Europe must grasp the true value of biodiversity

News Published 27 Apr 2009 Last modified 21 Jun 2016
3 min read
Europe clears forests, ploughs fields, drains wetlands and builds cities and roads, often at the expense of natural ecosystems. But how much does our current consumption and production affect the integrity of ecosystems? How much and how fast is the loss of biodiversity in Europe? The European Environment Agency (EEA) has provided some answers to these questions at a high-level conference organised this week by the European Commission.

External pressures on biodiversity are not uniform or held in place by geographical designations, and we must not focus all our efforts on preserving islands of biodiversity, while losing nature everywhere else.

Prof. Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA

The event, held in Athens on 27 and 28 April, brings together policymakers and experts to explore future priorities and options for EU biodiversity policy. Despite significant progress in certain aspects of biodiversity, recent observations indicate that Europe will miss its target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.

The EEA's core messages are clear: to maintain biodiversity and ecosystems, we urgently need to integrate them more into key sectors, such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Currently, the price we pay for goods and services does not reflect their impact on the ecosystems that sustain them. In order to feed into ongoing policy discussions, more effective tools should be developed to assess the state of biodiversity and its impacts on other environmental concerns.

Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA, called for better ecosystem accounting, which reflects the real value of the natural capital that we deplete through our economic activity."External pressures on biodiversity are not uniform or held in place by geographical designations, and we must not focus all our efforts on preserving islands of biodiversity, while losing nature everywhere else", she said.

Policymakers and citizens alike depend on reliable and relevant information in order to take sound decisions and actions. Two key sources of information on the state of biodiversity in Europe, namely SEBI 2010 (Streamlining European Biodiversity Indicators) and Article 17 of the EU's Habitats Directive, were at the heart of the overview presented by Professor McGlade.

The complete set of SEBI 2010 findings will be available as an EEA report, to be published online on World Biodiversity Day, 22 May. Additionally, the European Commission will present an overall assessment of Article 17 findings in the coming months. Country summaries and regional assessments are already available through the European Topic Centre on Biodiversity’s website.

Snapshot of biodiversity in Europe

  • The overall status and trends are not favourable, despite some progress.
  • Promoting conservation and sustainable farming practices, especially in High Nature Value farmlands, is crucial for biodiversity.
  • Nitrogen surpluses are declining but generally remain high, particularly in lowland western Europe.
  • Pollution levels in the marine environment are stable but about 45 % of assessed European stocks are outside safe biological limits.
  • Wood harvesting is sustainable but deadwood in most European countries remains well below optimal levels from a biodiversity perspective.

SEBI 2010 in brief

The SEBI 2010 process was started in 2005 to provide a streamlined set of biodiversity indicators for Europe. It does not create new monitoring or reporting obligations for countries. Instead it aims to ensure consistency between biodiversity indicator sets at the national and international levels. The current set includes 26 indicators.

SEBI 2010 relies on the contribution of more than 120 experts from across Europe, as well as input from intergovernmental organisations and NGOs. Its institutional partners are the European Environment Agency (and its European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity), the European Centre for Nature Conservation, the United Nations Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the European Commission, the Joint Secretariat of the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS), and the Czech Republic (as lead country for the Kiev Resolution on Biodiversity’s Action Plan on Monitoring and Indicators). The SEBI 2010 process covers 53 countries across Europe.


Professor McGlade's speech in Athens

Athens Conference: "Biodiversity Protection – Beyond 2010"

European Commission on biodiversity


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