The first European Red List of habitats has just been published. It offers a comprehensive report on the conservation status of 490 natural habitats in terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments of the 35 European countries from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, within the framework of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy.
This study funded by the European Commission was conducted with contributions from 300 experts and coordinated by Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), NatureBureau, and the consultants Susan Gubbay and John Rodwell.
The Tour du Valat contributed to it directly via the participation of Brigitte Poulin, Head of the Ecosystems Department and Patrick Grillas, Programme Director, who assessed five freshwater and brackish water permanent or temporary habitats, harbouring emerged and submerged vegetation.
The overall results are very negative. More than one third of all terrestrial habitats are threatened—three fourths of the marshes, more than half of the prairies, and almost half of lakes, rivers and coastal zones, whilst even if the forests, moors and rocky habitats are doing better, they must still be closely monitored.
Geographically speaking, the Mediterranean zone is particularly threatened with almost one third of all habitats threatened by collapse.
The anthropogenic phenomena responsible for this global decline of European natural habitats are multiple and of increasing intensity, which is as true of terrestrial habitats as it is of freshwater and marine habitats. Examples include intensive agriculture and the abandonment of traditional grazing practices, wastewater pollution and drainage, invasive species, the uncontrolled development of infrastructure, fishing practices and the urbanisation of coastal zones. Meanwhile, certain effects of climate change can already be felt in all habitats.
Nevertheless, European natural habitats harbour thousands of plant and animal species and provide important agricultural, climatic, socio-economic, cultural and recreational services to people, which explains why it is important to keep them intact.
The two reports concerning terrestrial and marine habitats can be downloaded in English on the European Commission website
Contact: Brigitte Poulin, Head of the Ecosystem Department at the Tour du Valat (e-mail)