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Land use

About 80% of Europe’s surface area is shaped by land use in cities, agriculture and forestry

We cannot live without well-managed, multi-functional lands. Land is the terrestrial foundation of society; it is the platform for infrastructure and for residential, commercial and industrial areas, and is a source of economic growth. However, an increasing share of our planet’s land area is in some way modified by human activities, leading to unsustainable changes in our landscapes. Together with climate change and severe weather events such as floods and drought, these changes stress land resources. In extreme cases, such changes might lead to unhealthy and degraded lands.

Imperviousness in Europe

This interactive data viewer provides accounts of land surface sealing status and change in Europe (EEA39 and EU28) for every 3 years between 2006 and 2015, measured by the high resolution Copernicus imperviousness datasets. The viewer facilitates the assessment of soil sealing over a specific period, which can be analyzed within user defined spatial units such as administrative regions, biogeographical regions or land cover classes.

Unsustainable farming and forestry, urban sprawl and pollution are the top pressures to blame for a drastic decline in Europe’s biodiversity, threatening the survival of thousands of animal species and habitats. Moreover, European Union (EU) nature directives and other environmental laws still lack implementation by Member States. Most protected habitats and species are not in good conservation status and much more must be done to reverse the situation, according to the European Environment Agency’s (EEA) ‘State of nature in the EU’ report, published today.

The European Union’s (EU) network of protected sites, Natura 2000, could be further connected with green infrastructure to create a trans-European nature network. According to a European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing, published today, highways and other infrastructure currently disconnect about 15 % of the Natura 2000 sites from other nature areas, reducing their capacity for ecosystem services.

Amid a need for more accurate, up-to-date and harmonised data and monitoring on Europe’s valuable woodlands, the European Environment Agency and the European Commission today launched a new Forest Information System for Europe (FISE) which aims to become Europe’s knowledge hub to monitor the state, health and sustainability of Europe’s many forests.

Published: 02 Jul 2020

Despite a strong policy framework and significant efforts by Member States (MSs) to halt biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation in Europe, the conservation status of protected species and habitats continues to decline along with the provision of ecosystem services. The new EU biodiversity strategy to 2030 addresses this decline with a plan to ‘build a truly coherent Trans-European Nature Network’. This will be built on the existing Natura 2000 network by analysing the potential connectivity between Natura 2000 sites using green infrastructure (GI) landscape elements important for delivering ecosystem services.

Published: 30 Sep 2019

We cannot live without healthy land and soil. It is on land that we produce most of our food and we build our homes. For all species — animals and plants living on land or water — land is vital. Soil — one of the essential components of land — is a very complex and often undervalued element, teeming with life. Unfortunately, the way we currently use land and soil in Europe and in the world is not sustainable. This has significant impacts on life on land.

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