Commission launches knowledge centre to reverse biodiversity loss and protect Europe’s ecosystems

Today, the European Commission launches a new Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity: a one-stop shop for science-based evidence to protect the natural ecosystems that provide us with food, medicines, materials, recreation, and well-being.

The Knowledge Centre will make the latest knowledge about biodiversity available to strengthen the impact of EU policies.

It will also help to monitor the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, which aims to put Europe’s biodiversity on a path to recovery by the end of the decade.

Launched during EU Green Week, the Knowledge Centre will directly address challenges uncovered by the first ever EU-wide ecosystem assessment, produced by the JRC. The assessment shows that Europe’s natural areas - from its forests, rivers and lakes to its farmland, urban green spaces and soils - are under increasing pressure.

The authors find a wealth of biodiversity data exists that could help in taking the right action to alleviate these pressures, but that much of it remains unused.

Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius said: "Only what gets measured gets done. If we want to deliver on the EU Biodiversity Strategy, we need to better connect all the dots, and for this we need sound data. Be it on the status of pollinators, environmental impact of pesticides, the value of nature for business or the economic rationale of nature-based solutions. We also need to make full use of the digital transformation, Earth observation and citizen science. The new knowledge centre will bring all this together, improving the way we generate and manage biodiversity knowledge."

Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, responsible for the Joint Research Centre, Mariya Gabriel said:  "Science has a crucial role to play in conserving our biodiversity. Led by our own scientists at the Joint Research Centre, the new Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity will help the European and global research community and policymakers to harvest and make sense of the vast array of information available, streamlining it into effective policies that protect Europe’s ecosystems and the services they provide for European citizens".

The Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity will provide:

  • A one-stop shop for key information about biodiversity and the impact of related policies;
     
  • A platform where progress of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 can be monitored;
     
  • An interface for scientists to network, share research results and channel them more effectively to support EU policies.

Protecting biodiversity: now is the time

Released on the same day, an EU-wide ecosystem assessment highlights the urgency to tackle biodiversity loss – which is key to our health, wellbeing, our economies, and the resilience of our societies.

The assessment finds that we are becoming more and more dependent on our ecosystems, which themselves are under increasing pressure from climate change and its related impacts.

There are some positive signs, such as the 13 million hectare increase in Europe’s forests between 1990 and 2015 and the growth of organic farms, which now make up 7% of Europe’s agricultural land.

However, the outlook for biodiversity is a cause for concern. Right now, 76% of the EU’s terrestrial ecosystems currently have no legal designation: forests, agroecosystems, urban green spaces and soils are largely unprotected.

Pollinator species are under pressure: the index measuring the abundance of grassland butterfly populations in Europe has fallen by 39% since 1990.

Europe’s rivers and lakes see less pollution and water abstraction than they did in 2000, but the speed of improvement has slowed down. Only 39% of freshwater bodies currently have good ecological status.

Several other trends are currently difficult to measure and assess, which hampers effective policy action. Europe’s seas are protected by a comprehensive policy framework, but data gaps limit the analysis of trends in the inputs of nutrients, contaminants, and litter.

In contrast, Europe’s freshwater ecosystems are constantly monitored through a network of tens of thousands of monitoring stations in rivers and lakes. However, of the 132 unique indicators used in this monitoring, only two report biodiversity in a consistent and harmonised way. This makes it impossible to assess species diversity trends at the European scale.

The urgency of the current situation and the inherently complex and multi-dimensional aspects of biodiversity conservation require new ways of working. In this context, enhanced scientific support to all policymakers has a crucial role to play. This is where the Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity comes in.

Supporting the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030

By bringing together and fostering interdisciplinary exchange, the Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity will deliver up-to-date, robust, high-quality scientific facts and evidence to support the EU Biodiversity strategy for 2030 in:

  • extending and connecting protected areas;
     
  • achieving the EU nature restoration targets and plan, which include, among others: conservation of pollinators and their habitats, reduction of pesticides and nutrient pollution from agriculture, restoration and decontamination of soils, and protection of forests;
     
  • reinforcing enforcement, compliance and implementation of EU law;
     
  • involving businesses, better financing, and integration of natural capital accounting systems;
     
  • supporting the global biodiversity agenda, through work on global biodiversity conservation, protected areas, deforestation, biodiversity footprints.

As the European Commission's in house science service, the JRC has experience of managing several Knowledge Centres and is well placed to host and chair the Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity.

Developed in close collaboration with the Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment and the European Environment Agency, the Knowledge Centre will pull together a broad range of expertise in many areas related to biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity is the eighth European Commission Knowledge Centre and the seventh to be launched under the leadership of the JRC. It adds to those on Bioeconomy, Global Food and Nutrition Security, Territorial Policies, Migration and Demography, Disaster Risk Management, Food Fraud and Quality, and Interpretation (led by the Directorate-General for Interpretation).

Further information