Indicator Assessment

Species of European interest

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-27-en
  Also known as: SEBI 003 , CSI 007
Created 06 Sep 2016 Published 28 Nov 2016 Last modified 21 Oct 2019
18 min read

The 2020 target of improving the conservation status of species covered by the Habitats Directive seems to have been met. This apparent progress, however, is largely attributable to improved data and changes in methodology.

Similarly, there has been little progress towards the target for bird populations under the Birds Directive. This indicates that significant conservation efforts need to be implemented to revert current trends.

At the EU level, 23 % of the assessments of species protected under the Habitats Directive indicate a favourable conservation status. At the same time, 60 % of species assessments are unfavourable. There are still significant gaps in knowledge, especially for marine species.

Fish, molluscs and amphibians have a particularly high proportion of species that exhibit a deteriorating trend.

The conservation status of species varies considerably from one biogeographic region to another. At Member State level, more unfavourable assessments are showing a decline than those that are improving.

In the EU, over half of the bird species listed in the Birds Directive are considered to be ‘secure’, i.e. they show no foreseeable risk of extinction, decline or depletion. On the other hand, 17 % of the species listed are still threatened and another 15 % are declining or depleted.

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.

Target 1 of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy addresses nature conservation objectives through proper implementation of the nature directives. The target aims to improve the conservation status of species covered by the Habitats Directive, so that by 2020, 25 % of species assessments are favourable or improving. Currently, 28 % of species assessments meet the target conditions (see Figure 1). This progress, however, is mainly due to changes resulting from better data or changes in methodology. For example, many species assessed as unknown in the previous reporting cycle (2000-2006) are now favourable. To take this into account, a more accurate baseline for the 2020 target should be set at 34.5 % (Figure 1).

For bird species listed in the Birds Directive, the target is for 78 % of bird species to be secure or improving by 2020. Currently, secure assessments constitute 52 % of all assessments and less than 9 % of non-secure assessments are improving. This means that a further 17 % of species need to become secure or be improving by 2020 in order to meet the target.

Proportion of non-bird species assessments in each conservation status class at EU level


Proportion of species assessments in each conservation status class per Member State


Overall, just 23 % of the assessments indicate a favourable status. A total of 60 % of assessments reveal an unfavourable conservation status, while 18 % have an unfavourable-bad status. More than one-sixth (17 %) of species assessments have an unknown status (Figure 2).

Looking at the trends of the species assessments with an unfavourable conservation status, 20 % are stable and only 4 % are improving, while 22 % of the assessments are declining and 14 % are without a known trend (Figure 3).

Considering to the trends in conservation status by taxonomic group of the species assessed as unfavourable, fish, molluscs and amphibians appear to have a particularly high proportion of species with a deteriorating trend. On the other hand, only 12 % of assessments for mammals with an unfavourable assessment show a deteriorating trend, while 6 % are unfavourable but improving (Figure 4).

Analysis of the trends in conservation status of unfavourably assessed species according to biogeographic region shows that for terrestrial species, a significant number of species are declining in the Black Sea and Continental regions, while those in the Pannonian region are predominantly stable. In the marine regions, there is not enough data to determine any clear trend (Figure 5).

At the EU Member State level, in almost half of the countries about 30 % of species assessments are favourable, and in four Member States (Ireland, Bulgaria, Estonia and Cyprus) the figure rises to 50 %. The number of unfavourable-bad species assessments exceeds 30 % in six countries: the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Luxembourg, Austria and the Czech Republic (Figure 6).

Analysis of the trends in conservation status of unfavourably assessed species, as reported by Member States, indicates that, overall, more unfavourable assessments exhibit a declining trend than an improving one. Almost all countries (except Romania) show that some of their unfavourable assessments are improving (Figure 7).

EU population status of bird species


In total, EU population status assessments were made for 447 bird species. 

Results of the assessment indicate that the status of around half of all wild bird species assessed (52 %) is secure, while 17 % are still threatened and a further 15 % are near threatened, declining or depleted (Figure 8).

At the EU level, short-term breeding population trends indicate that 30 % of breeding birds are decreasing, 28 % are increasing, 21 % are stable, 2 % are fluctuating and 19 % are unknown or uncertain (Figure 9).  

For wintering bird taxa, only 5 % of the short-term trends are uncertain or unknown, while 46 % are increasing, 27 % are decreasing, 4 % are stable and 18 % are fluctuating (Figure 9).

The short-term trends of breeding birds in Member States indicate a high degree of change in their populations. There is no clear geographic pattern discernible in these trends (Figure 10).

For wintering bird populations, assessments show an increasing trend for a relatively high proportion of wintering populations (Figure 10).

Supporting information

Indicator definition

This indicator shows changes and trends in the conservation status of species of European interest listed in the Habitats Directive, and in the status and trends in populations of wild birds in Europe that are listed in the Birds Directive. It is currently based on data collected under the obligations for monitoring under Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and under Article 12 of the EU Birds Directive (2009/147/EC). Both reporting obligations contribute 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.


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


Policy context and targets

Context description

This indicator covers those species considered to be of European interest that are listed in Annexes II, IV and V of the Habitats Directive. It also covers all wild birds species occurring on Member State territories, as listed in the Birds Directive. This set of species appears in the annexes of the Directive because they are perceived to be under some sort of threat at an EU scale. The species set covers various taxonomic groups, trophic levels and habitats.

Indicator trends should primarily be influenced by the implementation of measures under the Habitats and Birds Directives, such as the establishment and management of the Natura 2000 network and species protection measures. Therefore, the indicator assesses the success of the Habitats Directive, one of the main legislative pillars of EU nature conservation policy.


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 for indicator calculation

Under Article 17 reporting, each Member State provides an assessment of the conservation status and trends of all species of European interest (species listed in Annexes II, IV and V of the Habitats Directive) at national biogeographical level, as well as supporting data such as species population sizes. 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.

Under Article 12 reporting, Member States report on the size of and trend in individual bird species populations and distributions, including the main threats and pressures affecting species.

There is no assessment of conservation status by Member State for Article 12, as the term 'favourable conservation status' is not used in the Birds Directive. However, through a consultant (Red List of Birds Consortium), the European Commission assessed the status of bird populations based on criteria and thresholds adapted from Birds in the European Union (BirdLife International, 2004) and endorsed by Member State representatives of the Ornis Committee.

The conservation status for non-bird species is illustrated using three 'traffic light' categories: 'favourable' — green, 'unfavourable-inadequate' — amber, 'unfavourable-bad' — red, plus unknown) characterised by four parameters:

  • status of range and trend;
  • status and trend of the overall population;
  • quality and extent of the suitable habitat and trend;
  • future prospects.


The population status for bird species is also illustrated using three 'traffic light' categories: 'secure' — green, 'near threatened, declining or depleted' — amber, 'threatened' — red, plus unknown). Criteria and thresholds for determining these are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List criteria for threatened species on the EU-27 scale.

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

The baseline for measuring progress to Target 1 for species 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 three conservation status classes. This in turn means that many of the EU assessments 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 assessments 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.).

Backcasting suggests that in order to properly assess progress towards Target 1 of 50 % more species assessments under the Habitats Directive showing an improved conservation status there is a need to change the baseline. The baseline for species should rather be 23 %, meaning that to reach Target 1, 34.5 % (23+23/2) of assessments must be favourable or improving. This means that instead of having already passed the target for species, progress has been made (23 % to 28 %) but further improvement is still required.

For bird species under the Birds Directive, in the only EU-level assessment conducted in the EU-25 in 2004, 52 % of species were assessed as secure. When this is taken as the baseline the target becomes for 78 % of bird species to be secure or improving in 2020.

Further information about conservation status assessment:

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.
  • Birds in the European Union: a status assessment BirdLife International, 2004, Birds in the European Union: a status assessment, Wageningen, BirdLife International, the Netherlands.


Methodology uncertainty

Further streamlining and harmonisation of the methodologies used by Member States is needed at the EU level to reduce the differences that that make aggregation and interpretation of data 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 in 2007.

Rationale uncertainty


Limited trend information: only one data set from Article 12 reporting and two from Article 17 reporting are currently available. The data are currently reported in a 6-year cycle under both reporting obligations, with the next data sets available after 2019. The Birds Directive and the Habitats Directives initially followed different reporting procedures and frequencies. In 2011, the EU Member States and the Commission agreed to revise reporting under the Birds Directive in order to streamline reporting in line with the requirements of the Habitats Directive. Consequently, reporting under Article 12 now also takes place every 6 years (the previous reporting cycle was 3 years). This change helps to synchronise Article 12 and Article 17 reporting and provide information in policy-relevant cycles.

  • This indicator is based on the EU Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive; a transfer to the global/pan-European level is not possible.



Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: State
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • SEBI 003
  • CSI 007
Frequency of updates
Updates are scheduled every 6 years
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage