Celebrating and protecting biodiversity

News Published 22 May 2017 Last modified 22 May 2017
2 min read
Photo: © Dare Ferjan, Environment & Me /EEA
Biodiversity plays a key role in the functioning of ecosystems and the provision of ecosystem services essential for human well-being. However, Europe's biodiversity continues to be eroded, and the main EU target of 'halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services' by 2020 remains a serious challenge.

Today, 22 May, marks the International Day for Biological Diversity. Strong European policy on nature conservation is critical as constant habitat loss, pollution, over-exploitation of resources, and invasive alien species and climate change continue to have cumulative negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems.

According to the latest EEA assessment, the European Union (EU), so far, has shown limited progress in improving the conservation status of EU protected habitats and species, and the many pressures on these habitats and species remain. This lack of progress makes it difficult for the EU to meet its 2020 objectives set in its Biodiversity Strategy.

As part of its contributions to the knowledge base for European environmental policy, European Environment Agency (EEA) hosts the European Biodiversity Data Centre and the European Nature Information System (EUNIS) providing information on protected areas, habitat types and species. One of its components, namely the EUNIS habitat classification, provides harmonised names and descriptions of European natural habitats. Harmonisation is important for countries’ joint efforts on biodiversity monitoring and reporting. A new EEA briefing, published today, describes how the classification continues to be revised, with the current phase focusing on heathland, scrub and tundra habitats.

Following a fitness check of the Birds and Habitats Directives and with the aim to boost their contribution towards reaching the EU's biodiversity targets for 2020, the European Commission has recently adopted an Action Plan for nature, people and the economy. The Action Plan focuses on four priority areas and comprises 15 actions to be carried out between now and 2019. EEA tools and products support many of these actions.

In Europe, protected areas have a key role in safeguarding biodiversity. The Natura 2000 network of protected areas aims to ensure the conservation of targeted species and habitats of European Union interest. Currently, Natura 2000 covers over 18% of the EU land area and 6% of marine territory, making it the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. Last week, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the network, the European Commission proclaimed 21 May as European Natura 2000 Day.

In other European countries, the Emerald Network is based on the same principles as Natura 2000, helping to develop a coherent approach to the protection of natural habitats and species on the European continent.

To put more focus on the benefits people receive from nature, the EEA has launched a photo competition, ‘NATURE@work’, inviting European citizens to submit photographs until 15 August that illustrate how nature protects, inspires and provides for us. The winners of the competition will be awarded a cash prize, and the submitted photos can be featured in EEA products.

Further information:

Biodiversity Information System for Europe (BISE)

European Nature Information System (EUNIS)


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