Mixed picture for EU species and habitats

1st June 2015

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  • Natural resources ,
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  • Ecosystems


Sharon Abram

Once common birds, including the Skylark and Black-tailed Godwit, are among almost one-third (32%) of wildbird species in the EU that are at risk of extinction, according to a report from the European commission.

Despite the threat to some species, the State of nature in the EU report reveals that more than half (52%) the wildbird populations in the EU monitored between 2007 and 2012 were classed as “secure” and at no foreseeable risk of extinction. By contrast, about 15% are near-threatened, declining or depleted and a further 17% are threatened.

The report also shows that 61% of bird species associated with marine ecosystems are considered secure, and about one quarter threatened.

Almost one quarter (23%) of species covered by the habitats directive received a favourable assessment, but 60% were rated unfavourable. Grasslands, wetlands and dune habitats are of particular concern. Meanwhile, the conservation status of and trends for habitats are worse than for species. Across the EU, 16% of habitats were rated favourable, while more than three quarters (77%) were considered unfavourable, of which 30% were classed as unfavourable-bad. The main threats to habitats include agricultural practices, such as changes to cultivation practices, over-grazing and the use of fertilisers and pesticides, and alterations to natural conditions by people.

Hans Bruyninckx, executive director at the European Environment Agency, which prepared the report, said: “The results are mixed but clear. When implemented well, conservation measures work and improve the status of habitats and species on the ground. Such improvements remain limited and patchy, and unfortunately Europe’s biodiversity is still being eroded overall and the pressures continue.”

The report covers about 240 wildbird species, 231 habitat types and more than 1,200 other species of EU interest. It is the first assessment to cover both the birds and habitats directives. The commission says the findings, which are based on the assessments that member states are required to perform every six years under the birds and habitats legislation, will feed into the “fitness check” of the directives that it is now carrying out.


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