The EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives (the ‘nature directives’), which are the basis of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, form a cornerstone of EU biodiversity policy. They seek to ensure the conservation of species and habitat types of EU importance, protecting all wild birds (over 460 species), representative and threatened habitats (233 types, from marine seagrass beds to alpine grasslands) and almost 1 400 additional species, from tiny plants to mammals, including many iconic wildlife species. They require the Member States to maintain and restore the favourable conservation status of these species and habitats.
To enable the Commission to gauge progress towards the nature directives’ goals, the Member States are required to report to it every 6 years as required under Article 12 of the Birds Directive and Article 17 of the Habitats Directive, in particular on the conservation status and trends of the habitats and species they protect. This composite report, the third EU conservation status assessment under the directives, is the result of the largest and most extensive data‑gathering and reporting exercise carried out on the state of nature in Europe. It documents the status and trends of habitats and species in 2013‑2018, as reported by the 28 Member States, providing an up‑to‑date overview of the health of the EU’s nature. It assesses changes over time, key pressures and the contribution of the Natura 2000 network to the conservation of protected species and habitats. The analysis is underpinned by a detailed technical assessment by the European Environment Agency.
The European Commission has published its latest assessment of the state of nature in the European Union. It provides a comprehensive overview of the situation of the most vulnerable European species and habitats protected by EU nature law.
Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “This state of nature assessment is the most comprehensive nature health check ever carried out in the European Union. It shows, once again, very clearly that we are losing our vital life support system. No less than 81% of protected habitats are in poor condition in the EU. We urgently need to honor the commitments made in the new EU biodiversity strategy to reverse this decline in the interests of nature, people, the climate and the economy.”
The deterioration of protected habitats and species continues, mainly due to intensive agriculture, urbanization, unsustainable forestry activities and changes in freshwater habitats. Pollution of air, water and soil also impacts habitats, as does climate change, over exploitation of animals through illegal harvesting, and unsustainable hunting and fishing. Left unchecked, this decline will inevitably lead to the continued erosion of our biodiversity and the vital inputs it provides, putting human health and prosperity at risk.
The Commission’s assessment is based on a more detailed technical report from the European Environment Agency, which shows that, despite progress in some targeted areas, the status of the majority of protected habitats and species is poor, even bad at EU level.
The assessment shows that the EU has not yet managed to stem the decline of protected habitat types and species of EU conservation concern. The key land- and water-use pressures 20that have led to the degradation of nature still persist, resulting in a significant shortfall from the 2020 target of halting and measurably reversing the deterioration in the status of species
Source – European Commission