Share of protected areas in selected ecosystems
Proportion of the surface area of nationally protected sites per type of ecosystem
Based on information from CORINE land cover, 2006, it is possible to estimate the extent of broad ecosystem‑types within the total area of nationally protected sites in Europe (see figure below). Forest ecosystems take up the largest share of nationally designated areas in EEA countries, with up to 31.3 % of the land cover. Agro-ecosystems are the next largest, making up about 28.3 % of protected areas. They are followed by grasslands with 9.2 %. Less than 8 % of the area under national designations is covered by marine ecosystems. Given that the EU has committed to designating 10 % of marine and coastal areas as protected areas, it appears obvious that significant additional efforts have to be made on this type of ecosystem.
Share of terrestrial protected areas in mountainous, coastal and lowland inland area per country
Mountain areas generally offer greater opportunities for designing protected areas because competition for land use is much lower than in plains or in coastal areas. In addition, because they are generally more remotely located, mountain areas are important reservoirs of biodiversity. The figure below shows the extent to which countries with mountain areas preferentially designate their protected areas (CDDA) in these regions. The factors leading to the protection of coastal areas are different. They are usually the result of political will to protect areas against urbanisation and infrastructure development (ports, roads, industrial plots), or due to natural limits on land use like strong natural dynamics such as erosion.
Changes in broad ecosystem‑types between 2000 and 2006 inside and outside nationally protected areas
An analysis of changes in broad ecosystem‑types for the period 2000–2006, both within and outside nationally designated areas (CDDA), shows the buffering effect of protected areas (Figure below). Decreases in agro-ecosystems including grasslands are more limited in protected areas than outside. The amount of land covered by wetlands, forests and coastal ecosystems increased slightly more in protected areas than outside in the period. The large increase of 'heaths and scrubs' during the period, more pronounced outside than inside protected areas, is mainly due to land abandonment (former agriculture areas becoming transitional woodland‑shrub areas).
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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.
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