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Biodiversity: EU efforts need to be strengthened and refocused

Tuesday 17 July 2018

A NEW multinational study shows that EU efforts to conserve biodiversity are inadequate and must be strengthened to protect hundreds of marine, freshwater and land-dwelling species.

In May 2011, the European Commission adopted a new strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity in Europe by 2020. But just two years before this deadline, biodiversity loss continues and mechanisms to conserve it have at best slowed the decline.

The study conducted by researchers from 15 countries, including Dr Katherine Yates at the University of Salford, examined data on 1,567 EU-funded conservation projects over the past 25 years.

"Our goal was to assess, at the continental scale, the adequacy of conservation efforts for ‘multi-realm’ species, that is, species that use a combination of marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats" explains Dr Sylvaine Giakoumi, leader of the European working group for the conservation of terrestrial, marine, and freshwater ecosystems.

30% of species benefited

The results published today (July 17, 2018) in the journal Conservation Letters are rather pessimistic:only 30% of multi-realm species are beneficiaries of conservation actions.

Even more concerning, the species that are most threatened are not the ones that receive the most funds: for example, the Canaries' crocidure – a type of shrew - classified as "Endangered" on the IUCN RED list is disproportionately underfunded compared to several species of non-threatened birds.

To date, more than €800 million has been invested in LIFE-Nature projects targeting multi-realm species but,for example, only a tiny fraction has been targeted at marine-terrestrial species such as turtles. And the scientists warn that to achieve the EU's conservation goal, conservation efforts need to be both strengthened and refocused with a greater commitment at the political level.

“Understanding why these conservation mechanisms have been insufficient is essential to address the continued loss of European species,” says Dr Katherine Yates, a lecturer in global ecology.  “Currently, only a few EU policy documents recommend or dictate a holistic view of biodiversity conservation across the realms."

Fresh approach

The research team is also recommending that funding priorities for different species should be periodically revised according to specific criteria, such as the extent a species is threatened or, more importantly, is contributing to the provision of ecosystem services.

"Integrated planning and management of land, freshwater and marine ecosystems is essential," added Dr Giakoumi.

Conserving European biodiversity across realms is published in Conservation Letters by Sylvaine Giakoumi, Virgilio Hermoso, Silvia Carvalho, Vasiliki Markantonatou, Mindaugas Dagys, Takuka Iwamura, Wolfgang N Probst, Robert J Smith, Katherine L Yates, Vasiliki Almpanidou, Tihana Novak, Noam Ben-Moshe, Stelios Katsanevakis, Joachim Claudet, Marta Coll, Alan Deidun, Franz Essl, Jose A Garcia-Charton, Carlos Jimenez, Salit Kark, Milica Mandic, Antonios D Mazaris, Wolfgang Rabitsch, Vanessa Stelzenmuller, Elena Tricarico, Ioannis N Vogiatzakis.

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Gareth Hollyman, Senior Press & PR Officer (Science)

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