independent

Friday 29 August 2014

Biodiversity loss a Europe-wide problem

Published 19/11/2013 | 05:38

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Natura 2000 is the network of protected nature sites throughout the European Union.

BIODIVERSITY loss is an enormous challenge for the global environment, with species being lost at 100 to 1000 times the normal rate. More than one third of species assessed are threatened with extinction and an estimated 60% of the Earth's ecosystem services have been degraded in the last 50 years.

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Human activities are causing this loss, through land-use change, over-exploitation, unsustainable practices, pollution and the introduction of invasive species. Climate change is also a factor.

In the European Union around one in four species is currently threatened with extinction and 88% of fish stocks are over-exploited or significantly depleted. The Flash Eurobarometer 379 survey was carried out in the then 27 Member States of the European Union and Croatia between 26 and 28 June 2013. Some 25,537 respondents from different social and demographic groups were interviewed via telephone in their mother tongue on behalf of the European Commission. Ireland has mixed results in the recently published 146-page report of the survey.

Natura 2000 is the network of protected nature sites throughout the European Union. Awareness of the network varies hugely across Member States. Almost no respondents in the United Kingdom (1%), Italy and Ireland (both 2%) have heard of the network and know what it is, compared with nearly half of respondents in Bulgaria (45%) and more than a third of respondents in Finland (37%) and Poland (34%).

Ireland, together with Estonia and the Czech Republic are the only three countries in the EU to record a rise since the 2010 survey in the number of respondents who agree that economic development in nature protection areas is acceptable because economic development takes precedence.

However, on a more positive and broader note, the recently published results of the survey show that almost nine out of ten Europeans believe that biodiversity loss - the decline and possible extinction of animal species, flora and fauna, natural habitats and ecosystems in Europe - is a problem.

Europe has an agreed strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020. It includes six main targets and 20 actions to help Europe reach its goal. The lack of political will by Member States to take action remains the significant challenge.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potoènik said: 'It's good to see that public opinion is increasingly aware of how important biodiversity is. I hope political leaders will translate this concern into tangible action to deliver what we have agreed in the EU Biodiversity Strategy.'

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