Biodiversity, flora and fauna

Quotation: Dirk Wascher (2013): Introduction to the environmental Impact Area Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna:


Biodiversity means the diversity of life in all its forms – the diversity of species, of genetic variations within one species, and of ecosystems. A rich biodiversity is not only essential for maintaining the ability to adapt to changes, but provides food, medicines, raw materials and many other Ecosystem Services, such as purification of water or prevention of erosion. Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services provided by nature are of immense economic value (see TEEB Report 2009).
According to the European Environment Agency,  biodiversity loss has to be attributed largely to habitat loss due to the following impacts: intensive agricultural production and land abandonment; construction and transport (fragmentation); overexploitation of forests, mountains, oceans & coastsfreshwater systems and soils; invasion of alien species; pollution; and — increasingly — climate change (see EEA Report Nr.5/2010). Population density (Pecher et al. 2010)and level of industrialisation have seriously impaired on biodiversity in Western Europe. Many ecosystems have been already lost and many others are under threat from a wide range of sources, e.g. urban sprawl and population growth, intensive agriculture, extension of road, rail and electricity networks, over-exploitation of resources (such as over-fishing), climate change as well as air, water and soil pollution.

This impact area is further specified by the taxonomy terms: Number of Species, Diversitiy of Species and Habitats, Habitat Connectivity and Ecosystem Services.

Relevant Policies

Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention 1972) stimulates the protection of those cultural and natural properties that are considered to be of outstanding universal value according to which cultural landscapes represent the "combined works of nature and of man" (Article 1). In Europe, there are currently 41 designations as ‘cultural landscapes’.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (Biodiversity Convention 1992) does not specifically include landscapes, but takes into account the full opportunity from in-situ conservation such as national systems of protected areas, or areas where special measures need to be undertaken to conserve biological diversity as well fundamentally addressing the integration of biodiversity into sectors.

Pan-European Biodiversity and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS)
(Council of Europe, UNEP & ECNC 1995) puts forward five-year action plans under which Theme 4 specifically addresses the conservation of landscapes.
The European Landscape Convention - also known as the Florence Convention, - promotes the protection, management and planning of European landscapes and organises European co-operation on landscape issues. The convention was adopted on 20 October 2000 in Florence (Italy) and came into force on 1 March 2004 (Council of Europe Treaty Series no. 176). It is open for signature by member states of the Council of Europe and for accession by the European Community and European non-member states. It is the first international treaty to be exclusively concerned with all dimensions of European landscape.
Convention text:
Explanatory Report:

European Union: Biodiversity
The Biodiversity strategy for 2020 aims to halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystems in the European Union (EU) by 2020, by identifying six priority targets. This strategy is an integral part of the Europe 2020 strategy, and, in particular, of the flagship initiative entitled “A resource-efficient Europe”.

The Commission's Communication on "Halting Biodiversity Loss by 2010 – and Beyond: Sustaining ecosystem services for human well-being" (COM/2006/0216 final) and the accompanying detailed  Biodiversity Action Plan 2006 (BAP) included objectives to halt the decline of biodiversity and measures enabling these objectives to be achieved by 2010. According to a critical review, the plan has been considered to fail, prompting the Commission to put forward the above Biodiversity Strategy targetting at 2020. According to the review, the major failure of the 2006 BAP is that it did not establish indicators, or milestones and baselines at any level.

The Strategy on the sustainable use of natural resources (2005) creates a framework for action aiming to reduce the burden on the environment from the production and consumption of natural resources without penalising economic development. Biodiversity is addressed as a relevant environmental cross-cutting theme (see page 6 of the document).

The Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament (2001) specifies Biodiversity Action Plans in the areas of Conservation of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Fisheries, and Development and Economic Cooperation. This second volume is specifically dedicated to the conservation of natural resources. A First Volume of the Action Plan had been issued as part of the Council Decision 93/626/EEC of 25 October 1993 concerning the conclusion of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

European Union: Fauna and Flora

The ecological network of special protected areas, known as "Natura 2000", of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora [See amending act(s)]. In order to get a first impression of the concrete locations of the protected area network, the EEA offers a dedicated Natura 2000 Viewer.

A general system of special protection areas (SPAs) for endangered birds and migratory species which are subject to protective measures and habitat management measures, known as the Bird Directive (1979, 2009). In order to locate the SPA network, the EEA offers a dedicated Natura 2000 Viewer.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES 1975, 1996). It establishes a list of endangered species in four annexes to ensure the protection and conservation of endangered species of wild fauna and flora, through the control of trade in these species by establishing conditions for their importation, exportation or re-exportation and on their movement within the European Union (EU).

Further relevant European Policies on Fauna and Flora:

National policies
Site designation for landscape protected areas (IUCN Category V) is in the responsibility of the Member States and individual countries. There are currently more than 12.000 designated sites in Europe with alone more than 7000 in Germany. The surface area amounts to more than 25% of the total.

This text is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace any reference documents.

Legal basis for the Commission to act

According to the Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the Union policy on the environment shall contribute to pursuit of the objective of preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment.

Web Resources

The EU biodiversity indicators - SEBI 2010:
The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity (TEEB):
The Biodiversity Information System for Europe:
European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity:
The European Commission, DG Research Innovation - Environment



Related Terms

Number of Species

Diversitiy of Species and Habitats

Habitat Connectivity

Ecosystem Services.