Tuesday, July 13, 2010

European Red List Shows Biodiversity Still Threatened

An IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) assessment of around 6,000 European species suggests that the EU will not meet its target of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 with around 14-23% of all European mammals, amphibians, reptiles, dragonflies and saproxylic beetles shown to be threatened within the EU.

The survey, underway since 2005, is looking at every species native to Europe (or naturalised before 1500 AD) and data on its geographic range, population, habitat preferences, major threats, conservation measures, etc. is collected across the continent. Depending on the results, the species are then placed in one of nine possible categories:
The results so far suggest that over half (59%) of Europe's amphibians and 42% of all reptiles have declining populations. A significant proportion (31%) of butterfly species in Europe are also in decline according to the survey.

On the other hand, dragonfly populations seem to be stabilising after declines in the 60's, 70's and 80's caused by large-scale land conversion, canalisation of rivers and water pollution. It is thought that improved water management and decreasing eutrophication of waterways has had a positive impact on dragonfly populations (at least outside the Mediterranean region). Over half of dragonflies are now thought to have stable populations.

Despite failing to meet the original target of halting biodiversity decline by 2010, the EU is in the process of preparing a new biodiversity strategy. This new target puts back by 10 years the original deadline, promising that by 2020, the EU governments will have halted the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of "ecosystem services".

In a long-term vision, the new strategy also proposes that by 2050, EU biodiversity will be "protected, valued and appropriately restored".

Lessons from the previous failure need to be learned. Patchy implementation of EU conservation legislation, insufficient funding to meet conservation goals, policy and knowledge gaps and a failure to ember biodiversity protection into other policies have all been blamed and will be taken on board when the new strategy is fomalised.

One of the major developments, is that this summer will see the European Environment Agency launch a new Eu biodiversity baseline. This will ensure that, for the first time, we will be able to accurately measure both the quality and quantity of progress towards these new targets.

Six European Red List reports are now available. The remaining three (on freshwater fish, molluscs and plants) will be available next year.


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