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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Luxembourg

Nature protection and biodiversity (Luxembourg)

Why should we care about this issue

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010
Key message

Luxembourg is presenting, despite its small size, a very interesting geological and landscape diversity as well as species richness.

However, the rapid demographic growth as well as economic growth that Luxembourg experienced these last 25 years are leading to continuing pressure on biodiversity and landscapes through higher fragmentation of the territory, continuous urban sprawl, and new needs for transportation infrastructure.

Nature protection and biodiversity conservation are therefore a crucial issue in Luxembourg that is being addressed by various integrated Action Plans.

While landscape fragmentation, habitat loss and species extinction, despite progress in many areas within the realm of conservation issues, are still unabated throughout the world, new insights, based on scientific research, clearly demonstrate the strong dependence of human well-being on natural resources and ecosystem services. There is no doubt among conservationists that in the wake of continuing human population growth and economic prosperity, biodiversity and nature conservation will play a key role in securing the livelihoods of future generations. Halting biodiversity loss by 2010 is one of the strategic objectives of Luxembourg’s National Plan for Nature Protection (‘Plan National Protection de la Nature’), adopted by the government in May 2007. The mid-term review of implementation of this plan reflects the overall assessment made earlier, recognising the swift implementation of measures and programmes while many species and habitats are still declining, mainly due to land-use changes and landscape fragmentation [Note 1].

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Luxembourg, despite its small size and the fact of being a landlocked country, stands out because of its geological and landscape diversity and species richness. From a socio-economic standpoint, Luxembourg is known for its economic prosperity, based on a flourishing financial and service sector, and continued population growth, driven to a large extent by immigration. The development of Luxembourg from a predominantly rural economy, to a stronghold of the European steel industry and subsequently a financial centre has been, and still is, the main driver of biodiversity loss.

While the overall status of biodiversity is still difficult to assess, national red lists, landscape statistics and monitoring of selected species often show negative trends [Figure 1]. Indeed, roughly 55 % of mammals, 40 % of birds, 30 % of reptiles, and 70 % of amphibians are currently listed as endangered, while biodiversity-rich habitats such as wetlands, dry meadows and extensively used orchards have seriously declined over the past 30 years [Figure 2]. Generally, biodiversity is in a better conservation status in forests than in open, predominantly agricultural and aquatic ecosystems. Indicator species of agricultural systems, such as farmland birds and plants confirm this overall assessment through a continuing decline in species distribution and population size. A comparative analysis of landscape structure and composition spanning from the 1960s to the late 1990s underline these trends, providing clear evidence of a rampant homogenisation of landscapes.

Figure 1 - Landscape monitoring: 1962-1999

Nature protection and biodiversity_Figure 1

Source: Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure - Department of the Environment.

 

Figure 2 - Threatened species in Luxembourg: latest available census Nature protection and biodiversity_Figure 2

Sources:
a) Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure - Department of the Environment, Plan National Protection de la Nature, part 3;
b) Colling Guy, Red List of the Vascular Plants of Luxembourg in Ferrantia 42, Luxembourg, 2005, p. 55.
Note: threatened species are those recorded as Regionally Extinct (RE), Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN) and Vulnerable (VU).

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

The main driving forces of trends presented in the ‘State and Impacts’ section are the intensification of agricultural practices, urban and suburban development and an increased density of transportation infrastructure. While the importance of agriculture in terms of its contribution to the overall GDP has gradually decreased together with the overall number of farms, the increased use of fertilisers and agrochemicals, the reclaiming of habitats of marginal importance for agriculture through the drainage of wetlands for example and the increase of individual land parcels to the detriment of hedgerows and species-rich field margins, are the main causes of biodiversity decline in Luxembourg.

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

While no clear picture concerning medium-term trends beyond 2010 is emerging, it is expected that biodiversity will be influenced both positively and negatively. On the positive side, it is expected that the implementation of past, current and future conservation measures and programmes will only begin to bear tangible results in the years to come, because of inherent time lags between implementation and biodiversity responses. More generally, biodiversity and nature conservation have gained in importance politically, both at national and local level, leading to more informed decisions and greater consideration of biodiversity related issues. On the negative side, the current financial and economic crisis and its medium-term consequences may hinder the above mentioned emergence of biodiversity on the political radar. Furthermore, stochastic events as well as climate change are likely to trigger irreversible changes in population dynamics of already fragile species and species assemblages as well as ecosystem services, due to an ever decreasing resilience of natural systems.

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

In terms of response, both ongoing and forthcoming, the National Plan for Nature Protection focuses on the following areas:

  • implementation of concrete measures including the implementation of species and habitat action plans, the extension and proper management of the network of protected areas [Figure 3, Figure 4] and the restoration of degraded habitats – details available here;
  • improvement of scientific knowledge of biodiversity through a national inventory of protected habitats and the implementation of a national scheme for biodiversity monitoring – see, for instance, the cadastral register of biotopes [Note 2];
  • involvement of local and non-governmental stakeholders through consultation and participation of their representatives in various nature related fora and consulting bodies as well as the co-financing by the government of coordinated biodiversity measures by local authorities and NGOs;
  • consolidation of the legal framework related to biodiversity notably by creating a legal anchor for the implementation of a quantitative system for nature compensation and habitat banking as well as the adoption of a legally binding spatial planning instrument targeting the sustainable development and conservation of landscapes, notably via a sectoral plan on landscapes (‘Plan Sectoriel Paysages’);
  • strengthening and coordination of national efforts in education and communication of biodiversity.

 Figure 3 - National and EU protection areas: map

Nature protection and biodiversity_Figure 3

 


Figure 4 - National and EU protection areas: table
  Nature protection and biodiversity_Figure 4

Source: Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure - Department of the Environment.
Note
: since many areas have multiple designations (see figure 3), it is not possible to put a figure on the total area protected.

 

Notes

[1]

The National Plan for Nature Protection has a lifespan of three years. It has to be revised in 2011 at the latest and this revision will, of course, incorporate the outcomes of the CBD COP10 held in Nagoya in the fall of 2010.

[2]

The biodiversity monitoring started in 2009 and will, therefore, provides a snapshot of the 2009-2010 situation in Luxembourg. In 2011, a qualitative evaluation scheme for the ecosystem will be put in place.

 

Other interesting links

Natural Environment Observatory (‘Observatoire de l’Environnement Naturel’) that monitors and implements the National Plan for Nature Protection: click here (in French).

Draft project for the sectoral Action Plan on Landscapes (‘Plan Sectoriel Paysages’): click here (in French and German).

Protected and Natura 2000 areas in Luxembourg: click here (in French) and here

(in French). 

2009 Activity Report of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure – p. 71-74 and 367-378: click here (in French).

Disclaimer

The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

European Environment Agency (EEA)
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