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Europe is one of the most intensively used continents on the globe, with the highest share of land used for settlement, production systems and infrastructure. Land is a finite resource: how it is used constitutes one of the principal reasons for environmental change, with significant impacts on quality of life and ecosystems, as well as on the management of infrastructure. More
- Key facts and messages
- Land and ocean sinks have taken up more than half of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions since 1800, but these natural sinks are vulnerable to climate and land-use change and are highly likely to take up less CO2 in future. 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 a matter of concern as shown by excess atmospheric... 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 partly due to growing demand for bio-energy... 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 will increasingly influence the way Europeans use... more
- Land uptake by urban development and transport infrastructure has been slightly faster than in the previous decade. This continues the trend of landscape fragmentation and increases other environmental impacts. Urbanisation rates vary substantially, with coastal and mountain areas among the... 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 land resources and the sustainable use of territorial... 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 external footprint) and climate change. 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 gain share at the expense of grassland and permanent... more
- Certain regions of Europe are affected by soil salinisation, acidification, landslides or desertification, with considerable economic and environmental consequences. Soil degradation is accelerating in many parts of Europe, exacerbated by human activities such as the inappropriate management... more
- Soil erosion by wind and water, largely the result of unsuitable land management, deforestation, overgrazing, construction activities and forest fires, affects around 17% of Europe’s land area. Erosion rates and extents are expected to continue to reflect changing patterns of land use and... more
- Soil is being lost due to intensive soil sealing – about 4% of Europe’s total land area is sealed and the demand for urbanisation and transport infrastructure is rising. In addition, it is estimated that around 18% of agricultural soils are affected by compaction. more
- Industrialisation and poor management have left thousands of contaminated sites throughout Europe, resulting in human health impacts and environmental problems including groundwater contamination. While some countries have made significant progress, the identification and remediation of contaminated... more
- Analysed land stock across the 36 European countries was 5.42 million km2. 1.3 % of this area (68 353 km2) changed land-cover type from 2000-2006. more
- The three largest land types in Europe are forests (35 %), arable land and permanent crops (25 %), and pastures and mixed mosaics (17 %). About 4 % of Europe is covered by artificial surfaces. more
- Land covered by artificial surfaces (e.g. for residential areas, industrial and commercial sites) increased by 6 258 km2 (3.4 %) from 2000-2006. more
- Forested land increased by 1 114 km2 from 2000-2006. more
- 43 % of the total area occupied by Natura 2000 sites in the EU-27 countries is located in mountain areas. more
- Some authors estimate 36 % of European subsoils as having high or very high susceptibility to compaction. Other sources report 32 % of soils being highly vulnerable and 18 % moderately affected. (The use of heavy machinery in agriculture can induce ‘soil compaction’, which reduces its capacity... more
- Salinisation stands for the accumulation of basic substances mainly from minerals in water and fertilizers which makes soils unsuitable for plant growth. It affects approximatly 3.8 million ha in Europe. The main driver is the inappropriate management of irrigated agricultural land. more
- Water basin management should be more closely integrated with spatial planning. Costs can fall on those who do not benefit – for example, water pollution from agriculture in one territory that flows downstream to others. Also, benefits may go to those outside the territory who have not paid... more
The River Rhine has won the first ever International River Foundation (IRF) European River Prize, which is given for remarkable achievements in integrated river basin management. The other finalists were the Órbigo River in Spain, the Upper Drau in Austria, and the Mura-Drava-Danube in Central Europe.
Grassland butterflies have declined dramatically between 1990 and 2011. This has been caused by intensifying agriculture and a failure to properly manage grassland ecosystems, according to a report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).
As cities expand into the countryside, the habitats of many animals and plants are reduced. Roads, railways, car parks and buildings also split up habitats, dividing wildlife populations into increasingly smaller groups.
When fishermen in the Koster Sea in Southern Sweden understood the value of the ecosystems beneath the waves, they voluntarily agreed to change fishing practices. The area became Sweden’s first marine national park in 2006.
Protected areas cover more than one fifth of the land in the 39 countries working with the European Environment Agency (EEA). On International Biodiversity Day, the EEA encourages Europeans to find out more about their closest nature reserve or national park using a new interactive map.
Data on land use provided by the European Environment Agency (EEA) is soon to be included in electronic maps used for navigation in mobile phones and other devices.
More than 21 % of the land has some kind of protected status in the 39 countries which work with the European Environment Agency (EEA). However, only 4 % of the sea controlled by countries of the European Union is included within the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, according to a new report from the EEA.
River basins, lakes, floodplains and marshes often span political and administrative boundaries. This creates challenges in the management of Europe's water resources, according to a report from the European Environment Agency (EEA), which recommends better integration of coordinated spatial planning and water management.