Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

EU makes biodiversity priority

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Agriculture and forestry have been put under the spotlight in a new EU strategy aimed at improving biodiversity between now and 2020.

The most recent study in biodiversity, carried out last year, showed that only 17pc of habitats and species protected under EU legislation are in favourable conservation status, while 65pc of habitats and 52pc of species assessed are in unfavourable conservation status.

The study found that many ecosystems experienced considerable decline between 1990 and last year, especially agro-ecosystems (farming regions), grasslands and wetlands. Land conversion and land abandonment were at fault for much of the loss.

Since 1990, the EU's common farmland birds have declined by 20-25pc and common bird populations have decreased by around 10pc during the same period.

Up to 25pc of European animal species, including mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds and butterflies, face the risk of extinction, according to the report, while 22pc of species indigenous to the EU are threatened by invasive alien species.

Among the six targets set out in the EU biodiversity 2020 strategy, farming and forestry have been singled out for attention.

With 72pc of land in the EU used for farming and forestry, biodiversity in forest and agro-ecosystems is in need of serious improvement.

Only 7pc of assessed habitats and 3pc of species dependent on agro-ecosystems are in favourable conservation status, while the forestry figures are 21pc and 15pc respectively. By 2020, the EU aims to maximise the area of grasslands, arable land and permanent crops covered by biodiversity-related measures under the CAP. It also aims to have forest management plans in place for all publicly owned forests and privately owned forests above a certain size.

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