagen, 22 March 2001

Spanish university to lead work for EEA on land use and degradation

The European Environment Agency has designated Spain's Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) to take a lead role in reinforcing the Agency's work on land degradation, a growing obstacle to sustainable development in Europe, and other land-related issues.

The EEA's Management Board decided at its meeting on 20 March to designate a consortium headed by UAB, a renowned centre of excellence in ecological sciences, as leader of the Agency's new European Topic Centre on terrestrial environment.

European Topic Centres are consortia of institutes or organisations with particular expertise that operate as extensions of the EEA by undertaking work in specific areas on a contractual basis.

The decision completes the designation of the lead organisations of the five new Topic Centres that will support the EEA's work over the next three years. The Management Board also ratified contracts with the lead organisations of the four other new Topic Centres, which will cover water, air and climate change, nature and biodiversity, and waste and material flows.1

"The systematic abuse of Europe's land, soil and natural resources is becoming ever more apparent and is likely to worsen unless resolute action is taken to reverse it. This decision will allow the Agency to strengthen its work in this field and help create a more solid basis for policy responses," commented Domingo Jiménez-Beltrán, the EEA's Executive Director.

The EEA and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) joined forces in a recent report2 to warn that the degradation of Europe's land resources would continue and even accelerate in the absence of prompt action. Land use is one of the six priority themes of the EU strategy on sustainable development that the European Commission will shortly unveil.

The appointment of UAB follows a competitive tendering procedure in which two other consortia also presented proposals.

The three bids were evaluated by a seven-member committee comprising representatives of the EEA, the EEA's Scientific Committee, the European Commission's Directorate-General for Environment, the EU's Joint Research Centre and Eurostat, the Commission's statistics office. Two further members of the Scientific Committee provided input to the selection process.

The evaluation committee concluded that the UAB consortium's proposal was the strongest of the three. The committee's recommendation that the UAB consortium should be designated to lead the Topic Centre was approved by a more than two-thirds majority of the EEA's Management Board. The representatives of Austria, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg voted against the decision.

The UAB consortium will be required to improve aspects of its programme concerning soil, contaminated land and data management before starting.

UAB will work with seven partner organisations from the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Romania and Spain.3 The inclusion of organisations from three central and eastern European countries represents a further step towards integrating these states into the EEA's work programme as they become members of the Agency.

The Topic Centre will focus on the issues of land cover and use, soils and coastal zones. It will pay particular attention to the most fragile ecosystems, which include coastal zones and mountain areas.

One of the new Topic Centre's first tasks will be to assure quality control of a 10 million EUR project to update detailed satellite photographs of Europe's land cover and then to build on these in its work.

The terrestrial environment Topic Centre will innovate by developing an approach to monitoring and assessing the environment based on ecological regions instead of national or administrative boundaries. This will allow the EEA to link environmental information to specific geographical regions or units, such as river basins, mountain ecosystems or urban areas.

In the longer term this approach will enable the Agency to develop a Geographic Information System for conducting fully integrated assessments in which environmental parameters such as air emissions, water quality, soil erosion and biodiversity will be shown and interpreted in their geographical context.

The Topic Centre on terrestrial environment will be responsible for providing guidance on this spatially-driven approach to the four other Topic Centres.

The number of Topic Centres is being reduced from a total of nine in the past, a change that should facilitate a more integrated approach to their issues. The new Topic Centres are due to start work this spring.

Notes to Editors

The European Environment Agency aims to support sustainable development and to help achieve significant and measurable improvement in Europe's environment through the provision of timely, targeted, relevant and reliable information to policy making agents and the public. The Agency is the hub of the European Environment Information and Observation Network (EIONET), a network of environmental bodies and institutes across Europe.

Created by the European Union (EU) in 1993 and located in Copenhagen, the EEA is open to all countries that share its objectives and are able to participate in its activities. It currently has 18 member countries - the 15 EU member states, plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, which are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The 13 countries in central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean area that are seeking accession to the EU are expected to join the EEA in the coming months, making the Agency the first EU body to welcome these countries.

1The lead organisations of the other new Topic Centres are as follows:
Water: WRc plc, UK
Air and climate change: National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM), the Netherlands
Nature protection and biodiversity: National Museum of Natural History (Muséum national d'histoire naturelle), Paris, France
Waste and material flows: Danish Environmental Protection Agency/City of Copenhagen.

2Down to earth: Soil degradation and sustainable development in Europe. A challenge for the 21st century.

3The partner organisations are:
Danube Delta National Institute (DDNI), Romania
Institute of Geodesy, Cartography and Remote Sensing (FÖMI), Hungary
GISAT Geoinformation, Czech Republic
Geological Survey of Finland (GTK)
French Institute for the Environment (IFEN - Institut français de l'environnement)
National Geographical Institute (IGN - Institut géographique national), France
Council for Environmental Protection, Andalucia, Spain.


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