The EEA report Mapping and assessing the condition of Europe’s ecosystems: progress and challenges gives a snapshot of current ecosystem health in Europe. It identifies key gaps in data which are essential to properly assess the health of Europe’s many ecosystems. The report concludes improved mapping and assessments are needed in order to understand the problems faced by Europe’s ecosystems and to restore these key life-sustaining systems to better health. This understanding is vital for policymakers to come up with suitable responses.
The wellbeing of our societies is heavily dependent on our thriving ecosystems, which provide the basic building blocks of our day-to-day survival, including fertile soil, fresh water, pollination, natural flood protection and climate regulation. This ‘natural capital’ is being degraded or lost as a result of human activity.
The report looks at eight broad ecosystem types in Europe: urban, cropland, grassland, heathland and shrub, woodland and forest, wetlands, freshwater, and marine. It assesses the pressures and challenges each of the different types face as well as the impacts on habitats and species.
Key gaps in knowledge and data will need to be resolved to improve future assessments of Europe’s ecosystems. Specifically, there is a lack of data on urban and marine ecosystems, a lack of understanding of the combined impacts of multiple pressures faced, a lack of detailed spatial data for mapping impacts on biodiversity, and a lack of understanding of the links between ecosystem condition, biodiversity and ecosystem service delivery.
The EEA has since 2012 supported the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 through its activities on ecosystem mapping and assessment. The report forms part of the agency’s contribution to the mid-term review of the European Union’s Biodiversity Strategy to 2020.