Conservation status of species under the EU Habitats Directive

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.

Published: ‒ 25min read

The Habitats Directive 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. 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.

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.

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