42% of Europe’s native mammals are threatened with extinction, 43% of birds, 45% of butterflies, 52% of freshwater fish. The list goes on and makes terrifying reading. Worldwide, the loss of species is even more alarming.
Europe is a continent of breathtaking natural beauty and dramatic contrasts. The EU’s 27 Member States stretch from the frozen Arctic Circle in the north to the warm Mediterranean waters in the south. From the wave-lashed Atlantic coast in Ireland to the snow-capped Carpathian mountains in Romania, the EU includes a vast range of natural habitats and a great diversity of flora and fauna. Our natural heritage includes several thousand types of habitat, 520 species of bird, 10 000 plant species and at least 100 000 species of invertebrate. Yet, in comparison with other regions in the world, these numbers are relatively modest. Europe is the most urbanized and densely populated continent in the world. It is also one of the most polluted. These factors have taken their toll on the natural environment.
Preserving and restoring the biodiversity and ecosystems of different habitats, from the countryside to mountains to the marine environment, is a major objective for the European Union. It is committed to halting the loss of its biodiversity by 2010.
(Transcription of audio on video) Within Europe, the warming is estimated to be greatest over southern countries (Spain, Italy, Greece) and the northeast (e.g. western Russia) and less along the Atlantic coastline. In southern Europe, especially, this may have severe consequences such as increasing drought stress, more frequent forest fires, increasing heat stress and risks for human health. SOURCE: The report 3.2.2 Global and European air temperature.
Pavla Chyská- EEA expert on Water, Ground water "Ground water is a very important element of the earth's hydrological cycle. It comes from rain and snow melt that seeps into the grounds. Its hidden below the earth's surface and, compared with rivers and lakes, it receives less attention from people but its influence on our lives is enormous. Ground water is very important because it's a vital part of the eco-systems on our planet and, yes, life exists in ground water too. Many water eco-systems like springs, rivers and streams depend on it. Ground water is also a major source of water for people and especially quality drinking water. In Europe as a whole, about 65% of public water supply is provided by ground water."
(Transcription of audio on video) Water can be polluted from many sources. Faecal contamination from sewage makes water unpleasant and unsafe for recreational activities such as swimming, boating or fishing. Many organic pollutants, including sewage effluent and farm and food-processing wastes consume oxygen, suffocating fish and other aquatic life. Nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates, from everything from farm fertilisers to household detergents, can 'overfertilise' the water causing the growth of large mats of algae, some of which are directly toxic. When the algae die, they sink to the water bottom, decomposing, consuming oxygen and damaging ecosystems. Chemical contaminants including heavy metals, pesticides and some industrial chemicals can threaten wildlife and human health. Sediment run-off from the land can make water muddy, blocking sunlight and, as a result, killing wildlife. And irrigation, especially when used improperly, can bring flows of salts, nutrients and other pollutants from soils into water. Source: SOER 2005
(Transcription of audio on video) Antifouling paint was developed to reduce drag on ship hulls by preventing the buildup of barnacles and other organisms, consequently making ships faster and more fuel efficient. However its propensity for wider impacts on the marine environment had been grossly underestimated. The chemicals used prevented molluscs like oysters from reproducing, and in the 1970's and 80's widespread collapse of mollusc stocks in and around harbours was reported. These types of paints have now been banned on small vessels, and complete phase out from global shipping fleets is planned by 2008. Source: SOER 2005
Eva Wlodarczyk, expert on Water, Seawater The seas around Europe are of vital importance to us, since historical times, they served as the source of food and employment for the people living around the seas and also as transport routes. Following the progress in the past century, the seas found new users; for example there was exploitation of marrying oil and gas fields, the extraction of sand and gravel from the sea bed, also fishing for the deep water species and even the extraction of minerals from the very deep ocean basins.
2010 will be a major milestone for biodiversity policy both in the EU and globally. It will be the year of the full evaluation of the delivery to the EU Biodiversity Action Plan and as well the UN International Year for Biodiversity.
For references, please go to http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/biodiversity/multimedia or scan the QR code.
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