Conservation status of habitats under the EU Habitats Directive

At the EU level, only 15 % of habitat assessments have a good conservation status, with 81 % having poor or bad conservation status. Grasslands, dunes, and bog, mire and fen habitats show strong deteriorating trends, while forests have the most improving trends.

The EU is not on track to meet the 2020 target of improving the conservation status of EU protected species and habitats. At the EU Member State level, the majority of assessments indicate a low number of habitats with a good conservation status. Intensive agriculture, urban sprawl and pollution are the top reported pressures to habitats.

Published: ‒ 25min read

Figure 1. Conservation status of habitats at EU level, 2013-2018
EU statusValue
Good120
Unknown38
Poor367
Bad293

The Habitats Directive protects 233 natural and semi-natural habitat types (called habitats of Community interest), which are in danger of disappearing, have a small range or are outstanding examples of biogeographical regions. The directive outlines requirements for their protection and sustainable use. EU Member States report on the conservation status and trends in targeted habitats every 6 years. 

Figure 1 shows the results of 818 assessments of the conservation status of habitats at EU level for the period 2013-2018. Only 15 % of habitat assessments have a good conservation status and 81 % indicate an unfavourable conservation status: 45 % poor and 36 % bad. Looking at the unfavourable conservation status trends, only 9 % show improvement, while 36 % continue to deteriorate at the EU scale. For more information see the report, State of Nature in the EU.

Of the habitat groups that were reported on, over 50 % of dune habitats and bog, mire, and fen habitats, have a bad conservation status, closely followed by grasslands at 49 %.  These habitats also have the highest proportion of deteriorating trends (each over 50 %), while forest habitats exhibit the highest proportion of improving trends (13 %). For more information see the report, State of Nature in the EU.

Across the different terrestrial biogeographical regions, the proportion of habitat assessments with good conservation status is highest in the Steppic region (72 %) and lowest in the Atlantic region (only 4 %).

Results of reporting under the Habitats Directive are also used to assess the progress made towards Targets 1 and 3 of the EU Biodiversity strategy to 2020.  Target 1 aims at improving the conservation status of EU protected species and habitats by 2020. This target has not been reached for habitats: a 12 % gap remains to be closed. Target 3 aims to optimise the benefits of agriculture and forestry for biodiversity. No real progress has been made towards reaching this target for agriculture: 46 % of Annex 1 assessments of agricultural habitats have a bad conservation status, while assessments of forest habitats revealed that 31 % have a bad conservation status. The EEA  publishes more information about progress to targets 1 and 3.

Figure 2. Conservation status of habitats at Member State level, 2013-2018
Member stateGood-AbsUnknown-AbsPoor-AbsBad-AbsTotal-AbsGoodUnknownPoorBad
Belgium (93)411474934.31.0815.0579.57
Denmark (111)620851115.4118.0276.58
Spain (247)2244139422478.9117.8156.2817
Latvia (61)652723619.848.244.2637.7
Italy (263)26111241022639.894.1847.1538.78
Netherlands (52)618285211.5434.6253.85
Bulgaria (188)2361491018812.233.1979.265.32
Hungary (45)617224513.3337.7848.89
Ireland (59)927235915.2545.7638.98
United Kindom (87)14110628716.091.1511.4971.26
Austria (117)214415111717.953.4235.0443.59
Czechia (93)18146289319.351.0849.4630.11
Poland (115)2325040115201.7443.4834.78
France (297)601212510029720.24.0442.0933.67
Lithuania (54)1221215422.2238.8938.89
Sweden (186)424310118622.5823.1254.3
Portugal (156)377674515623.724.4942.9528.85
Malta (29)84172927.5913.7958.62
Germany (195)582627319529.741.0331.7937.44
Finland (91)29132299131.871.135.1631.87
Luxembourg (28)95142832.1417.8650
Slovakia (101)382511010137.621.9850.59.9
Slovenia (89)3428278938.231.4630.34
Croatia (125)4918322612539.214.425.620.8
Cyprus (42)198154245.2419.0535.71
Greece (89)4343758948.314.4941.575.62
Estonia (60)342246056.6736.676.67
Romania (173)118346617368.211.7326.593.47
EU status77412112651082324223.873.7339.0233.37

Member States’ reporting shows significant variations in terms of the conservation status of habitats within their territories (Figure 2). With the exception of Cyprus, Estonia, Greece and Romania, Member States report a good conservation status for less than 40 % of their habitats assessments. Belgium and Denmark have the lowest share of habitats with a good conservation status and — together with the United Kingdom — report more than 70 % of their habitats as having a bad conservation status. Some of the habitats with the poorest conditions are grasslands, such as Molinia meadows, as well as bogs, mires and fens. For more information about EU Member State reported data, see here.

Member States also report on pressures and threats to habitats and species. Overall, agriculture is the most frequent pressure, representing 21 % of all reported pressures. For example, both the abandonment of grasslands and intensification of their use, have a particularly big impact on pollinator species and farmland birds. Other key pressures are urbanisation and pollution, followed by invasive alien species and climate change. The EEA publishes more information about the main pressures and how they are addressed.

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