SDG 15 - Life on land (statistical annex)
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss (statistical annex)
Data extracted in August 2018
Planned article update: September 2019
This article provides an overview of statistical data on SDG 15 ‘Life on land’ in the European Union (EU). It is based on the set of EU SDG indicators for monitoring of progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in an EU context.
This article is part of a set of statistical articles, which are based on the Eurostat publication ’Sustainable development in the European Union — Monitoring report - 2018 edition’. This report is the second edition of Eurostat’s series of monitoring reports on sustainable development, which provide a quantitative assessment of progress of the EU towards the SDGs in an EU context.
Forest area as a proportion of total land area provides information on the extent of forest ecosystems in the EU in comparison to other land cover classes; it does not provide any information about the condition of these areas. Data are derived from the Land Use and Cover Area frame Survey (LUCAS) collected by Eurostat every three years .
Between 2009 and 2015, the EU’s share of forested area rose from 39.3 % to 41.9 %. This represents an average annual growth rate of 1.1 % per year. Over this period, the share of ‘forests’ grew slightly stronger, by 1.6 percentage points, than the share of ‘other wooded land’ (1.0 percentage points).
Artificial land cover per capita
Artificial land is defined as the total of artificial non-built up areas (such as parking lots, playgrounds, farms, cemeteries, roads, railways and bridges) as well as built-up areas (for example, buildings and greenhouses). Data for artificial land cover per capita are drawn from the Land Use and Cover Area Frame Survey (LUCAS) and give an indication of the intensity of land use in Europe.
Since 2009, the EU’s area of artificial land cover per capita has increased by roughly 20 m2 per capita, representing an overall growth rate in artificial land cover of 5.7 %. Between 2009 and 2015, artificial area per capita grew by an average of 0.9 % per year. The majority of this growth can be attributed to an increase in artificial non-built up areas, which saw an increase of 7.2 m2 per person between 2009 and 2015.
As indicated in Figure 4, conversion of surfaces into artificial areas has accelerated over time in the EU. While artificial land cover grew by 3.7 % between 2009 and 2012, the rate of change increased to 4.0 % for the period 2012 to 2015.
Estimated soil erosion by water
This indicator estimates the amount of soil lost by water erosion, such as from rainsplash, sheetwash and rills. This provides an indication of the area affected by a certain rate of soil erosion, though these numbers are estimated from soil erosion susceptibility models and should not be taken as measured values . Data presented in this section stem from the JRC’s soil erosion database and focus on severe soil erosion (erosion rates higher than 10 t/ha/yr).
Estimated severe soil erosion by water has steadily decreased since 2000 in the EU. Between 2000 and 2012, severe soil erosion by water has decreased overall by 14 % or 33 000 km2, which represents an annual average decline rate of 1.2 %.
Surface of terrestrial sites designated under Natura 2000
Terrestrial sites designated under the Natura 2000 network, constituting Special Protected Areas (SPAs) and Sites of Community Importance (SCIs), help protect habitats and species important for the EU. The area of these sites can provide an indication of the implementation of the Natura 2000 network, and the ‘completeness’ of its coverage within Member State territories. Data presented in this section stem from the EEA (European Environment Agency) and the ETC/BD (European Topic Centre for Biodiversity).
Figure 8 above indicates the EU has steadily been increasing its terrestrial protected areas since 2008. The past few years have shown moderate fluxes, though the size of protected areas has remained above 766 000 km2 for the EU-27 and above 787 000 km² for the EU-28. Due to a slight increase in 2017, the short-term annual growth rate for the EU-27 amounts to 0.04 % for the period from 2012 to 2017.
Common bird index
This indicator is an index and integrates the abundance and the diversity of a selection of common bird species associated with specific habitats. Rare species are excluded. Three groups of bird species are represented: common farmland species (39 species), common forest species (34 species) and all common bird species (167 species). The index draws from data produced by the European Bird Census Council and its Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme programme. Data coverage has increased from 9 to 22 EU Member States over the period 1990 to 2010, with 25 countries covered as of the reference year 2011 . Figure 9 shows that the three groups of common birds included in the index have developed quite differently since 2000. Between 2000 and 2015, the overall common birds index declined by 0.04 % per year on average. While the common farmland birds index fell by 1.1 % per year over this time span, common forest bird index improved by 0.8 % a year. The short-term trend since 2010 has been more positive, with a 0.7 % annual increase in the all common birds index over 2010 to 2015. The index for common forest birds grew even faster by 2.2 % per year on average, while common farmland birds remained stable during this period.
Grassland butterfly index
Similar to the common bird index, the grassland butterfly index is a status indicator on biodiversity in Europe. It is based on data from 15 EU Member States (Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom), measuring the population trends of 17 butterfly species . Data presented in this section stem from the European Environment Agency and Butterfly Conservation Europe/Statistics Netherlands.
As Figure 10 shows, Europe’s grassland butterfly population index has undergone a severe decline since 1990. After a period of stabilisation around the year 2000, the decline continued, with an annual average rate of 1.2 % over the long term (between 2000 and 2015). The loss in the index was slightly harsher over the short-term period (2010 to 2015), with an average annual decrease of 1.4 %.
More detailed information on EU SDG indicators for monitoring of progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as indicator relevance, definitions, methodological notes, background and potential linkages, can be found in the introduction of the publication ’Sustainable development in the European Union — Monitoring report - 2018 edition’.
- See Eurostat, Statistics Explained: LUCAS — Land use and land cover survey.
- Eurostat (2018), Statistics Explained, Agri-environmental indicator — soil erosion.
- Eurostat (2018), Metadata Biodiversity (env_biodiv).
- European Environment Agency (2013), The European Grassland Butterfly Indicator: 1990-2011, Technical Report No 11/2013, Copenhagen, EEA.