Mapping and assessing the condition of Europes ecosystems: progress and challenges

EEA contribution to the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. EEA Report | No 3/2016

This report provides an overview about the current condition of ecosystems in Europe and the human pressures they are exposed to. A ecosystem map for Europe reveals that many ecosystems are highly concentrated in a small number of countries, which could increase their vulnerability to environmental change, and a substantial proportion of the most vulnerable ecosystems are not protected within Natura 2000 sites, Marine Protected Areas or equivalent zones.

Mapping and assessing the condition of Europes ecosystems

This report synthesises the European Environment Agency's (EEA's) work on ecosystem mapping and assessment over the last few years.

There is a large amount of data and information, but much of it is not available for all regions or all ecosystems, or it is based on inconsistent classifications. Therefore the EEA has devoted considerable effort to assessing the existing data and information and building a feasible methodology around it.

The EEA's approach therefore consists of the following stages:

  1. 1)developing a suitable typology (classification) of broad ecosystem types to be used as the basis of the analysis;
  2. 2)mapping the physical extent of these ecosystems across Europe;
  3. 3)assessing the pressures acting on ecosystems, classified into five main groups — habitat change, climate change, overexploitation of resources, invasive alien species, and pollution or nutrient enrichment;
  4. 4)assessing the current condition of ecosystems using data from the Habitats Directive (EC, 1992), the Birds Directive (EC, 2009), the Water Framework Directive (EC, 2000), the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (EC, 2008a) and other sources (e.g. soil quality);
  5. 5)investigating how to use available information on the relationship between pressures and biodiversity to map potential impacts of individual pressures on ecosystems, and exploring methods of weighting and summing multiple pressures onto a single map to assess their combined effect on biodiversity, environmental quality and ecosystem service delivery.

This report describes the stages of the methodology, with a focus on data requirements, and then presents the ecosystem map for Europe.

The main body of the report then applies the first four stages of the methodology to each of eight broad ecosystem types in Europe: urban, cropland, grassland, heathland and shrub (reported jointly with sparsely vegetated land), woodland and forest, wetlands, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. Finally, the report identifies key gaps in knowledge and data that will need to be resolved to allow the future development of ecosystem assessment.

Source: EEA (2016): Mapping and assessing the condition of Europes ecosystems: progress and challenges. EEA Report No 3/2016. Copenhagen: European Environment Agency.

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