EU countries must do more to protect biodiversity

02 May 2013 | News story

European Union countries should step up their conservation efforts and fully implement the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 to prevent species from going extinct, according to a recent analysis of the European Red List coordinated by IUCN.  

The analysis presents a detailed overview of species threatened at the European level in all 27 EU Member States. It shows that the highest share of species threatened in the European Union can be found in the Mediterranean region which hosts most of Europe’s biodiversity.

“Thanks to its bioclimatic conditions, the Mediterranean region is a recognized global hotspot for biodiversity, hosting a large number and extraordinary variety of species,” says Antonio Troya, Director of IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation. “The survival of many of these species is at risk as their habitats are being negatively impacted by human activities. This is a major challenge that European policy-makers shall address. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ can be an important tool to analyse species population trends to guide effective policy and action at different levels”.

Spain, Portugal and Greece host the highest proportion of species threatened with extinction at the European level and should act with the greatest urgency. Of the 2,233 species assessed which occur in Spain, 21% are considered threatened at the European level. Fifteen percent of the 1,215 European species occurring in Portugal are threatened, and the same is true for 14% of the 1,684 European species found in Greece.

Of the species assessed so far, freshwater species – including fishes, molluscs and amphibians – are at the highest risk, with species such as the European Eel (Anguilla anguilla) and the Freshwater Pearl Mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) being particularly threatened. The status of terrestrial molluscs, dragonflies and mammals, such as the European Mink (Mustela lutreola) also raises significant concern. Species are mainly threatened by the loss, fragmentation and degradation of their habitat, due in large part to agricultural and urban expansion, construction of dams and water pollution.

While effective conservation action in the Mediterranean is needed urgently, the study calls on all EU Member States to take adequate measures to reverse the current population declines, in order to avoid species going extinct.

“Species can be saved from extinction, but this requires a combination of sound research and greater coordinated efforts,” says Ana Nieto, Regional Biodiversity Conservation Officer at IUCN. “All EU Heads of State and Government have committed to halting biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystem services by 2020. Considerable conservation investment is needed from these countries and the EU to achieve this target and assure a long-term improvement in the status of European species.”

EU nature conservation policies are among the most advanced globally. The Birds and Habitats Directives have led to successful recovery of many species.

“Conservation works,” says Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN Species Survival Commission. “The increase in the population of the Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) in Southern Spain from 94 individuals in 2002 to 312 in 2011 is a case in point. The EU and Member States need to continue to act to protect Europe’s invaluable natural heritage. IUCN stands ready to provide the science and support needed to scale up these efforts.”

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Liza Drius, Communications Officer, IUCN European Union Representative Office, Tel: +32 2 739 0318, liza.drius@iucn.org

About the analysis
The study is based on the data from the European Red List supported by the European Commission. It presents the proportion of species which are threatened at the European level for each EU Member State. The present analysis does not provide information on the status of the species at the national level (i.e. in each individual country), but rather on the level of threat for species groups at the European level (i.e. across the whole European continent, but excluding the EU overseas entities). National and sub-national Red Lists can be cross-checked to identify the status of species at the national level. More detailed information and all 27 country fact sheets can be found here.

Which EU Member State hosts the highest proportion of species threatened at the European level?

The above graph shows the proportion of species threatened at the European level for each EU Member State, based upon the ten European Red Lists produced so far. See here the results of the assessments conducted until 2011. Overall, the most threatened species groups assessed so far in Europe are freshwater fishes, freshwater molluscs and amphibians.


Mediterranean landscape