European habitats need to be restored
Based on facts and figures from EU Habitats Directive’s Annex I habitats. EEA & ETC/BD | June 2022
- Most European habitats protected under the EU Habitats Directive need urgent and large-scale restoration measures to avoid further deterioration and revert losses from the recent past.
- Habitats from some ecosystems require bigger restoration efforts, e.g., those related to agriculture and grazing, forests, and freshwater systems.
- Large-scale restoration of protected habitats will require changes in several key systems, particularly the food, energy and transport systems.
- Synergies with climate change mitigation and adaption measures are fundamental to restore and maintain habitats in good condition.
- Member States will have to step-up their knowledge on the different ecosystems and fill in the numerous data gaps.
European habitats need urgent and extensive restoration
Despite many efforts over the past decades, European ecosystems continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate. The results of the latest ‘State of Nature’ assessment by the EEA clearly indicates that most of the 232 habitat types protected under the EU Habitats Directive experience ongoing deterioration and extirpation .
Global assessments of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) further came, among others, to the following conclusions in their latest assessments ,.
Results from IPBES and IPCC assessments
- The scale of human-induced biodiversity loss is massive and many times higher than the normal rate of extinctions (the sixth mass extinction); in addition, many species get extinct before being known and described by science
- The many environmental improvements on air and water quality, soil and nature conservation are not yet enough to ‘bend’ the negative trends; however, these progresses contribute to slow down degradation of nature
- Climate change often aggravates biodiversity loss, sometimes drives it
- Nature in all its forms (species and their genetic diversity, communities, ecosystems) cannot be maintained or restored in isolation; the same goes for the other components of natural capital; this calls for a systemic approach
- Thematic legislative framework (the environmental acquis) cannot be abandoned; on the contrary, existing legislation needs to step-up from the current implementation levels
The EU is therefore committed to an ambitious restoration agenda under its EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, which includes a legally binding Nature Restoration Law (proposed by the European Commission on 22 June 2022).
To estimate the scale and priorities of future restoration activities, the EEA supported the European Commission with the baseline work for the impact assessment of the restoration law. For this purpose, estimations of surface areas in need of restoration were made for different habitat groups, based on habitats from Annex I of the Habitats Directive.
The analysis is based on the Member States’ reporting 2013-2018 under Article 17 of the Habitats Directiveand includes two main components:
- The additional area of habitats that need to be recreated (e.g. wetland habitat from a drained agricultural field)
- The area of existing habitats that is degraded and needs to be improved (e.g. an overgrazed grassland with too much nitrogen in the soil and a reduced floristic composition)
Restoration of the Annex I habitats is also an important contribution to global ecosystem restoration targets. With this perspective, the Annex I habitats were grouped according to their affiliation to main EU’s ecosystem types that are based on their ecological characteristics and the restoration measures they require.
- River, lake, alluvial and riparian habitats
- Wetlands (coastal and inland)
- Grasslands and other pastoral habitats
- Steppe, heath and scrub habitats
- Rocky and dune habitats
- Marine habitats
In all cases, the calculated restoration needs are most certainly considerably higher since several Member States did not provide enough information in their reports to allow a more realistic estimation.
The following pages thus give a comprehensive overview on key results of the assessment on EU restoration needs and, in addition, provide insights into the predominant pressures for the different habitats that need to be addressed via restoration such measures as well as with additional action targeting the source of impact. The analysis of pressures is also based on the results of the Member States’ reporting from 2013-2018.
Nature restoration law
The Commission has proposed a new law to restore ecosystems for people, the climate and the planet. The European Commission’s proposal for a Nature Restoration Law is the first continent-wide, comprehensive law of its kind. Read more
Nature restoration success stories
Discover examples of successful nature restoration projects throughout Europe and the new Brochure on restoring nature - for the benefit of people, nature and the climate prepared by the European Commission.
 EEA web page on ‘State of nature in Europe: a health check’ https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/biodiversity/state-of-nature-in-the-eu
 IPBES (2018): Summary for policymakers of the regional assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services for Europe and Central. Asia of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. M. Fischer, M. Rounsevell, A. Torre-Marin Rando, A. Mader, A. Church, M. Elbakidze, V. Elias, T. Hahn, P.A. Harrison, J. Hauck, B. Martín-López, I. Ring, C. Sandström, I. Sousa Pinto, P. Visconti, N.E. Zimmermann and M. Christie (eds.). IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany. 48 pages.
 IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA, pp. 3-24. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009157940.001.