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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Ecosystems

Exploiting natural resources at current rates is steadily reducing biodiversity and degrading ecosystems. Simply designating protected areas is not enough to halt this decline. Biodiversity must be further integrated into other relevant policies (agriculture, fisheries, energy, transport, structural policies and development). To monitor progress and measure trends beyond 2010, the European Environment Agency and the European Commission have developed a 'baseline' — a snapshot of the current state of biodiversity to establish the evidence base necessary for stepping up EU action to address the global biodiversity crisis now.

Natural areas still being lost

Changes in ecosystems between 1990 and 2006

 

Figure: Changes in ecosystems between 1990 and 2006 and favourable conservation status of habitats

 

The latest Corine Land Cover inventory (EEA, 2010) shows a continued expansion of artificial surfaces (e.g. urban sprawl, infrastructure) and abandoned land at the expense of agricultural land, grasslands and wetlands across Europe. Natural grasslands are still being turned into arable land and built-up areas. The loss of wetlands has slowed down (near 3 % lost in the last 16 years) but Europe had already lost more than half of its wetlands before 1990. Extensive agricultural land is being converted into forms of more intensive agriculture and for parts into forest.

 

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Habitats in ecosystems — poor conservation status overall

Favorable conservation status of habitats

 

Figure: Favourable conservation status of habitat

 

The progress report for Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive for the period 2001–2006 shows that the conservation status of species and habitats characteristic of the main ecosystems is poor. Depending on the ecosystem, the proportion of habitats in favourable conservation status is between 5 and 21 %.

 

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Fragmentation threatens EU green infrastructure

Fragmentation in EU-27 (% of total area)

 

Figure: Fragmentation in EU-27 (% of total area)

 

The fragmentation of nearly 30 % of EU-27 land is moderately–high to very high due to urban sprawl and infrastructure development. Fragmentation affects ecosystem connectivity and their health and ability to provide services (EEA, ETC/LUSI, 2010).

 

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100