Europe’s biodiversity continues to be shaped by human activity. Pressures to habitats and species remain high and are expected to further impact habitat quality and ecosystem conditions.

Over 67,000 individual pressures have been reported at European Union (EU) level. According to the latest EEA report on the ‘State of nature’, the most frequently reported pressures on habitats and species are associated with agriculture. This is followed by urban sprawl and leisure activities and unsustainable forestry activities. Pollution of air, water and soil also impacts most habitats and species, particularly in the EU’s Atlantic and Continental regions.


individual pressures on habitats and species reported by Member States

Alt text: Infographic showing eight different sources of biodiversity loss in Europe placed in a circular order with distinctive images and some percentages. Long description: The infographic provides information on the sources of biodiversity loss in Europe. Placed in a circular order with the representative image in each circle, the sources depicted are (from the top left going clockwise): agriculture; urbanisation and leisure activities; the modification on water regimes; illegal hunting and killing; pollution; climate change; forestry; and invasive alien species. From the top clockwise, the text reads: With 21%, agriculture is the most frequently reported pressure for habitats and species. Abandonment of grasslands and intensification is particularly impacting pollinator species, farmland birds and semi-natural habitats.; Urbanisation and leisure activities account for 13% of all reported pressures, representing 48% of all marine pressures.; The modification on water regimes, physical alterations of water bodies and removal of sediments predominantly affect freshwater habitats and fish.; 13% of all pressures for birds stem from the exploitation of species, mainly relating to illegal killing and hunting. In Europe, the annual hunting bag amounts to at least 52 million birds.; Almost 50% of all pressures related to pollution can be attributed to air, water and soil pollution caused by agriculture.; Climate change is reported as a rising threat, particularly due to ongoing changes in the temperature and the decrease of precipitation.; Forestry activities represent 11% of all pressures, particularly affecting forest habitats and woodland species.; Invasive alien species such as the False Indigo-bush, particularly affect dunes and sclerophyllous scrubs as well as species such as breeding seabirds.

How are these pressures addressed?

Well-designed conservation strategies and their proper implementation on the ground can help improve the health of our nature. Conservation measures for habitats include, for example, reinstating appropriate grassland management or reducing the use of fertilisers. Actions to prevent the loss of natural habitats also help the conservation of species. At least 226,000 km2 of habitats need to be restored to ensure their long-term viability according to the reports of Member States.

Conservation strategies will not be effective without stronger societal responses and systems transformation

Our assessment indicates that despite conservation measures being taken for most habitats and species, conservation status and trends have not significantly improved, and continue to show ongoing deterioration. This may indicate that conservation measures, that have not yet been taken, are key to delivering conservation objectives, and measures, that are not fully implemented, either were not effective or need to be scaled up.

However, pressures exerted on Europe’s biodiversity cannot be addressed only by conventional conservation measures. Their success will entail changing some of our current behaviours, for example, the way we produce and consume our food, build our cities, produce energy and interact with nature.

Alt text: Infographic with horizontal bar chart depicting the EU’s conservation strategies to address biodiversity pressures. Long description: The infographic is arranged in three main information sections. The top left area is dedicated to text, the top right section contains a stacked bar chart, and the bottom section contains a box with text and silhouettes of various organisms.  The text in the upper left section reads: “How are these pressures addressed?” Below this question, an answer reads, “Over 6,000 targeted conservation measures aim to maintain or to restore the current status.”  The stacked bar chart contains three categories along the X axis: non-bird species, birds, and habitats. The Y axis is a measure of percentage, from 0-100. Each stacked bar contains 4 different colors, which are delineated as follows: Dark blue represents measures taken to restore the status, Aquamarine represents measures taken to maintain the status, Light blue represents Measures not taken, and pink represents measures not needed. The breakdown for non-bird species is as follows: Measures taken to restore status, roughly 15%; measures taken to maintain the status, roughly 40%; measures not taken, roughly 35%, and measures not needed, roughly 15%. The breakdown for Birds is as follows: Measures taken to restore status is roughly 17%; measures taken to maintain the status, roughly 35%; measures not taken, roughly 25%; measures not needed, roughly 35%. The breakdown for habitats is as follows: measures taken to restore the status, roughly 18%; measures taken to maintain the status, roughly 45%; measures not taken, roughly 25%; measures not needed, roughly 12%.  The box with text and organisms silhouettes in the bottom of the image is laid out as follows: In the left third we see a silhouette of a buzzard, with text above it that reads, “Birds such as vultures particularly benefit from species action plans, agri-environmental measures, and large scale conservation efforts.” In the middle third we see a silhouette of three fish, text below that reads, “Several non-bird species, and especially mammals and fish, improved through targeted measures such as reducing certain human activities and population from different sources. In the right third we see a silhouette of some grass, with text above it that reads, “Many habitats improved through targeted measures: adapted grassland management, the control of invasive species, or the reinforcement of sustainable tourism.”

Top 3 groups of pressures:

  • Agricultural activities represent the most common pressure group across habitats and species (21% of all reported pressures). Intensification, fragmentation and abandonment are particularly impacting pollinators, birds and semi-natural habitats. 
  • Urbanisation and leisure/tourism represent 13% of all reported pressures. 48% of pressures impact marine and coastal species and habitats.
  • Forestry accounts for 11% of all reported pressures, impacting forest habitats and woodland species the most.

Other important pressures:

  • Invasive alien species, predominantly impacting amphibians, fish, birds and plants.
  • Pollution to air, water and soil, caused in large part by agricultural activities (50%). Changes in rivers, for example, the quantity of water abstraction for different uses and physical modifications (e.g. dams/weirs, canalisation, drainage of rivers for navigation), impact freshwater habitats and fish the most. Drainage (14%) and hydropower (13%) contribute to this pressure group.
  • Species exploitation includes illegal shooting or killing (27%) and hunting (19%), as well as bycatch (10%).
  • Climate change is considered as a rising pressure.

For the complete analysis of bird populations, see the latest EEA report on the ‘State of nature’.

Background information

The EEA report on the ‘State of nature’, looks jointly at the results from EU Birds and Habitats Directives. These directives emphasise the need for Member States to design and implement conservation measures to respond to pressures with mandatory requirements for Natura 2000 sites.

Member States have reported over 200 different types of pressures categorised into 15 overarching categories. Moreover, over 100 conservation measures are listed in 13 main categories, corresponding to the pressure sectors identified.