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Can we stop biodiversity loss by 2020? - 19/01/2010

Butterfly on lilac blossom © Reporters

The EU’s goal of stopping animal and plant extinctions by 2010 has not been reached. Now more action is planned – for proper long-term protection of biodiversity by 2020.

Time is short. The UN reckons species are now disappearing at 100 to 1000 times the natural extinction rate. A third of the 1.75m known animal and plant species are under threat. In 2008, we lost 717 animal species, according to the International union of nature conservation (IUCN). Right now, beluga whale, koala bear and staghorn coral numbers are shrinking at an alarming rate.

To protect animals like the Iberian lynx – down to the last 100 – the EU is working out a new long-term vision for the next 40 years up to 2050.

But should it aim just to slow down biodiversity loss, stop it completely, or even try to revive dead ecosystems? Should it promote biodiversity conservation worldwide? The EU is set to decide in the next few weeks just how ambitious the objectives can be. One thing is clear – they have to be realistic.

By the end of the year, the EU should have a clear strategy on biodiversity for the next 10 years to 2020. It’s in good company – the UN has declared 2010 International year of biodiversity.

More research, more funding and better enforcement of EU rules are all urgently needed.

We already have a good idea of what needs to be done – and there have been successes like Natura 2000, a network of conservation areas covering 17% of the EU’s total surface area. Developing the network – together with new projects – could be a step towards recovery for the world’s ecosystems, 60% of which have been damaged by pollution and over-exploitation by humans over the past 50 years.

That would also help prevent natural disasters of various kinds, drought, and famine – and ease the greenhouse effect behind global warming.

More information will soon be available on a new interactive website due to be launched on 26 January. And if you use social networking sites (e.g. Facebook), you should be able to add endangered species like the sparrow to your friends list.

More on biodiversity in the EU

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