As biodiversity is coming under serious pressure, with around one in four species currently threatened with extinction, the European Commission has adopted an ambitious EU Biodiversity Strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020. In order to achieve this objective, a better understanding of the links between biodiversity, ecosystem functions, ecosystem services and human well-being is needed.
The JRC supports the implementation of several European policies and strategies that aim to promote the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems and the efficient use of natural resources. These include the EU 2020 biodiversity strategy, the 2012 Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources, the EU Water Framework Directive, the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the Environment Strategy for the Mediterranean, the EU Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The JRC aims to provide the scientific basis for the integration of EU biodiversity policies. In particular, it focuses on mapping ecosystem services, assessing available natural resources, and developing robust modelling approaches that evaluate ecosystem dynamics and future scenario simulations. The JRC also promotes consensus on best practices for the sustainable management of natural resources, notably for agriculture and rural development.
Rich soil biodiversity provides many benefits to ecosystems, contributing to a range of services such as food production, water filtration and nutrient cycling. The JRC monitors and assesses the state of soil biodiversity in order to inform stakeholders and raise awareness about this valuable resource.
The poor ecological state of many freshwater ecosystems is a global concern, especially given that they are intimately involved in ensuring water availability, which is likely to decline in the future. The JRC’s scientific ecosystem modelling and monitoring services contribute to efforts to implement sound policies that will ensure the protection of these crucial ecosystems.
The JRC supports the Marine Strategy Framework Directive by assessing the environmental status of European marine waters and establishing monitoring programmes. In parallel, the JRC provides access to up-to-date, ready-to-use and tailor-made information for the assessment of the ecological quality of coastal and marine waters in Europe.
With new technologies, genetic research and agro-chemicals, the environment has been subject to new pressures from agriculture such as pollution or loss of biodiversity and water quality. The JRC supports the aims of the Common Agricultural Policy to address these new issues by helping to understand the impacts of agricultural practices on the environment through geo-spatial and modelling activities.
Ecosystems bring vital services to society such as biodiversity conservation, protection and enrichment of soils, purification of water and air, climate change mitigation and reduction of natural disaster risks. 'Ecosystem services' has been identified as a key concept for assessing the state of water resources in the preparation of the 2012 Commission's Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources.
Sustainable management of global natural resources
The JRC supports EU development policy by helping developing countries to manage, protect and assess the impact of policies on their ecosystems and biodiversity. This includes the development of tools for the large-scale assessment and monitoring of protected areas, and the provision of scientific and technical expertise for using environmental monitoring tools based on Earth observations or reporting tools to support the ACP Observatory.