Habitats of European interest

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-145-en
Also known as: SEBI 005
Created 13 Sep 2016 Published 28 Nov 2016 Last modified 25 Oct 2017
13 min read
Progress towards the 2020 target of improving the conservation status of habitats covered by the EU Habitats Directive has not been substantial since 2010. This indicates that significant conservation efforts need to be implemented to revert current trends. At the EU level, only 16 % of the assessments of habitats protected under the Habitats Directive have a favourable conservation status. Bogs, mires and fens have the highest proportion of unfavourable assessments, followed closely by grasslands. Conservation status trends are quite variable across biogeographic regions, however, more habitats are stable than decreasing in the terrestrial regions. There are still significant gaps in knowledge on marine habitat types. At the EU Member State level, the majority of assessments indicate a low number of habitats with a favourable conservation status.

Key messages

Progress towards the 2020 target of improving the conservation status of habitats covered by the EU Habitats Directive has not been substantial since 2010. This indicates that significant conservation efforts need to be implemented to revert current trends.

At the EU level, only 16 % of the assessments of habitats protected under the Habitats Directive have a favourable conservation status.

Bogs, mires and fens have the highest proportion of unfavourable assessments, followed closely by grasslands.

Conservation status trends are quite variable across biogeographic regions, however, more habitats are stable than decreasing in the terrestrial regions. There are still significant gaps in knowledge on marine habitat types.

At the EU Member State level, the majority of assessments indicate a low number of habitats with a favourable conservation status.

What is the progress towards Target 1 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020?

Progress in meeting the 2020 Biodiversity Strategy Target 1 for habitats (Habitats Directive): proportion of EU regional assessments that are favourable or improving

Note: These are habitats from the Habitats Directive.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Target 1 of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy addresses nature conservation objectives through proper implementation of the nature directives. The target aims at improving the conservation status of habitats covered by the Habitats Directive, so that, by 2020, 34 % of habitat assessments are favourable or improving. Currently (Figure 1), only 21 % of habitat assessments meet the target conditions: over 16 % are favourable and over 4 % have improved.

 

 

What is the conservation status of habitats under the Habitats Directive?

Proportion of habitat assessments in each conservation status class at EU level

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Table
Data sources: Explore chart interactively

Proportion of habitat assessments in each conservation class per Member State

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Table
Data sources: Explore chart interactively

Across the EU-27, only 16 % of habitat assessments are favourable and 77 % indicate unfavourable conservation status (Figure 2).

In terms of the unfavourable conservation status trends, only 4 % of assessments indicate an improving status and 33 % are stable. However, the status of a further 30 % is still declining (Figure 3).

Looking at the conservation status trends by habitat group (based on Annex I of the Habitats Directive), bogs, mires and fens have the highest proportion of unfavourable assessments. Almost half of these habitats are deteriorating, followed closely by grasslands (40 %). Forests and freshwater habitats are also predominantly unfavourable but stable (Figure 4).

In the majority of biogeographic regions, more habitats are stable than declining, with the exception of the Boreal region, where almost half the habitats are unfavourable and declining. Despite the high proportion of habitats with an unfavourable status in the Atlantic region, this is also where the greatest proportion of habitat types is improving (11 %). For marine regions, there is a significant share of improving unfavourable habitats in the Marine Atlantic region (43 %), followed by the Marine Macaronesian region with almost 17 %. By contrast, the share of declining habitat assessments in the Marine Baltic region exceeds 70 %, followed by the Marine Black Sea with 43 %. However, these results may also be attributable to the very low number of assessments available for marine regions (Figure 5).

At the Member States level, the majority of assessments indicate a low number of habitats in a favourable condition, with some exceptions: Cyprus, Romania, Estonia, Malta and Slovenia reported more than 40 % of favourable habitat assessments. Northern European countries report the most habitat assessments with unfavourable status (Belgium, the United Kingdom, Denmark and the Netherlands) (Figure 6).

Member States have also reported trends in the conservation status within the reporting period (2006-2012). Overall, there are more declining than improving habitat assessments. However, almost all Member States reported some unfavourable habitat assessments that are improving, ranging from less than 1 % (Italy) to almost 31 % (United Kingdom). No improvements were reported from Romania, Malta, Lithuania and Bulgaria (Figure 7).

Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

This indicator shows changes and trends in the conservation status of habitats of European interest listed in the Habitats Directive.
It is based on data collected under the reporting obligations of Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). This reporting obligation contributes to the further development of EU and international biodiversity policy by providing a reliable measure of the status and trends in nature at both species and habitat levels.

Units

The unit used in this indicator is percent (%).


Policy context and targets

Context description

This indicator covers habitats that are considered to be of European interest (listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive). This set comprises 'habitats which are in danger of disappearance in their natural range or have a small natural range following their regression or by reason of their intrinsically restricted area or present outstanding examples of typical characteristics of one or more of the biogeographical regions' (Article 1 of the Habitats Directive).

Trends in this indicator should primarily be influenced by the implementation of measures under the Habitats Directive, such as the establishment of the Natura 2000 Network, and habitat and species protection measures. Therefore the indicator reflects progress achieved by the Habitats Directive, one of the main legislative pillars of EU nature conservation policy.

Targets

Target 1 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 states that:
‘To halt the deterioration in the status of all species and habitats covered by EU nature legislation and achieve a significant and measurable improvement in their status so that, by 2020, compared to current assessments: (i) 100 % more habitat assessments and 50 % more species assessments under the Habitats Directive show an improved conservation status; and (ii) 50 % more species assessments under the Birds Directive show a secure or improved status.’


The indicator is also relevant for measuring progress towards the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, especially the Strategic Goals B and C, to reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use, and to improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity respectively.

Related policy documents

  • EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy
    in the Communication: Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 (COM(2011) 244) the European Commission has adopted a new strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020. There are six main targets, and 20 actions to help Europe reach its goal. The six targets cover: - Full implementation of EU nature legislation to protect biodiversity - Better protection for ecosystems, and more use of green infrastructure - More sustainable agriculture and forestry - Better management of fish stocks - Tighter controls on invasive alien species - A bigger EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Under Article 17 reporting, each Member State provides an assessment of all habitats of European interest (habitats listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive) at national biogeographic level, and supporting data, such as those on habitat surface area. Monitoring of conservation status is an obligation arising from Article 11 of the Habitats Directive, and is not limited to Natura 2000 sites. EU regional assessments of conservation status are made by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and its European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity (ETC/BD), based on data and assessments reported by Member States.

The conservation status is illustrated in three 'traffic light' categories ('favourable' - green, 'unfavourable inadequate' - amber, 'unfavourable bad' - red, plus 'unknown') characterised by four parameters:

  • status of range and trend,
  • status of area and trend,
  • structure and function including typical species,
  • future prospects.

 

The indicator is based on the number of habitat assessments in the three conservation status categories and on changes between categories over time. In addition, the indicator also looks at current trends in habitat conservation status, as well as showing progress in meeting the Target 1 of the EU biodiversity to 2020. 

The baseline for measuring progress to Target 1 for habitats under the Habitats Directive is based on the proportion of assessments which were 'favourable' from 2001 to 2006, i.e. 17 %.

The majority of changes in conservation status in the 2007-2012 assessments reported by the Member States were due to better data or changes in the methodology used, with many species previously reported as unknown now being reported under one of the theree conservation status classes. This in turn means that many of the EU assesments for biogeographical and marine regions also changed. As the nature of change was noted by the assessor for each EU regional assessment, it is possible to identify which assessments have changed due to different methods and improved data, and to 'backcast' the previous conservation status using the new data.

A comparison of the 2007-2012 assessments with the 'backcast' 2001-2006 assessmets indicates that little has changed in terms of conservation classes, as only some 3 % of changes were reported as genuine (i.e. not due to change in methods, better data etc.).

 

Further about conservation status assessment:

http://biodiversity.eionet.europa.eu/article17

http://bd.eionet.europa.eu/activities/Reporting/Article_17/Reports_2007/index_html

http://bd.eionet.europa.eu/activities/Reporting/Article_17/Reports_2013/index_html

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gap filling has been specified.

Methodology references

  • State of nature in the EU EEA, 2015, State of nature in the EU Results from reporting under the nature directives 2007–2012, EEA Report No 12/2012, European Environment Agency, Copenhagen.

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

Further streamlining and harmonisation in methodologies used by Member States are needed at EU level to reduce the differences that that make aggregation and interpretation of data at the EU level difficult. The quality of the data reported (often based on simple expert judgement) also indicates that Member States need to further develop or complement their inventories and monitoring schemes.

Data sets uncertainty

Due to improved data and changes in methodology in the 2013 round of Article 17 reporting, it is difficult to make direct comparisons and measure progress since the first reporting round (2007).

Rationale uncertainty

MAIN DISADVANTAGES OF THE INDICATOR

  • Limited trend information: only two data sets are currently available (one covering the EU 25 territory and one covering the EU 27 territory including Bulgaria and Romania). The data is currently reported in a six-year cycle – following data sets will be available after 2019.
  • The indicator is based on the Habitats Directive; application at the global/ pan-European level is not possible.

Data sources

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Katarzyna Biala

EEA Management Plan

2016 1.7.4 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 6 years
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100