Challenges

Biodiversity encompasses the richness of life and the diverse patterns it forms. It is usually considered as the diversity within speciesbetween species and of ecosystems. Here you can find information on the on threats and impacts, on biodiversity.

Climate Change

Climate change impacts biodiversity through complex interactions among species and between species and their habitats. Both the structure of habitats and their ecological functions will change in a new climate regime. But the movement of species into or out of a community will also affect both the physical elements of the ecosystem and other species. Changes to local conditions and resources will thus influence a species' ability to survive. And if a species can no longer survive in an ecosystem, it has two choices. If it can disperse rapidly enough and an accessible and suitable alternative habitat exists, it can relocate. Or it can gradually disappear in different locations and eventually go extinct.

Invasive Alien Species

Invasive alien species (IAS) are non-native species whose introduction and/or spread outside their natural, past or present, ranges pose a threat to biodiversity. Invasive alien species occur in all major groups, including animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms, and are considered, at least on islands, to be the second most important reason for biodiversity loss worldwide (after direct habitat loss or destruction). About 10 000 alien species have been registered in Europe. Some of these species were introduced on purpose and remain economically important. However, a proportion of the alien species established cause significant damage to native biodiversity and can be classified as invasive alien species according to the Convention on Biological Diversity.nvasive species can cause great damage to native species by competing with them for food, eating them, spreading diseases, causing genetic changes through inter-breeding with them and disrupting various aspects of the food web and the physical environment.

Fragmentation

Europe has faced more habitat and ecosystem fragmentation than any other continent. European ecosystems are literally cut to pieces by urban sprawl and a rapidly expanding transport and energy network. Recent statistics from the EEA illustrate just how significant these trends are. Some 8 000 km² were concreted over during the 1990s, representing an increase in artificial areas of 5% in just 10 years. In the EU, around 1 500 ha of mainly agricultural land are lost every day to infrastructure and urbanisation. This is equivalent to losing the entire agricultural land area of the Netherlands every 3–4 years.

Land use change

Human land use, and its influence on land cover, is a major driver of the distribution and functioning of ecosystems, and thus in the delivery of ecosystem services. Our need for space, whether it is to produce food, to live, to recreate, to work or to provide energy all compete for land as a resource. Land use is also the prime cause of the loss or fragmentation of natural habitats and their species. The landscape to a large extent reflects the choices that we make when using land and sea. For analysing the relationship between land use changes and their impacts on biodiversity, land cover and land and sea use information is needed at different spatial and temporal scales – from local to global and from historic records to future models. Such information is also a prerequisite for spatial planning at local and regional levels.

Pollution

All forms of pollution pose a serious threat to biodiversity, but in particular nutrient loading, primarily of nitrogen and phosphorus, which is a major and increasing cause of biodiversity loss and ecosystem dysfunction. Atmospheric nitrogen deposition represents a major threat to European biodiversity and a serious challenge for the conservation of natural habitats and species. In addition, nitrogen compounds can lead to eutrophication of ecosystems. The main pollution sources are from transport and agriculture. It is the only air pollutant for which concentrations have not decreased in Europe following the implementation of legislation.

Overexploitation

The unsustainable use of natural resources and overexploitation, which occurs when harvesting exceeds reproduction of wild plant and animal species, continues to be a major threat to biodiversity. The ecological footprint analysis compares human demands on nature with the biosphere's ability to regenerate resources and maintain ecosystem services. It does this by assessing the biologically productive land and marine area required to produce the resources consumed and to absorb the corresponding waste, using available technology. Overall biological resources use and waste emission is well above the biological capacity available within Europe, showing that the continent cannot sustainably meet its consumption demands within its own borders.