Target 2

Maintain and restore ecosystems and their services: “By 2020, ecosystems and their services are maintained and enhanced by establishing green infrastructure and restoring at least 15 % of degraded ecosystems.”

Progress has been made on policy and knowledge improvement actions under this target, and some restoration activities have taken place in the Member States. However, this has not yet halted the trend of degradation of ecosystems and their services.

The European Commission, and the European Environment Agency have launched an initiative on ‘Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services’ (MAES) in the EU and its Member States. Much of the methodological work has been completed and a number of reports have been published (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/knowledge/ecosystem_assessment/index_en.htm). All Member States are actively involved in mapping and assessing the state of ecosystems and their services in their national territory (an overview of progress per Member State can be found on BISE, https://biodiversity.europa.eu/countries ). A first draft of an EU-wide assessment of ecosystems and their services, including the economic valuation of some ecosystem services and integration into accounting systems will be released towards the end of 2019. A Summary for Policy-Makers, which will include integrated narratives on key policy issues (e.g. pollinators) will be published by the end of 2020 in support of the final evaluation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 and the post-2020 EU biodiversity policy framework.

There have been numerous GI projects and initiatives in the Member States, including several transboundary GI initiatives, but the deployment of GI needs to be further scaled up. Only a few Restoration Prioritisation Frameworks (i.e. framework documents in which priorities for restoration are identified) have been developed at national and sub-national levels. National and regional frameworks to promote restoration and green infrastructure need to be further developed and implemented. A lot remains to be done to halt the loss of ordinary biodiversity outside the Natura 2000 network.

Challenges identified in the IPBES (2018) Assessment Report on Land Degradation and Restoration regarding Western Europe (Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) include in particular that national policy responses to land degradation within this region are often short-term, local-level and insufficiently resourced. Solutions are often reactive, focussing on mitigation rather than avoidance. Restoration policies would be more effective if impacts of strategies across scales and sectors were considered, as well as enabling key stakeholders to better understand the public value of non-degraded land. The IPBES Assessment Report on biodiversity and ecosystem services in Europe and Central Asia identifies wetlands, grasslands and marine ecosystems as most vulnerable while providing crucial ecosystem services, especially as regards climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Further, the assessment concluded that restoration and construction of wetlands together with the Nitrates, Water Framework, and Marine Strategy Framework Directives are driving decreases in water pollution and improvements in water quality within the European Union. Changes in societal behaviour have contributed to reduced levels of pollution, however the capacity of ecosystems to regulate water quality is jeopardised due to the reduction in spatial extent of wetlands and floodplains.

In 2018 an EU initiative on pollinators was launched which sets strategic objectives and actions to be taken by the EU and its Member States to address the decline of pollinators in the EU and contribute to global conservation efforts ( http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/conservation/species/pollinators/index_en.htm). The objectives of the EU Pollinators Initiative set a long-term perspective towards 2030, with a number of short term actions to be implemented until 2020.

In 2018, also the first steps were taken towards better monitoring of air pollution impacts on ecosystems, under the National Emission Ceilings Directive. The first data will be received from Member States during 2019 (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/reduction/ecosysmonitoring.htm)

Indicators used in this assessment

SEBI 004: Ecosystem coverage

SEBI 013: Fragmentation of natural and semi-natural areas

SEBI 016: Freshwater quality

Phosphate in rivers (Source: Eurostat (2018) Sustainable development in the European Union. Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context; based on EEA data)

Biochemical oxygen demand in rivers (Source: Eurostat (2018) - see above)

Nitrate in groundwater (Source: Eurostat (2018) - see above)

Artificial land cover per capita (Source: Eurostat (2018) - see above)

Proportion of EU surface waters in good ecological status (EEA (2018) European waters. Assessment of status and pressures 2018. EEA Report 7/2018

CSI 014: Land take

CSI 054: Landscape fragmentation pressure from urban and transport infrastructure expansion

Share of forest area Eurostat, based on Land Use and Cover Area frame Survey, (LUCAS)

Amount of restoration activity in the EU (eftec, ECNC, UAntwerp & CEEWEB (2017) Promotion of ecosystem restoration in the context of the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020. Report to European Commission, DG Enronment)

Ecosystem conditions (Source:(2020) EU-wide assessment of ecosystems and their services)

Relevant websites, links, and files

Development of natural capital accounts

Progress in mapping and assessing the state of ecosystems and their services in the EU and Member States

Results of the IPBES assessments IPBES (2018) Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Europe and Central Asia

Adoption of EC Guidance on Integrating Climate Change and Biodiversity into EIA and SEA EC (2013) Guidance on Integrating Climate Change and Biodiversity into Environmental Impact Assessment

EC (2013) Guidance on Integrating Climate Change and Biodiversity into Strategic Environmental Assessment

Narrative and Member State examples on valuation of ecosystem services Ling, M. A., King, S., Mapendembe, A., and Brown, C. (2018) A review of ecosystem service valuation progress and approaches by the Member States of the European Union. UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, UK

Potential of GI to mitigate the impacts of weather- and climate change-related natural hazards EEA (2015) Exploring nature-based solutions: The role of green infrastructure in mitigating the impacts of weather- and climate change-related natural hazards. EEA Technical report No 12/2015

Adoption of Restoration Prioritisation Frameworks by Member States, EU financial instruments available for supporting Green Infrastructure and progress in deployment of GI in MS: GI-related developments in the European Union

Progress in the implementation of the EU GI Strategy (Source: Review of the implementation of the EU GI Strategy)

Identification/set-up of national monitoring networks to measure and monitor air pollution impacts on ecosystems. (National Emission Ceilings Directive)