An invaluable asset
Europe under threat
Biodiversity has been defined as "the variety of life in all its forms, levels and interactions. It includes ecosystem, species and genetic diversity". Biodiversity is the essence of the earth’s life support systems, such as water purification, oxygen and carbon recycling, food and medicine production, maintenance of soil fertility and the origin of genetic resources for improving our crops and livestock.
Bringing habitats together
While terrestrial biodiversity poses complex problems for researchers, marine research is not only complex but technically difficult and sometimes costly. As our understanding of the interdependence of habitats increases, we move towards more integrated research into marine and terrestrial abitats. If we approach biodiversity as a whole, we deepen our understanding and start to manage habitats without causing unexpected impacts elsewhere.
Europe has a rich and varied biodiversity, but this diversity is feeling the pressure of expanding populations, industrial technologies and transport, compounded by intensive exploitation of natural resources by industry, agriculture and fisheries. In addition to the European Environment Agency’s ‘Dobris Assessment Report’(1), the United Nations Environmental Programme has confirmed that in some European countries, up to 24% of species of butterflies, birds and mammals are now nationally extinct. Two-thirds of our trees are suffering from the effects of pollution and, in southern states, soil erosion and encroaching desert further threaten biodiversity.
As the European Union expands eastwards, we will gain 170 million inhabitants, a 58% increase in land area and large areas of unspoiled landscape. Therefore, it is essential that a common approach towards preserving and reconciling biodiversity is developed on a pan-European scale. It is a task we cannot afford to mishandle or ignore, as not only are we stewards of many beautiful and unique ecosystems, but also we will influence our descendants’ heritage through their survival or destruction.
(1) See for example: http://reports.eea.eu.int/92-9167-087-1/en/page014.html