EU nations urged to do ‘much more’ to protect wildlife


AFP

BRUSSELS — European Union nations must step up efforts to protect vulnerable wildlife and habitats from the effects of human activity, with little improvement in conservation since 2007, a report said Wednesday. The ��State of Nature in the EU�� report says nearly a third of wild bird species are at least partially under threat while nearly two-thirds of other protected species are in an unfavorable state.

��Targeted conservation actions have brought successes, but a much greater effort is required for the situation to improve significantly,�� the European Commission said in a statement accompanying the report. Despite a few successful conservation programs, the overall state of species and habitats across the 28-nation EU ��has not changed significantly�� in the 2007-2012 period of the report, with many of them deteriorating still further. Few show any chance of meeting EU targets for 2020, it said. Conservation group WWF said the report showed that ��European nature is in a dire state�� and urged the bloc to do more. Wild birds were the best off with 52 percent of the 240 species examined judged as having a secure status. But 17 percent were deemed ��threatened�� and 15 percent ��near threatened, declining or depleted,�� including once common farmland birds such as the skylark and black tailed godwit. For 1,200 other protected species �X fish, amphibians and plants �X 23 percent were secure but 60 percent were in unfavorable condition, with those living in grasslands, wetlands and dune habitats especially worrying. Habitats were in an even worse state with just 16 percent said to be favorable, 47 percent inadequate and 30 percent bad. The main threats were agricultural practices including overgrazing and the use of fertilizer and pesticides, plus human-related environmental damage. EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella said that despite some conservation successes, the report, which is carried out every six years, ��underlines the scale of the challenges that remain.�� ��We have to rise to those challenges, as the health of our nature is linked to the health of Europe’s people, and to our economy,�� he added. WWF European policy office director Tony Long said despite the gloomy overall picture the report showed examples of how conservation can work. ��Europe has an enormous treasure in its hands that needs to be defended against increasing threats by intensive agriculture, and unsustainable energy and transport developments. There are good ways to work with nature, and they always pay off,�� he said.