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Indicator Assessment

Conservation status of species under the EU Habitats Directive

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-27-en
  Also known as: SEBI 003
Published 31 Mar 2021 Last modified 06 Apr 2021
8 min read

At EU level, only 27 % of species assessments have a good conservation status, with 63 % having a poor or bad conservation status. Only 6 % of all species have improving trends. Reptiles and vascular plants have the highest proportion of good conservation status. The EU did not meet its 2020 target to improve the conservation status of EU protected species and habitats. At Member State level, a large proportion of assessments show few species with a good conservation status. Agriculture, urban sprawl, forestry and pollution are the pressures on species reported most.

Conservation status of species at EU level, 2013-2018

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The Habitats Directive (EU, 1992) protects 1 389 animal and plant species of Community interest, including endangered, vulnerable, rare and endemic species, or those requiring particular attention. The directive outlines requirements for their protection and sustainable use. EU Member States report on the conservation status and trends of those species every 6 years. 

Figure 1 shows the results of 2 825 assessments of the conservation status of species at EU level for the period 2013-2018. Only 27 % of species assessments have a good conservation status and 63 % indicate an unfavourable conservation status: 42 % poor and 21 % bad. The trends indicate that only 6 % of species with an unfavourable conservation status show improvement, while 35 % continue to deteriorate at EU level (for more information see EEA, 2020f).

The species groups with the highest proportion of good conservation status are reptiles and vascular plants, with 40 % and 36 %, respectively. Except for mammals, fish and non-vascular plants (10 %, 9 % and 6 %, respectively), improvements in unfavourable conservation status for other species are below 5 %. More effective conservation efforts are needed, especially for molluscs and fish, each with around 30 % of species with a bad conservation status. (for more information about other species groups see EEA, 2020f).

Across terrestrial biogeographical regions, the proportion of species assessments showing a good conservation status is highest in the Steppic region (43 %) and lowest in the Atlantic region (19 %).

Results of reporting under the Habitats Directive are also used to assess progress made towards targets 1 and 3 of the EU Biodiversity strategy to 2020 (EC, 2021b). Target 1 — to improve the conservation status of EU protected species and habitats by 2020 — was not reached for species, with a 2 % gap remaining. Moreover, a high share of species assessments show further deteriorating trends. Target 3 was to optimise the benefits of agriculture and forestry for biodiversity. Analysis of grassland species assessments shows a mixed picture: only 5 % of grassland species show an improving conservation status, but also with a lower share of deteriorating trends than other groups. The EEA publishes more about progress towards achieving these targets (EEA, 2020b).

Conservation status of species at Member State level, 2013-2018

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Member State reporting shows that there is significant variation in the conservation status of species across territories (Figure 2). Cyprus, Ireland, Estonia and Malta reported the largest proportions (over 50 %) of species assessments showing a good conservation status. Animals account for nearly 80 % of species showing improvements in status and/or trends and plants account for 20 %. Belgium, Denmark, Estonia and Luxembourg report the highest proportions (over 20 %) of species with improving trends, Cyprus is the only Member State that did not report a single deteriorating trend, however, unknown assessments exceed 75 %. Several Member States did not indicate any species assessment with improving trends (Bulgaria, Malta and Slovenia). For more information, see EEA (2020d).

Member States also report on pressures on and threats to species and habitats. Overall, agriculture is the most frequently reported pressure, representing 21 % of all pressures reported, with both the abandonment of grasslands and the intensification of their use having a particularly big impact on pollinator species, for example. Other key pressures are urbanisation, forestry and pollution. The EEA publishes information on the main pressures and how they are addressed (EEA, 2020c)

Supporting information

Indicator definition

The indicator illustrates the conservation status and trends of 1 389 species of Community interest listed in the Habitats Directive at EU and Member State level. Conservation status is shown as good, poor, bad or unknown. It is based on data collected under the reporting obligations of Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC).

Units

Percentage (%) of assessments with good, poor, bad or unknown conservation status.


 

Policy context and targets

Context description

The EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 contains specific commitments and actions to be delivered by 2030 (EC, 2021a). One of its main instruments is the EU nature restoration plan, which has several aims, including strengthening the EU legal framework for nature restoration, and requests that Member States ensure no deterioration in conservation trends and status of all protected habitats and species by 2030.

The 233 protected habitats, as well as over 1 000 species, are targeted by designating Sites of Community Importance, which are part of the Natura 2000 network. For more information on the Natura 2000 network, see EEA (2020e).

Targets

EU Biodiversity strategy for 2030 — key commitments of the EU nature restoration plan by 2030:
1. Legally binding EU nature restoration targets to be proposed in 2021, subject to an impact assessment. By 2030, significant areas of degraded and carbon-rich ecosystems are restored; habitats and species show no deterioration in conservation trends and status; and at least 30 % reach favourable conservation status or at least show a positive trend.
2. The decline in pollinators is reversed.
3. The risk and use of chemical pesticides is reduced by 50 % and the use of more hazardous pesticides is reduced by 50 %.
4. At least 10 % of agricultural area is under high-diversity landscape features.
5. At least 25 % of agricultural land is under organic farming management, and the uptake of agro-ecological practices is significantly increased.
6. Three billion new trees are planted in the EU, in full respect of ecological principles.
7. Significant progress has been made in the remediation of contaminated soil sites.
8. At least 25 000 km of free-flowing rivers are restored.
9. There is a 50 % reduction in the number of Red List species threatened by invasive alien species.
10. The losses of nutrients from fertilisers are reduced by 50 %, resulting in the reduction of the use of fertilisers by at least 20 %.
11. Cities with at least 20 000 inhabitants have an ambitious Urban Greening Plan.
12. No chemical pesticides are used in sensitive areas such as EU urban green areas.
13. The negative impacts on sensitive species and habitats, including on the seabed through fishing and extraction activities, are substantially reduced to achieve good environmental status.
14. The by-catch of species is eliminated or reduced to a level that allows species recovery and conservation.

Related policy documents

  • Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992
    Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora.
  • 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
  • EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030
    The European Commission has adopted the new  EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and an associated Action Plan (annex)  - a comprehensive, ambitious, long-term plan for protecting nature and reversing the degradation of ecosystems. It aims to put Europe's biodiversity on a path to recovery by 2030 with benefits for people, the climate and the planet. It aims to build our societies’ resilience to future threats such as climate change impacts, forest fires, food insecurity or disease outbreaks, including by protecting wildlife and fighting illegal wildlife trade. A core part of the  European Green Deal , the Biodiversity Strategy will also support a green recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.
 

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Under Article 17 reporting, each Member State provides an assessment of all species of Communityinterest (habitats listed in Annexes II, IV and V o) at national biogeographical level and supporting data, such as those on habitat surface area. EU regional assessments of conservation status are made by the EEA and its European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity (ETC/BD), based on data and assessments reported by Member States.

The conservation status of a species is derived using four parameters:

- range;

- population;

- habitat for the species;

- future prospects.

Full details of the methodology are available from State of nature in the EU — Methodological paper: Methodologies under the nature directives reporting 2013-2018 and analysis for the state of nature 2000 (ETC/BD, 2020).

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gap filling has been specified.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

 

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

Further streamlining and harmonisation of methodologies used by Member States are needed at EU level to reduce the differences 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

Quality and availability of information from Member States impacts the quality of the EU assessment of status and trends.

Rationale uncertainty

No rationale uncertainty has been specified.

Data sources

Other info

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

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