European habitats under threat
First ever Red List of all habitats on our land and in our seas.
For the first time, a comprehensive assessment of European habitats has been carried out, providing a clear picture of the state of the 490 habitats in 35 countries across Europe, from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean Sea, and in neighbouring coastal waters of the North Atlantic, Baltic, Mediterranean and Black Seas. Over 300 experts have contributed their knowledge and expertise to produce an assessment of the level of threat of European habitats. The European Red List of Habitats was funded by the European Commission and coordinated by a partnership formed by Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra), IUCN, NatureBureau and consultants Susan Gubbay and John Rodwell.
What they reveal is stark. Over a third of all land habitats are currently under threat: more than three-quarters of bogs, over half of grassland habitats, and almost half of our lakes, rivers and coasts. Forests, heaths and rocky habitats have fared better but are still of great concern.
In all our neighbouring seas, mussel beds, seagrass beds and habitats in estuaries are everywhere threatened. In the Mediterranean Sea, almost a third of all habitats are at risk of collapse; in the North-East Atlantic, nearly a quarter. Also of great concern is the large number of marine habitats about which we still know too little, particularly in the Black Sea.
European habitats are declining in extent and quality for many reasons, and many threats are having increasingly large impacts. Intensive farming and abandonment of traditional grazing lands, drainage and pollution, invasion of alien plants and animals, urbanisation and associated infrastructure development all of these continue to pose dangers to terrestrial habitats. At sea, it is pollution, nutrient enrichment, destructive fishing practices and coastal defence and development that are most threatening. Some damaging effects of climate change are already apparent in both marine and terrestrial systems and are likely to worsen.
Together, these habitats form the rich tapestry of our many different European landscapes and seascapes. They provide a home for many thousands of plants and animals and provide important ecosystem services, such as protecting soils, capturing carbon and helping alleviate global warming. These habitats can yield valuable crops, sustain livestock, game and fish and provide places for tourism and recreation. They offer inspiration and delight to all and are a precious heritage for future generations.
The European Red List of Habitats provides an entirely new and all-embracing tool to review commitments for protecting and restoring the land and seas of Europe. It covers a much wider range of habitats than those legally protected under the Habitats Directive and will help us measure progress towards the targets of the EU2020 Biodiversity Strategy.