EU Ecosystem Assessment
Europe’s ecosystems, on which we depend for food, timber, clean air, clean water, climate regulation and recreation, suffer from unrelenting pressures caused by intensive land or sea use, climate change, pollution, overexploitation and invasive alien species. Ensuring that ecosystems achieve or maintain a healthy state or a good condition is thus a key requirement to secure the sustainability of human activities and human well-being. This guiding principle applies for all ecosystems including marine and freshwater ecosystems, natural and semi-natural areas such as wetlands or heathlands but also managed ecosystems such as forests, farmlands and urban green spaces. Knowledge about ecosystem condition, the factors that improve or decline that condition, and the impacts on ecosystem services, with the benefits they deliver to people, is key to effective management, decision-making and policy design. Such an understanding helps target actions for conservation or restoration and more broadly sustainable use. This ecosystem assessment extends and complements the knowledge we have about the state and trends of ecosystems reported under the EU environmental legislation. The conservation of habitats and species as well as the environmental ambitions on freshwater and marine ecosystems have a well-defined thematic and geographical scope. This assessment goes beyond covering the entire terrestrial and marine territory of the EU and in many cases provides more spatially explicit information. Ecosystems inside and outside protected areas such as coastal and inland wetlands and forests contribute to the wellbeing of people through ecosystem services. Despite their importance, they are often heavily impacted and bringing these systems back in a good condition is a key objective for a more sustainable planet. But also human dominated ecosystems such as farmlands and urban green spaces are important providers of provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services and can host remarkable levels of biodiversity that are at the basis of ecosystem services. These ecosystems should not be ignored when considering solutions to bend the curve of biodiversity loss. Consequently, this assessment brings together for the first time EU wide and commonly agreed data sets that can be used to assess the state and trends of ecosystems and their services as well as the pressures and their trends they are exposed to. This is particularly important to understand where and how much ecosystems are degraded and threatened so as to guide priority and cost-effective restoration efforts.