Indicator Assessment

Public awareness of biodiversity in Europe

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-164-en
  Also known as: SEBI 026
Last modified 06 Dec 2021
8 min read

This item is open for comments. Login with your Eionet account in order to see and add comments. See comments section below

This page was archived on 06 Dec 2021 with reason: Other (New version:

Between 2015 and 2018, recognition and understanding of the term ‘biodiversity’ increased in the EU, with 71% of those interviewed in 2018 having heard the word and 41% knowing what it means. At least 8 out of 10 consider biodiversity loss a serious problem and agree that halting it is important. The biggest perceived threats are air, soil and water pollution, human-induced disasters and climate change. Although less than a third of respondents have heard of the Natura 2000 network, most agree that protected areas are important and are not willing to trade them for economic development.

Familiarity with the term ‘biodiversity’ among survey respondents in the EU Member States and the UK

Data sources:
Data sources:

The European Commission’s Special Eurobarometer surveys on biodiversity are designed to gauge Europeans’ awareness of and attitudes towards biodiversity and protecting nature (EC, 2015, 2019).

The results from the latest survey (carried out in 2018) show that awareness of the term ‘biodiversity’ has increased, to 71%, since the 2015 survey. The percentage of respondents who understand the term has also increased, by 11 percentage points, to 41%. This may be a result of the European Commission’s efforts to raise awareness of the concept of biodiversity.

Respondents perceive pollution (67%) and human-induced disasters (63%) to be the biggest threats, followed by climate change (58%). Half of respondents think that biodiversity is ‘very much’ threatened by intensive farming, intensive forestry and over-fishing. Slightly lower proportions see the conversion of natural areas to other land uses (47%) and the modification or fragmentation of natural areas due to transport, water and energy infrastructure projects (43%) as major threats; 32% of respondents consider biodiversity ‘very much’ under threat from non-native invasive plants or animals. Each of these percentages has increased since 2015.

Most respondents think that halting biodiversity loss is important because we have a responsibility to look after nature (96%), it is essential to tackling climate change (95%) and it is important for human health and well-being (93%). Increasingly, respondents ‘totally agree’ that halting biodiversity loss is important for long-term economic development (62%) and the production of goods, such as food, materials and medicines (61%).

Respondents also identified key actions for the EU to take to protect biodiversity, for instance:

  • restoring nature and biodiversity (48%);
  • better informing citizens about the importance of biodiversity (48%);
  • expanding protected areas (43%);
  • strengthening (41%) and improving the implementation (40%) of nature and biodiversity conservation rules.

Ensuring that biodiversity is taken into account when planning new infrastructure is also considered important (41%), in line with the finding that most respondents are not willing to trade nature for economic development, with only 6% thinking that economic development should take precedence.

Awareness of the Natura 2000 network among survey respondents in the EU Member States and the UK

Data sources:
Data sources:

As in 2015, respondents to the 2018 survey regarded nature protection areas to be key for protecting endangered animals and plants (96%), preventing the destruction of valuable nature areas on land and at sea (95%), and safeguarding nature’s role in providing food, clean air and water (94%). The majority of respondents also stated that promoting nature-friendly land use (93%), increasing the quality of life of local people (89%) and stimulating local socio-economic development (83%) are important roles for nature protection areas.

Despite appreciating the importance of protected areas, 70% of respondents (73% in 2015) had not heard of the Natura 2000 network, established to protect valuable species and habitats through the designation of protected sites under the Birds and Habitats Directives (EEA, 2020). Awareness of Natura 2000 varies considerably by country, ranging from 76% in Bulgaria and Finland to 4% in the United Kingdom. Around two thirds of those who have heard of Natura 2000 do not know what it is, as in 2015. This suggests that more information on what the EU is doing to protect biodiversity is needed. 

Supporting information

Indicator definition

In line with its international commitments, the EU’s biodiversity strategy for 2030 (EC, 2021a) sets out a long-term plan to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems, and builds on the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 (EC, 2021b). The EU Birds and Habitats Directives are central to EU biodiversity policy, through the designation and protection of areas of high biodiversity value, known as the Natura 2000 network, with the aim of protecting valuable species and habitats on land and at sea (EEA, 2020).


Percentage (%) of survey respondents.


Policy context and targets

Context description

Public opinion is vital in influencing politicians and decision-makers, and can motivate individuals at all levels to lead and take action. This indicator is based on the latest Special Eurobarometer survey on biodiversity, a quantitative questionnaire-based survey that also captures qualitative information, involving focus groups.

The purpose of this indicator is to explore the attitude of the general public in relation to issues such as:

  • biodiversity and the importance of preserving it;
  • the seriousness and impact of biodiversity loss;
  • the biggest threats to biodiversity;
  • what the EU should do to prevent the loss of biodiversity;
  • the role of the Natura 2000 network;
  • personal efforts to protect nature and biodiversity, etc.

This information gives an indication of attitudes towards biodiversity per se and attitudes towards actions taken (financial and fiscal, public statements, etc.) by politicians and public bodies for the protection and management of biodiversity.

Main advantages of the indicator:

  • It is relevant for EU biodiversity policy and is based on survey results from all EU Member States and the United Kingdom.
  • The results are easy to understand and widely accepted.
  • It is methodologically well founded.


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified



Methodology for indicator calculation

Eurobarometer surveys on the topic of biodiversity have been published regularly since 2007. For the 2007 (Flash Eurobarometer 219), 2010 (Flash Eurobarometer 290) and 2013 (Flash Eurobarometer 379) surveys, respondents from different social and demographic groups were interviewed via telephone in their native language on behalf of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment (EEA, 2017). For the 2015 survey (Special Eurobarometer 436) and the 2018 survey (Special Eurobarometer 481), published in 2019, interviews were conducted face to face (EC, 2015, 2019).

The most recent survey involved 27,643 respondents being interviewed between 4 and 20 December 2018. Interviewees aged 15 years and over were selected from each EU Member State and the UK. Basic multi-stage, random (probability) sample design was used in each EU Member State and the UK and a number of sampling points were drawn, the probabilities of which were proportional to population size (for total coverage of each state) and population density. To do this, the sampling points were drawn systematically from each ‘administrative regional unit’, after stratification by individual unit and area type. They thus represent the whole territory of the states being surveyed, according to Eurostat NUTS 2 (or equivalent) designations and the distribution of the resident population in terms of metropolitan, urban and rural areas. For each of the selected sampling points, a starting address was drawn at random. Further addresses (every nth address) were selected by standard ‘random route’ procedures, from the initial address. In each household, the respondent was drawn at random (following the ‘closest birthday rule’). All interviews were conducted face to face in people's homes and in the appropriate national language. The computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI) technique was used for data capture in states where this was available.

For each state, a comparison between the sample and the universe was carried out. The universe description was derived from Eurostat population data or from national statistics offices. For all states surveyed, a national weighting procedure, using marginal and intercellular weighting, was carried out based on this universe description. In all states, gender, age, region and size of locality were introduced in the iteration procedure. For international weightings (i.e. EU averages), Kantar Public Brussels, which carried out the survey, applied the official population figures as provided by Eurostat or national statistics offices (EC, 2019).


EC, 2015, Special Eurobarometer 436: Attitudes of Europeans towards biodiversity, survey conducted by TNS Opinion & Social at the request of the European Commission, Directorate-General for Communication ( accessed 28 February 2021.

EC, 2019,Special Eurobarometer 481: Attitudes of Europeans towards biodiversity, survey conducted by Kantar Public Brussels at the request of the European Commission, Directorate-General for Environment ( accessed 28 February 2021.

EC, 2021a, ‘Biodiversity strategy for 2030 — concrete actions’, European Commission ( accessed 18 February 2021.

EC, 2021b, ‘EU biodiversity strategy to 2020’, European Commission ( accessed 18 February 2021.

EEA, 2017, ‘Public awareness’, European Environment Agency ( accessed 28 February 2021.

EEA, 2019, ‘Special Eurobarometer No 481: Attitudes of Europeans towards biodiversity’, European Environment Agency, external data spec ( accessed 28 February 2021.

EEA, 2020, ‘Natura 2000 sites designated under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives’, European Environment Agency ( accessed 18 February 2021.

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gap filling has been specified.

Methodology references



Methodology uncertainty

Survey results are estimates, the accuracy of which depends on the sample sizes and the observed percentages. With samples of about 1,000 interviews, the real percentages vary within the confidence limits, which are included in the annex to EC (2019).

Data sets uncertainty

The Flash Eurobarometer surveys from 2007, 2010 and 2013 were carried out by telephone. However, because of the complexity of the topic and the length of the questionnaire, the 2015 and 2019 Special Eurobarometer surveys were conducted face to face. The findings from the surveys carried out in 2007, 2010 and 2013 are therefore not directly comparable with those from 2015 and 2019 because of this change in surveying method. The 2015 survey sets the baseline for comparison with the results of the 2019 Special Eurobarometer survey and future surveys, and the establishment of trends.

Rationale uncertainty

The main disadvantages of the indicator are that it is dependent on the questions asked in the survey and on differing interpretations/responses by respondents based on socio-economic/cultural factors.

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Response
Typology: Policy-effectiveness indicator (Type D)
Indicator codes
  • SEBI 026
Frequency of updates
Updates are scheduled every 3 years
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage



Document Actions