Majority of Europe’s Species, Ecosystems in Poor Condition, Report Finds

Agricultural fields in the town of Idstein, Hesse, Deutschland.

Agricultural fields in the town of Idstein, Hesse, Deutschland. Lutz Koch/Flickr

European ecosystems and wildlife are in “serious, continuing decline” due to unsustainable farming and forestry, urban sprawl, and pollution, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency. The analysis found that 80 percent of the continent’s key habitats are in poor or bad condition, and just a quarter of species are considered to have a good conservation status. The declines come despite a decades-long, continent-wide push to preserve biodiversity.

The new assessment — which incorporates data on more than 2,000 species and habitats across the continent — “is the most comprehensive health check of nature ever undertaken in the EU,” Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries, said in a statement. “It shows very clearly that we are still losing our vital life support system.”

Compared to the previous reporting period, 2008-2012, the “share of habitats with bad conservation status has increased by 6 percent,” the report says. The most threatened habitats include grasslands, dunes, and wetlands. Europe’s forests, however, are actually seeing an improvement. And marine habitats generally lack enough data to assess their health.

The report also concluded that around half of the 463 bird species in the EU have good conservation statuses — 5 percent fewer than the previous assessment.

“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 EEA, said in a statement. “These efforts need to be coupled with better implementation and enforcement of conservation policies, a focus on nature restoration, as well as increasingly ambitious climate action, especially in the transport and energy sector.”