The European continent covers the permanently frozen polar areas of Siberia to the tropical islands of the EU overseas entities. Land use changes and the impact on ecosystems vary significantly within the vast European region. In many areas the environment has been largely altered due to the lengthy historic presence of humans whose impact has intensified with the industrial revolution. With the ever increasing human pressure on the Earth’s natural capital, critical changes in biodiversity have been witnessed in recent decades.
Although many countries in the region have developed legislative measures to cope with the growing biodiversity decline, the implementation of these measures is still lacking in some areas. Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia face even greater challenges when it comes to environmental policy development and enforcement, due to recent political changes and their economic situation.
The impact of the European Union stretches far beyond its geographical limits. The development cooperation and trade programmes and policies of many European countries, in particular within the European Union, place a direct impact on the management of natural resources, ecosystems and biodiversity in developing countries worldwide.
“Influence, encourage and assist societies in Europe to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.”
Eight of the world's Biodiversity Hotspots (as identified by Conservation International - see here) are covered or partially covered by the IUCN European continent and the EU overseas entities. These are: Mediterranean Basin, Irano-Anatolian, Caucasus, Mountains of Central Asia, Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands, New Caledonia, Polynesia-Micronesia and Caribbean Islands.