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Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services. Trends

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Ecosystems and habitats

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The ecosystem concept describes the interrelationships between living organisms and the nonliving environment. The CBD defines an "ecosystem" as a "dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit". The ecosystem approach aims at an integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way.

Due to its physical geography and the long history of cultural development Europe harbours a huge variety of ecosystems. Given the inherent complexities of the ecosystem approach the following links provide information on the major broad ecosystem types:

Cropland and grassland   -   Woodland and forest   -  Heathland and shrub   -  Sparsely vegetated land 

Wetlands   -   Rivers and lakes   -   Marine   -  Urban    

Mountains   -   Islands


In the fields of nature conservation and biodiversity the common meaning of the term ‘habitat’ is a group of animals and plants in association with their environment. Habitats considered by experts to require particular attention at a European scale are covered by the EU Habitats Directive. There are currently 233 habitat types listed on Annex I of the Habitats Directive.


Figures from the EU 2010 Biodiversity Baseline

Further reading:

selected links

search EUNIS for habitat types

Ecosystem Services