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Biodiversity

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Biodiversity embraces the variety of genes, species and ecosystems that constitute life on Earth. We are currently witnessing a steady loss of biodiversity, with profound consequences for the natural world and for human well-being. The main causes are changes in natural habitats. More

Key facts and messages
Nature and biodiversity — Europe has established an extensive network of protected areas and programmes to reverse the loss of endangered species. However, widespread alteration of landscapes, degradation of ecosystems and loss of natural capital... more
A temperature rise of 2 °C or more above pre-industrial levels is likely to cause major societal, economic and environmental disruption, making it challenging for human and natural systems to adapt at affordable costs. Climate change will affect... more
Many habitats such as semi-natural grasslands, marshlands and bogs, and coastal wetlands are still declining and a significant number of species on land and in the European seas is threatened with extinction. Most biogeographic assessments of... more
Biological invasions and their negative effects on biodiversity are enhanced by growing international trade and climate change. More than 10 000 non-native species are now present in Europe, 10-15 % of which are considered to have negative economic... more
Land-use change and intensification are causing further fragmentation and homogenisation of forests and agro-ecosystems. Although some decline in freshwater nutrients has been observed, eutrophication of terrestrial ecosystems continues to be... more
The EU policy objective of halting biodiversity loss by 2010 has thus not been achieved. The implementation of EU environmental legislation and policy has had positive effects, but progress is slow and threats have grown both within Europe and... more
Extending Natura2000 on land is a major success but progress in designating marine Natura2000 sites has been slow so far. Overall it is too early to judge the effectiveness of the management regimes that have been put in place. Success in achieving... more
Biodiversity and the ecosystem services upon which we all depend are inextricably linked. Both are under pressure from humanity's ever-increasing use of natural resources. Europe's high resource consumption results in an ecological footprint... more
Land use trends since 2000 remain the same as in the previous decade but most have slowed down somewhat. Urban areas, infrastructure and forest cover are still increasing at the expense of agricultural land. Farmland is often managed more intensively... more
Land is a finite resource and the way it is used is one of the principal drivers of environmental change, with significant impacts on quality of life and ecosystems as well as on the management of infrastructure. In turn, environmental change... more
Land use decisions involve trade-offs between the current high attention to food and energy security, and more policy emphasis on multi-functionality taking into account ecosystem and natural resource management objectives. The diversity of... more
The understanding of the relationship between land use and environmental impacts must be improved. There is a need to assess inherent trade-offs and feed-backs between land use and ecosystem services, including indirect land use effects (Europe’s... more
Current land use trends are likely to continue though possibly at a lower rate, with built-up area increasing at the expense of agricultural land uses and natural areas. Within agriculture, arable land for food and energy crops is likely to... more
Soil is a largely non-renewable natural resource that underpins a range of vital ecosystem services. Soil organisms play a key role in soil processes, such as bio-geochemical cycles, organic matter decomposition, and nitrogen transformation.... more
Sea surface temperatures and sea level are rising and likely to rise further. The resulting shifts in the geographical and seasonal distribution of marine and coastal species will require adaptations in the management of fisheries and natural... more
Sustainable use of the seas and the conservation of marine ecosystems through an ecosystem-based approach are being pursued through the Integrated Maritime Policy and its environmental pillar, the 2008 Marine Strategy Framework Directive, under... more
Designation of coastal and marine sites as part of Natura 2000, although improving, has been slow and difficult. The conservation status of some coastal and most marine habitats still needs to be assessed, while 22 % of marine mammals are threatened... more
Degradation of marine and coastal ecosystems is observed in the Black, Mediterranean, Baltic, North East Atlantic Seas and in the Arctic. This trend is caused by fishing, agriculture, the industrial use of chemicals, tourist development, shipping,... more
Water scarcity and droughts have severe consequences for many economic sectors. Over-abstraction is causing low river flows, lowered groundwater levels and the drying-up of wetlands, with detrimental impacts on freshwater ecosystems. Climate... more
In the past, European water management has focused on increasing supply through deep wells, dams and reservoirs, desalination and large-scale water–transfer infrastructures. Future water management will benefit from applying an ecosystems... more
Europe’s freshwaters contain a number of pollutants including nutrients, metals, pesticides, pathogenic micro-organisms, industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals. These can have adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems, degrading habitats and... more
As the amounts of acidifying air pollutants have fallen, the area of acid-sensitive ecosystems (such as freshwaters and forest soils) adversely affected in Europe has considerably reduced. Nonetheless, biological recovery in freshwaters is slow.... more
Cities can be considered as 'ecosystems', albeit with a high technical component. Their urban metabolism is an open and dynamic system, which consumes, transforms and releases materials and energy, develops and adapts to changes, and interacts... more
Over one year a mature tree will take up about 22 kilograms of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and in exchange release oxygen. Each year, 1.3 million trees are estimated to remove more than 2500 tonnes of pollutants from the air. more
More than 10 000 non-native species are now present in Europe, 10–15 % of which are considered to have negative economic or ecological effects. more
Protected areas, including Natura 2000 sites in EU Member States, now account for 22 % of the terrestrial area of EEA member countries. more
Many animal species are threatened with extinction in the pan-European region, including approximately 15 % of mammals, 19 % of reptiles, 23 % of amphibians and a significant number of invertebrates. more
In 2020, an estimated 346 million international tourists will travel to the Mediterranean, putting extra pressure on already fragile ecosystems. more
Agro-ecosystems in Europe have a total annual economic value of around EUR 150 billion. more
Forested land increased by 1 114 km2 from 2000-2006. more
Where marine species and habitat types have been assessed, the majority are found to be in unfavourable or unknown condition; only 10 % of habitats and 2 % of species are found in good condition. more
In the EEA-32 countries, the area of sensitive ecosystems exposed to excess acidification from air pollution fell by about 80 % from 1990–2010. more

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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