Halting loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Currently, ecosystems continue to be lost and degraded at a great pace in the EU (Habitat loss across the EU). The degradation, destruction and fragmentation of landscapes and habitats have direct effects on the services that biodiversity and nature provides, also outside of protected areas. Climate change will further increase the need for resilient ecosystems. The erosion of the functionality of our ecosystems is imposing ever growing economic costs, as well as harming our wellbeing in ways that go beyond monetary values.
To deal with these urgent matters, the European Commission, together with Member State governments, has started to develop a two-pronged approach, in line with global commitments: 1) halt the net ecosystem degradation and land sealing and 2) restore parts of nature that have already been lost. Although these initiatives are welcomed, it is still unclear how they will be translated into effective action – and if they will be sufficient. One key to success will be the integration and uptake of these approaches by the sectors that are applying most pressure on biodiversity. More on agriculture and the EU Biodiversity Strategy. A second key will be securing sufficient financial means for their implementation. More on Funding for Nature.
Implementing existing EU nature legislation: essential for ecosystem conservation
This is firstly, because functioning of ecosystems across the landscape needs a coherent network of protected areas (Natura 2000) as “backbone”, where species can recover and develop resilience to external pressures, and from where they can disperse. In some cases, large protected areas are needed to safeguard whole, especially vulnerable, ecosystems (Danube Delta restoration). Such areas are also most efficient in providing ecosystem services to society.
Second, the Nature Directives also already offer a great range of measures for species and habitat protection outside of Natura 2000 sites. Many of these provisions have so far not been treated with sufficient priority by EU Member States, e.g. Art.10 of the Habitats Directive calls for preservation and creation of landscape features, linear habitats and stepping stones, ensuring the migration, dispersal and genetic exchange of wild species. Connectivity between Natura 2000 sites is also necessary for achieving Favourable Conservation Status (Art. 2 of the Habitats Directive) of certain species.