The marine territory covers 70 % of earth surface and more than 50 % of the territory of the EU. Europe’s land is surrounded by five sea basins: the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Baltic Sea, North Sea, and the North Atlantic Ocean.
Marine ecosystems are diverse: some are highly productive and all are important ecologically and economically to humankind. They provide numerous vital goods and services like food and chemicals and play crucial roles in biogeochemical processes sustaining the entire biosphere. Although the marine realm has less species than the terrestrial it has a greater phylogenetic diversity than land faunas and floras.
The main pressures on marine ecosystems are pollution; overexploitation of marine resource; climate change and acidification of the sea; sea uses; and the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.
Marine ecosystems cover marine inlets and transitional waters, coastal, shelf and the open ocean. From the 233 habitat types listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive 6 can be classified as marine habitats. Nearly 65 species targeted by the Habitats Directive are linked to marine ecosystems.
Compared to the terrestrial environment, there are serious delays in identifying marine protected areas and even greater delays in establishing their management status. About 2000 sites had been proposed or classified under the Habitats and Birds Directives, which are either fully or partly marine. Currently most of these sites are near-shore areas. A coherent network is currently lacking, particularly in offshore areas. The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive specifies inter alia the designation of Marine Protected Areas as a means for Europe’s seas to achieve ‘good environmental status’.
Figures from the EU 2010 Biodiversity Baseline
- Conservation status of habitat types in marine ecosystems
- Conservation status of species in marine ecosystems
- 10messages for 2010 – Marine ecosystems
- 10 messages for 2010 – Coastal ecosystems
- Marine protected areas
- EU 2010 Biodiversity Baseline
- LIFE and the marine environment
- Census of Marine Life
- Marine and coastal environment - SOER 2010 thematic assessment
- Commission staff working document on Climate Change and Water, Coasts and Marine Issues
- EC criteria and methodological standards on good environmental status of marine waters
EEA coasts and seas data service
Integrated Coastal Zone Management
OSPAR Commission North East Atlantic Sea
HELCOM Helsinki Commission Baltic Sea
Barcelona Convention Mediterranean Sea
International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES)
WISE - Water quality in transitional, marine and coastal waters
OURCOAST, the European portal for Integrated Coastal Zone Management