Monday

15th Aug 2022

Over 80% of Europe's habitats in poor or bad condition

  • 38-percent of fish species have a 'bad' conservation status, the report finds (Photo: Jason Taellious)

The majority of protected landscapes (81 percent) across the European Union have a poor or bad conservation status, and many of them continue to decline despite targets aimed at protecting them, a report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) revealed on Monday (19 October).

In the 2013-2018 State of Nature in the EU report, grasslands, dunes, as well as bog, mire and fen habitats show notable deteriorating trends due to changes in land and sea use, over-exploitation and unsustainable management practices.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Meanwhile, only a quarter of species have a 'good' conservation status - with forests, mammals, and birds being among the top beneficiaries of the conservation measures applied during the last decade.

Nearly half (47 percent) of the bird species in the EU have 'good' status, but this represents a decline of five percent since the previous 2008-2012 reporting period - with some bird groups, such as falcons and harriers, still facing many threats.

But fish are faring worst of all, with 38 percent of species in the 'bad' conservation status, and half of fish and amphibians deteriorating.

"[This] shows very clearly that we are still losing our vital life support system. We urgently need to deliver on the commitments in the new EU biodiversity strategy to reverse this decline for the benefit of nature, people, climate and the economy," said the commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius.

The EEA report indicates that the intensification and specialisation of the agricultural sector have increasingly contributed to a large-scale loss and destruction of nature - with the use of pesticides and fertilisers negatively impacting on many habitats and species.

As a result, 45 percent of agricultural habitats are deteriorating, while only eight percent are in a 'good' conservation status.

Agriculture is responsible for air, water and soil pollution, significantly affecting standing waters, rivers and marine habitats and their species.

Nevertheless, forestry management, pollution or urbanisation are also found to be the main drivers of biodiversity loss in the bloc.

2020 biodiversity goals missed

In 2011, the European Commission adopted a biodiversity strategy in a bid to halt the loss of species and the degradation of ecosystems in the EU - including targets, to be reached by 2020, which explicitly mention species and habitat conservation status.

However, member states' progress was not enough to achieve the strategy. None of the three groups assessed met their targets: habitats and birds lag far behind, while non-bird species nearly met their target.

Earlier this year, the EU Commission updated the strategy with new ambitious targets for the next decade, for instance, seeking to increase organic farming to more than 25 percent and to halve the overall use of and risk from pesticides.

However, the EEA report warns that "tremendous efforts are needed to put the cross-sectoral approach into practice, adapting the common agricultural [and] fisheries policies to be tools for protecting biodiversity".

Similarly, green groups are urging the alignment of reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), proposed back in 2018, with the new ambitions set in the 2030 Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies.

"As it stands, the future of the CAP looks grim," said Jabier Ruiz from NGO World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

"Neither council nor parliament appear to care about the climate and biodiversity crises as they strip away conditions for farm subsidies and push for greenwashing loopholes," he also said, adding that "policy-makers must hit the emergency brakes and change direction before it is too late".

EU agriculture ministers are meeting this week to try to reach a common position on the CAP reform, while MEPs will vote on key amendments this week.

Yet, some of the largest groups in the European Parliament - the European People's Party, Socialists & Democrats and Renew Europe - have already reached a consensus, lowering the environmental conditions attached to EU farm subsidies for farmers.

CAP 'failed to halt biodiversity loss', auditors find

The European Court of Auditors has urged the European Commission to establish measurable commitments to tackle biodiversity loss caused by intensive farming - as the Common Agriculture Policy has so far failed to reverse this long-standing issue.

EU has second try at biodiversity strategy

The European Commission has outlined a fresh blueprint to halt biodiversity loss in the EU over the next ten years, after a similar plan for the previous decade failed.

Opinion

Backroom deal will make CAP reform a catastrophic failure

MEPs will vote this week on a supposedly historical reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, which accounts for over one-third of the EU's annual budget. But as it stands, it is set to become a historical failure of catastrophic proportions.

News in Brief

  1. Zelensky vows to 'target' Russian soldiers at nuclear plant
  2. Putin vows greater cooperation with North Korea and Taliban
  3. Hungarian judge slams Orbán's rule-of-law attacks
  4. Borrell condemns 'despicable' Rushdie attack
  5. Slow wind-farm approvals risk green goals, warns industry
  6. Increase in people crossing Channel to UK in 2022
  7. Swedish government to toughen gang-crime penalties
  8. Germany to help nationals cope with energy price spike

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Germany needs to cut gas use by 20% to stave off winter crisis
  2. Europe's wildfire destruction set to hit new record
  3. How Putin and Erdoğan are making the West irrelevant
  4. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season
  5. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  6. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  7. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  8. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us