Biodiversity in Europe under growing threat

Europe's biodiversity remains under strong pressure from farming, forestry, the expansion of cities and pollution, a European environmental watchdog said on Monday cited by DPA. Hundreds of habitats and species of plants, birds and animals are threatened despite conservation efforts, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said in a new report.

Despite some progress, at least locally, more work was needed to reach targets set to maintain or restore habitats and species to a “favourable conservation status.” Other pressures on species and habitats include pollution, invasive alien species, climate change, and changes in water levels of rivers through dams, for instance, as well as illegal hunting and fishing.

According to the “State of nature in the EU”, which covers the period 2013 to 2018, Member States need to improve how they implement and enforce nature directives such as the EU Habitats and Birds Directives and other regulations. “Our assessment shows that safeguarding the health and resilience of Europe's nature, and people's well-being, requires fundamental changes to the way we produce and consume food, manage and use forests, and build cities,” Hans Bruyninckx, executive director of the Copenhagen-based EEA, said in a statement.

Findings include that just under half - or 47% - of the 463 bird species reviewed have good status in the EU, down five percentage points compared to previous period covering 2008 to 2012. Birds with “poor or bad status” meanwhile were on 39%, an increase of seven percentage points compared to the previous report period. Trends were deteriorating for almost half of all waterbirds, including seabirds. The status for over 50% of falcons and harriers was labelled bad.

In addition to the status for birds, the report assessed habitats as well as other species including amphibians, fish, mammals and reptiles. Reptiles were among species with the highest proportion of good conservation status - over one third, while the findings said fish have the highest proportion of bad conservation status on 39%.

The outlook for habitats was even more grim with just 15% of habitats labelled as having a good conservation status, while 81% had a poor or bad conservation status at EU level, the report said. Grasslands, dunes, bogs and fens were among habitats that have "strong deteriorating trends while forests have the most improving trends," the EEA said.

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