Today the European Environment Agency and the European Commission new reports on the Natural state in the EU are released. This is an important document and dataset that will serve as an aid to decision-making and decision-making in many sectors over the next decade.
The Report on the state of nature collects the information reported by Member States under the Birds and Habitats Directives. Based on this information, analyzes and findings are presented and the natural state in the EU between 2013 and 2018 is described. These include the EU population status of birds and the conservation status of habitats and non-bird species, as well as the very serious pressures and threats everyone faces. It also highlights the successes and shortcomings of current nature conservation measures, as well as the urgent need for restoration to improve certain species and habitats. The report also looks at the contribution of the Natura 2000 network to the protection and conservation of habitats and species and assesses the EU’s progress towards Objective 1 and Objective 3 of the EU Strategy for the Conservation of Biodiversity by 2020.
Natural state in the EU – general highlights
Overall, the statistics in the report on the state of nature tell a sad story. It shows that when it comes to birds, four out of ten bird species in Europe have bad or bad status, with almost a third of all bird species experiencing continuous decline over the past 12 years.
Topping the list of pressures and threats causing this dire state of biodiversity in the EU are unsustainable agriculture and forestry practices, urbanization and pollution. Each of these species threatens species and habitats and, when combined, can cause even greater damage. In the case of birds in particular, unsustainable agriculture is at the top of the list, closely followed by urbanization and then unsustainable forestry practices. Many EU protected species and habitats such as the saker falcon, Danube salmon, grasslands and dunes face an uncertain future unless urgent more is done to reverse the situation.
In addition, environmental laws and directives such as the EU nature directives are often not well implemented in certain Member States. The fact that eight out of ten habitats and more than six out of ten non-bird species protected under Annex I of the Habitats Directive, as well as four out of ten bird species in the EU, have bad or bad EU status means that not enough is done to ensure their protection and conservation, and it is high time everyone improved their game of conservation if we are to survive.
Reasons to worry – real and not real changes, extreme pressures and threats that will cause birds to decline
With regard to birds, the situation could initially be viewed as more positive than for other groups of species or for habitats, but these groups are not comparable as only species and habitats protected in Annex 1 of the Habitats Directive were assessed in comparison to all bird species. Around half of the bird species in the EU have good EU status, but this proportion is actually slightly lower than that from the last reporting period (natural status in the EU 2008-2012). For this reason, the proportion of bird species in bad and bad condition has increased slightly over the past six years and is now 40%. and although part of this change is due in part to a mixture of changes in data quality and survey and analysis methods, the deterioration of the real species is also a key factor.
Examples from case studies
Not all news is bad, however. Conservation efforts around the world have shown that species can spring back from the brink, and conservation in the EU is no exception. Thanks to extensive policy and local conservation efforts, including LIFE projects, the development of international species action plans, international letters of intent on specific species under the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species, and protection under the Natura 2000 network, species like the Aquatic Warbler, which almost completely disappeared from the EU when bogs and bogs were drained, plowed and lost to agriculture, has improved since 2011. The red kite has made a spectacular comeback after suffering sharp decline in the past due to persecution and pesticides and changes in farming practice. Although the bearded vulture population is still small thanks to supplementary feeding and specific breeding and reintroduction programs in captivity, it is also increasing in the EU.
However, these examples show that a large amount of resources must be invested in improving the plight of these species. Restoring nature will always be more challenging and expensive than maintaining nature in good condition. Therefore, it is doubly important, not only ecologically but also economically, to get the most out of healthy natural areas and to ensure that we do not lose or deteriorate them further.
Even so, we are losing species on a large scale and rapidly. For example, birds of prey such as harriers and falcons are declining, with half of harrier species in the EU and six in ten falcons showing declining populations.
Sea birds also suffer from increasing pressures and threats. Although the status of some seabirds has improved, most are pressured not only by invasive species and bycatch, but also by disruption from recreational activities and the marine harvest of fish and shellfish, the latter also affecting them by reducing the overall availability of Reduce food and everything Many species of seabirds have bad or bad EU status.
It is for this reason that we must take immediate action to address the most widespread problems affecting biodiversity. In addition to these widespread threats, species-specific or impending threats, such as those specific to marine species or related to climate change, can quickly make the difference and add to the myriad of other widespread threats already present. Governments must act immediately and efficiently if we do not want the trends we are seeing now to accelerate our European species and ecosystems to the point where they do not return.
The natural state in the EU and the EU strategies for conserving biodiversity
The new report on the state of nature shows that the objectives of the EU strategy for the conservation of biodiversity by 2020 have not been achieved. Only the non-bird species group has almost achieved the set target, while the targets for habitats and birds are still far behind.
The new EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 and the farm-to-fork strategy, which are both core elements of the European Green Deal, set new ambitious goals for the coming decades and bring hope in the form of new goals. In particular, the biodiversity strategy, with its new goals of strengthening and expanding the existing network of protected areas and restoring and maintaining healthy ecosystems, will help ensure that bird and non-bird species continue to have sustainable homes in the EU.