Why is Europe so stable

The state of biodiversity in Europe

The global decline in biological diversity does not stop at Europe either. The governments of the European Union must preserve and restore nature with its valuable services and finally implement sustainable and ecologically compatible land use.

  • According to European Red lists 23 percent of amphibians, 17 percent of mammals and 13 percent of birds are endangered (The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015).
  • The number of invasive species in Europe continues to rise rapidly, with ever more negative economic and ecological consequences. The damage caused by invasive species over the last 20 years amounts to around 12 billion euros per year (European Commission, Invasive Alien Species 2014)
  • Around a third of the after Flora, Fauna, Habitat Directive (Habitats Directive) Protected habitat types in the EU are in an unfavorable but stable conservation status, a further 30% are in an unfavorable condition and are still deteriorating, and an improvement was found in only 4% of the habitat types (European Commission, State of Nature Report 2015). In the case of raised bogs and fens, for example, a full 80% are in an unfavorable state of conservation, only around 20% are in a favorable state and in almost 50% of this habitat type the conservation status deteriorates even further
  • Of the bird species naturally occurring in the EU, 50% of the populations are considered safe, 15% as potentially endangered / declining and 17% as threatened. In the case of mammals, on the other hand, more than 50% of the populations are in an unfavorable state of conservation, whereas not even 25% are in a stable state of conservation. The situation is even more dramatic for fish, where only around 20% of the stocks are stable, in contrast to 75%, which are in a poor state of conservation, with 40% of the stocks currently deteriorating even further (European Commission, State of Nature Report 2015).
  • 47 percent of the European fish stocks are classified as overfished. The situation is particularly worrying in the North Atlantic (64%) and even more dramatic in the Mediterranean (93%). (European Commission, 2013 fishing opportunities consultation).
  • As the most serious threat factors to the terrestrial Ecosystems "Agriculture" and "interventions in natural conditions" (e.g. intervention in water supplies, reduction of the biotope network, etc.) were identified (European Commission, State of Nature Report 2015).
  • Both Marine ecosystems on the other hand, it is the "use of living resources" and "pollution" (e.g. by plastic, styrofoam, oil), but here, too, "interference with natural conditions" and additionally "disturbances from human activities" play an important role (European Commission State of Nature Report 2015).

The loss of natural capital

We are running down our natural capital without knowing how much we will ultimately lose and whether restoration is even possible. Without drastic protective measures, the decline in biodiversity and the associated loss of ecosystem services will not only continue, but will accelerate further. That will cost us dearly: every 40th job in the EU is located in one of the “eco-industries”: sustainable forest management, organic agriculture and ecotourism. Almost every sixth job in the EU is dependent on the environment.

In addition to the large number of jobs, the preservation of biological diversity and ecosystem services would bring various other advantages, such as the reduction of regional inequalities, added value in tourism, avoidance of economic costs due to natural risks, public recreation and recreational use and CO2 storage. The social value of these advantages amounts to 1.7-2.5% of the gross national product of the EU (as of 2010).

The expenditure required for the establishment, ecological improvement and overall management of the European protected areas, the so-called Natura 2000 network, was estimated at at least 5.8 billion euros per year for the EU-27 (2010). Only 9-19% of these costs are provided by the EU budget. Most of the costs are borne by the member states (as of 2011). The benefits of the European Natura 2000 network of protected areas are estimated at 200-300 billion euros per year, which by far exceeds the aforementioned costs of at least 5.8 billion euros per year.

Working in and for Natura 2000 sites created an estimated 8 million jobs between 2006 and 2008, and indirectly 4 million additional jobs annually; this corresponds to 6% of jobs in the EU and an income of around 145 billion euros per year.

EU biodiversity policy has not yet been effective enough

In 2001 the EU set the goal of halting biodiversity loss by 2010. In 2006 the European Commission adopted the EU's Action Plan for the Conservation of Biodiversity and intensified its efforts to fully implement the Birds and Fauna, Flora and Habitats Directives (Habitats Directive). These two pieces of legislation form the main pillars of nature conservation and the "Natura 2000" network of protected areas in the 28 Member States. Although the Natura 2000 network of protected areas with around 27,000 protected areas already takes up around 19 percent of the EU's land area and other protection measures have been started in accordance with the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the loss of biological diversity in the EU has not yet been stopped.

After the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Japan in 2010, the EU adopted a new biodiversity strategy with the aim of stop biodiversity loss by 2020. This is also intended to implement the EU's contribution to the global goals of the CBD by 2020.

The EU strategy comprises 6 fields of action:

  1. Preservation and restoration of nature
    Complete implementation of the Birds Protection and Habitats Directive, ie the achievement of a “favorable conservation status” for all habitats and species of European importance.
  2. Preservation and improvement of ecosystems and their services
    Green infrastructure measures to maintain and improve ecosystems, especially those that have been damaged by fragmentation.
  3. Ensure sustainable agriculture, forestry and fisheries
    Fisheries management without significant adverse effects on other stocks, species and ecosystems; Prepare forest management plans that are consistent with sustainable forest management; Expansion of agricultural areas that benefit from biodiversity-related measures.
  4. Control of Invasive Alien Species
    Identification of invasive alien species and their introduction paths; Control of these species and control of introduction paths so that the introduction and establishment of new species is prevented.
  5. Coping with the global biodiversity crisis
    Increasing the EU's contribution to preventing global biodiversity loss.
  6. Contributions from other environmental measures and initiatives
    Better implementation of existing environmental law in the EU; also reducing the “biodiversity footprint” of the EU as a global trading power and supporting developing countries in their efforts to protect biodiversity and its sustainable use.

(European Commission, An EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2020)

Interim balance from the mid-term review of the EU strategy on the individual fields of action:

  1. Compared to 2010, the number of species and habitats with a “safe / cheap / improved” conservation status has increased slightly.
    Conclusion: There has been progress in this area of ​​activity, but it is happening too slowly to be able to achieve the target by 2020.
  2. Restoration measures have been taken, but the tendency for ecosystems to deteriorate has not been stopped.
    Conclusion: There has been progress in this area of ​​activity, but it will not be possible to achieve the target by 2020.
  3. Continued deterioration in the status of species and habitats of European importance due to agriculture. Compared to 2010, the forest area in Europe has increased, but the conservation status of habitats and species that are covered by European nature conservation law shows no signs of significant improvement.
    Conclusion: Overall, there has been no significant progress in this area of ​​activity.
  4. Progress in creating a policy framework for sustainable fisheries. Commitment of the Commission for Better Management of the Seas. However, the measures are being implemented inconsistently and there has been a downward trend in all European seas.
    Conclusion: There is progress in this area of ​​activity, but it is not happening fast enough to be able to achieve the target by 2020.
  5. In 2015, a regulation on invasive alien species came into force.
    Conclusion: In this area of ​​activity, the target by 2020 should be achieved if the current course is maintained.
  6. The EU, which remains the most important donor, has made progress in increasing resources for biodiversity. However, insufficient progress has been made in reducing the impact of EU people's consumption habits on global biodiversity.
    Conclusion: There has also been progress in this area of ​​activity, but this will not be enough to achieve the target by 2020.

(European Commission, mid-term review of the EU biodiversity strategy up to 2020)

Despite initial and good successes in the establishment of the European network of protected areas, Natura 2000, the diversity of species and habitats in Europe is not assured. For example, intensive and highly subsidized agriculture in the EU is still responsible for great damage to nature.

In addition, nature conservation and climate protection must go hand in hand: If more forests, moors, floodplains and other wilderness areas are preserved as natural stores for greenhouse gases in Europe, this will not only slow down the decline in species, but also the warming of the earth's atmosphere.

According to the mid-term evaluation, the EU has hardly come any closer to the core goal of halting the ongoing loss of biodiversity and the deterioration of ecosystem services by 2020; instead, the deterioration continues. The ecological footprint in the EU is still more than twice as large as its biocapacity.

According to the mid-term evaluation, only one of the six goals is on the right track so far and can presumably be achieved by 2020.

For all other goals, much more effort must be made to meet the time window.

That is why the WWF demands, among other things, for the individual fields of action:

  1. The completion and designation of the Natura 2000 protected areas in the area of ​​the seas and their effective and sustainable management in the sense of the nature conservation guidelines. Furthermore, there are management plans for only 58% of the Natura 2000 areas. There is an urgent need to increase this number and to provide the necessary funding.
  2. The development and implementation of national and regional concepts to promote the restoration of green infrastructures must be promoted.
  3. Agriculture in the EU must finally become sustainable and the agricultural subsidies must financially support the safeguarding of biological diversity. Forest management plans must contribute to the biodiversity goals and their potential must be used more for this purpose.
  4. The more uniform implementation of measures for sustainable fishing in the member states as well as the better implementation of management plans must be pushed ahead
  5. The implementation and application of the regulation on alien invasive species must be carried out in a timely manner by the member states.
  6. To support global biodiversity conservation, the EU must ensure the effective application of biopiracy legislation in all Member States. The consistent reduction of the EU's ecological footprint by 2020 must become a priority of EU policy. In addition, more funding for the protection of nature in developing countries must be mobilized from the budgets of the EU institutions and the Member States in order to achieve the international biodiversity goals.

In order to achieve the goals of the EU strategy on biodiversity by 2020, the deficits must be eliminated as quickly as possible in order to preserve Europe's biodiversity in the long term and finally to stop its loss.

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