The European Union is striving to improve the state of natural and urban ecosystems in Europe while continuing its goal of achieving international conservation goals set for 2020.
Terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems in Europe have undergone major changes during the last 150 years due to the industrial revolution, the agricultural revolution, the growth of cities and other factors of anthropocentric nature. However, the European Union (EU) has been responding slowly to the appeals made by scientists, ecologists, and a society increasingly more aware about the implications behind the continent’s loss of ecosystems and biodiversity. In 2018 the European Parliament voted to consolidate the position of the EU as a world leader in the fight against Plastic Pollution and, at the same time, the international organization has continued to lead efforts to promote a greener Common Agricultural Policy, and improve both the connectivity and general condition of its rivers.
Further efforts in different parts of Europe have focused on assessing ecosystems using the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) methodology; a valuable tool to inform governments and the global community about both conservation priorities according to ecosystem risk, and progress made towards achieving international environmental goals. To date, four ecosystem risk assessments (case studies) have been carried out in Europe using the RLE criteria: three regional assessments and one at a global level (which means that the ecosystem was evaluated in its entirety). These four assessments reflected that these ecosystems were in some risk category;: the Raised Bogs of Germany were listed as Critically Endangered (CR), the German Tamarisks and the Intertidal Mudflats in France as Endangered (EN) and European Reedbeds as Vulnerable (VU).
Europe: Looking ahead...
The current goals, both European and global, designed to slow and reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2020 are ambitious, and the most recent data indicates the European Union is at risk of not being able to meet these targets by the scheduled date. To achieve this in time, not only must the Member States take the implementation of the EU’s strict laws seriously, but it will also be necessary to guarantee improvements in the application of policies, intersectoral coordination, and accountability. In this sense, the systematic application of the RLE criteria at local, national and continental scale offers an alternative to help monitor biodiversity, by presenting key data on the state of ecosystems and providing decision-makers with bases on which to support policies and conservation plans.
For now, both Norway and Finland are carrying out national assessments of their respective ecosystems, and France is developing new case studies in its high seas territories. It is expected that, as more nations in Europe begin to perceive the benefits of assessing their ecosystems, data from tools such as RLE will increasingly have the capacity to inform holistically about global progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Intergovernmental Science and Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
Written by: Mariana Hernández-Montilla, Lila García and Clara Gómez
Style and format: Lila García and Clara Gómez
Translation: Claudia Paredes
Provita Nov 28, 2018