The “EU ecosystem assessment: summary for policymakers”, developed by the European Commission with the European Environment Agency, provides science-based advice on restoring degraded ecosystems, improving the monitoring of their health, and defining methods to assess their condition.
One year on from the launch of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the report supports efforts to put Europe’s biodiversity on a path to recovery, and will feed into the process of identifying priority ecosystems in need of restoration.
The summary will help inform a legislative proposal for a nature restoration law, which the Commission will put forward by the end of 2021 as part of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. The public consultation on this subject showed broad support for reinforcing legal protections and restoring natural ecosystems.
In the foreword to the report, Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans writes: “Healthy, thriving and resilient nature is at the core of healthy lifestyles, thriving economies and resilient societies. However, Europe’s ecosystems are under increasing pressure, putting us all at risk. Nature restoration will be essential to deliver win-win solutions for climate, biodiversity and human wellbeing by 2030.”
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 protecting biodiversity and safeguarding precious ecosystems. Led by scientists at the Joint Research Centre, this guide provides valuable input to help ensure that the policies needed to achieve these goals are based on the best available evidence.”
With one million species at risk of extinction and three quarters of the Earth’s surface altered by human influence, conserving what’s left of nature is not enough.
We also need to build back the ecosystems that have been heavily damaged. Restoring Europe’s ecosystems will help to increase biodiversity, mitigate and adapt to climate change, and prevent and reduce the impacts of natural disasters.
Bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects are vital cogs in the ecological machine. Without healthy ecosystems we could lose the services that nature provides for us, whether it’s food, clean water, medicine, materials, recreation or wellbeing.
The assessment reveals that the condition of all Europe’s ecosystems – from forests to agricultural lands, urban areas, wetlands, rivers, lakes and seas – needs to improve significantly in order to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.
Pollinating insects are under particular pressure: the ecosystem assessment shows that the abundance of grassland butterfly populations in Europe has fallen by 39% since 1990. Wild bees are likely facing similar problems, but there is an additional challenge: the lack of Europe-wide data on wild bee species.
Europe’s ecosystems today: ten key messages
The report includes ten key messages on the current state of Europe’s ecosystems and the way forward:
- We need to preserve and restore the EU’s ecosystems in order to secure their essential services;
- Effective implementation of environmental legislation and policies can result in reducing pressures and improving the condition of ecosystems;
- The adverse impacts of climate change and invasive alien species on ecosystems are increasing;
- Improving the condition of ecosystems in the wider landscape by reducing pressures on biodiversity can help improve the status of protected habitats and species both within and outside Natura 2000 areas, and increase their connectivity;
- Pressure on forests remains high and undermines good forest condition;
- Agricultural biodiversity and soil – a vital asset for farmers – continues to decline;
- Wetlands remain in poor condition. The chemical quality of rivers and lakes is improving, but overall progress to achieving good ecological status is insufficient;
- Major data gaps pose obstacles to the assessment of marine ecosystem condition;
- Nature-based solutions in cities can help improve urban quality of life while minimising negative impacts on other ecosystems and improving urban biodiversity;
- The EU needs a better performing biodiversity observation network and more consistent ecosystem condition reporting.
The summary for policymakers is a synthesis of the first ever EU-wide Ecosystem Assessment report released in October 2020.
It is the result of the intense interactions between science and policy involving various Commission services, European Environment Agency and many experts from Member States and independent scientists.
It provides an indicator framework to measure change in ecosystems. The result is a scientifically validated study based on the best available European data that addresses specific policy needs.
The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 is a comprehensive, ambitious and long-term plan to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems.
The strategy aims to put Europe's biodiversity on a path to recovery by 2030, and contains specific actions and commitments.
These include protecting 30% of Europe’s land and seas by 2030, restoring degraded ecosystems by 2030 and managing them sustainably, addressing the key drivers of biodiversity loss, introducing measures to enable the necessary transformative change as well as measures to tackle the global biodiversity challenge.