Biodiversity in Europe is gradually being eroded. That’s the message from a report published on 20 May 2015 by the European Environment Agency (EEA), ahead of the European Green Week 2015. According to the EEA, the majority of habitats and species in Europe have an “unfavourable” conservation status, and efforts to protect them remain limited and patchy.

Eastern European and south-eastern Mediterranean countries – including Cyprus, Romania, and Slovenia – have reported the most favourable habitat assessments, whilst northern European countries such as Belgium, the United Kingdom, Denmark and the Netherlands are among the worst-performing. As biodiversity degrades, it can have a hugely negative impact on the environment, affecting how ecosystems function and making them increasingly fragile.

But is there anything that ordinary European can do? Or is this something that needs to be tackled by governments and international NGOs? We had a comment sent in by Florence arguing that European consumers can play a key role in protecting biodiversity, but is that true?

To get an answer, we spoke to Valerie Hickey, an expert on biodiversity at the World Bank. How would she respond to Florence?

hickeyThis is a great question, and I think that one of the most important and direct ways that ordinary citizens can help protect biodiversity is through their consumer choices. We increasingly have sustainability certification systems for products and supply chains, so when you’re buying wood, fish, or other products, try and buy from sources that are certified…

So, ordinary citizens need to educate themselves on what those certification programmes are, and then make their buying choices where they can. Now, not everybody can pay the price premium, but even if you can’t, do some thinking about what you want to buy, look at the various products, and look at the corporate social responsibility profile of the business you’re buying from…

And there are obviously other ways for ordinary citizens to help protect biodiversity. They need to make sure they are talking to their policymakers and representatives and remind them why biodiversity is important, and they also need to go out and enjoy biodiversity. Because, at the end of the day, we need a committed citizenry who can talk about this not just intellectually, but also people who have stories and connection in a very real sense. So, get out into nature and find out just how wonderful it is!

To get another perspective, we also put the same question to Alberto Arroyo-Schell, Senior Policy Adviser on Biodiversity for the WWF European Policy Office. How would he respond to Florence?


Actually, this is quite a common question. In the end, the steps ordinary European citizens can take are not that different from the steps they can take to help tackle climate change. It’s about taking care with your use of energy, use of water, what kind of products you use or eat, what sort of transport you use, the level of consumption you have – all of this helps protect biodiversity.

When you switch off a light because you’re not in that room, it impacts a longer chain of relations that can ultimately help protect biodiversity. In the long-term, it might contribute to your city using less energy, which means there is no need to construct a new dam, or perhaps fewer resources will be used, e.g. so less intensive mining is needed.

And we can also ask our politicians to keep our nature alive, to ensure the legal protection is in place – in these times this is especially important! You can now take action at http://www.wwf.eu/keepnaturealive/

Finally, we had a question sent in by Everybodyknows, who argues that agriculture is a “real disaster” for the environment, and that we need to convince farmers to prioritise biodiversity instead of profit.

The EEA ‘s report suggests that agriculture is indeed the single biggest threat to biodiversity in Europe, with grasslands suffering as farming intensifies. However, Valerie Hickey argues that most farmers understand they have a vested interest in preserving biodiversity:

hickeyI think this is a misconception about farmers. What I’ve found is that, in the developing countries I’ve worked in around the world, farmers are our frontline and they’re the folks securing biodiversity. Because they’re the guys who know immediately that if the beehives growing wild around their farms collapse then they can’t grow their food. So, farmers can be our best advocates for saving biodiversity because they depend on it directly. They know that when they have trees on their farm that are creating shade and water retention, this is underpinning their ability to be successful farmers.

We also put this comment to Alberto Arroyo for his reaction. He agreed with Valerie Hickey that farmers should not be demonised, but believed that the agricultural sector represented a huge challenge in terms of biodiversity:

arroyoWell, we have to be careful because it’s probably not wise to designate a group of people as the ‘bad guys’. So, it’s true that agriculture is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity, especially in Europe, but the agricultural sector is diverse. For example, there are people who are employing sustainable extensive agriculture, or organic agriculture, or other farming techniques that are not necessarily harmful can actually be helpful for biodiversity. That said, it’s true that agriculture is one of the big challenges we face in terms of biodiversity.

How can we convince farmers to prioritise biodiversity? Well, we are working on it… but I have to admit that this it’s not easy. I believe that, in the end, everybody benefits from biodiversity. In other words, there are tangible, socio-economic benefits from protecting the environment. If you don’t take care of what is actually giving you the bread, which is the healthy land and soil, the clean water, then in the end you will have problems. We will all have problems!

What can ordinary Europeans do to protect biodiversity? Do farmers need to be convinced to prioritise biodiversity instead of profit? Or are farmers our greatest advocates for protecting biodiversity? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Creative Commons – BY SA 2.0 / Flickr – Rolf Brecher

39 comments Post a commentcomment

    • avatar
      Rick Hoppmann

      If you’ve a garden you can create tiny homes for animals :)

  1. avatar
    Inês Valente

    Not hunt animals until they get extinct (just an ideia…). There should be better laws to protect biodiversity. I imagine there are organisations that can tell EU a million ideas on how to help protect biodiversity.

  2. avatar
    catherine benning

    Don’t gravel or cement over your garden or outdoor area. Don’t put weed killer down, leave the flowers to self seed with lots of wild ones, as many as you can get. Don’t get rid of the bees that come naturally to seed your flowers. In fact have a wild flower garden in as many places as you can. Encourage birds with bath for them to wash in and food, bacon rind as well as bought seed. Use only organic fertiliser and read what is in what you buy, even for window boxes. There is so much we can do as individuals but it does mean taking the time to do it.

    I would put up a picture of my garden covered in all kinds of sweet smelling colourful foliage and it’s beautiful, but, that would not be sensible in today’s world.

    Walk rather than ride in cars or buses when you can. Grow only organic vegetables if you are into that way of getting freash food. And eat only homegrown locally organic produce. I could go on and on but won’t.

    • avatar
      Rick Hoppmann

      I agree! If you have a garden you can ea.sily create niches for insects and birds. On the plusside, this is an activity where you can see in fact the impact you make.
      In the city where I live, an institution distributes free wildflowers. Right now they also started a project to add greenery to the walls of city houses.
      This is financially supported by the city and the EU, yet it are ordinary people who try to make a change for the better here.

  3. avatar

    Western selfishness (Austrian Holzindustrie Schweighofer and eagerness to protect their own jobs and self interests) are in fact shaving Romania’s ( in complicity with dumb and corrupt romanians that are lobbying in favor of austrian lumberjacks) virgin forests.
    Needless to mention that : “Virgin or old growth forests are untouched by humans, the last places where nature survives in its purest state. Their scientific, educational and ecological value is undisputed.”… “Romania’s virgin forests represent up to 65 per cent of the virgin forests still remaining in Europe, outside of Russia. They are an important part of Europe’s natural patrimony, and their demise was mostly due to bad management”

    • avatar

      In addition, besides romanians, I wold like to mention the political leaders (local landlords) of szekely minority (hungarian speaking ethnic minority) that are deeply involved in Romania’s aggresive deforestation process. Google (!) was the first whistleblower while their doing their maps over central Romania landscapes about the “crazy” changes of the land surface/color in a short period of time.

    • avatar
      Rick Hoppmann

      Shit! Is this legal under the terms of the EU protection laws?
      We have many woods planted to harvest where I live.
      Not comparable at all to such a wonderful, old forest.

      I’d appreciate if there would be a balanced mix of forests to harvest and wild forests which are let untouched.

  4. avatar
    Yannick Cornet

    At the very minimum enforce Natura2000. Too often, our ‘legitimate human needs for development’ are prioritised to long term sustainability. See the case of the new bridge in Frederikssund, Denmark: how can it be approved if it crosses a protected area? What is the point of Natura2000 then?

  5. avatar
    Jason Picci

    Next review bioengineering aerosol legislation for tropospheric “weather modification” and military practices (i.e. 1994, 1999, 2003 Italy-Nato documents) which have evolved into bio-polymeric webs containing heavy metals.

  6. avatar
    Dacii Sunt Stramosii Mei

    1 thing!! Stop destroying Romania…the last and more wide Virgin nature in Europe!! Industries from all over Europe taking down our forests! STOP!

  7. avatar
    Inês Beato

    Tighter environmental regulations and more natural parks. Fight corruption because goverments and mayors give permission to build in and destroy protected areas. Also educate people who live in rural places and farmers so they don’t overdo it with pesticides and leave poison traps in the fields that end up killing many animals.

  8. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    Plant forests , prevent domestic animals dogs and cats to run free in forests . Cats should never run free round house and forests : Cats kill for fun, not for food . A new study, published January 29 in Nature Communications, estimates that cats are responsible for killing billions of birds and mammals in the continental U.S. every year. The estimate: 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion bird victims and 6.9 billion to 20.7 billion mammals. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/29/130129-pets-cats-killers-birds-animals-science/

  9. avatar
    Prince du Sang

    Well, individual Europeans probably can do very little. I understand our lifestyles can effect the environment, but still, this is minimal compared to the effect that heavy industry, urbanization, and large-scale corporations produce. Ultimately, it comes to these organizations, as well as governments, to reevaluate their respective priorities.

    Constant population growth and development is not beneficial. Germany, for example, has a declining birthrate, and the media often implies that this is negative for the country, however its positive effect on the environment as well as employment opportunities is usually overlooked.

  10. avatar
    Rick Hoppmann

    I think everybody can create little ecological niches in their garden.
    You could plant wild flowers on a patch for example. Those are not only beautiful, but they are also attracting a large variety of insects. Those insects then attract little birds living from them.

    Or you could put your fallen leaves in a corner of the garden. Many tiny insects can feed from the decaying leaves or use it as a hideout.
    Again, this means that larger animals also profit from this.

    Or have a thick hedge and nest boxes, so the birds have a save place to build their nests.

    There are plenty of possibilities. They are easy to implement and you can see the impact of your effort.
    I’d appreciate if the EU would make effort to educate people how to create such niches.

  11. avatar
    Rick Hoppmann

    We can create tiny homes for animals in our gardens.
    The “Oekoloewe” is a benificial institution in Leipzig, Germany giving away free wild flower seeds and plants to add greenery to city walls.
    This helps to
    – create ecological niches
    – improve local climate

    I’d like to see more institutions like this to encourage people to make a change. But even without those, we can create tiny homes for animals in our gardens. Just go and buy some beautiful wild flower seeds :)

  12. avatar
    Carina Rodrigues

    Ok. Now seriously:
    It’s necessary to have education, respect and love by our planet.
    Unfortunatly, there is too much greed, selfish humans and uncivilized people :(

  13. avatar
    catherine benning

    And here you will read the EU is not free to decide the laws we need to keep us safe. This policy they have chosen to use, goes totally against any order for supporting biodiversity. You can buy anything these days. And those who have no decency toward their fellow man and this planet of ours, know it.



    • avatar

      Precisely what we pro-democracy (anti EU, anti TTIP) people said would happen.

      Precisely what the anti-democracy (pro EU, pro TTIP) people said would never happen. They said there were guarantees. But as usual, the Eurocrats care more for a photo op with whoever is US president than about protecting the interests of consumers, workers and the environment.

      This is exactly why the EU, and people like Cecilia Malmstrom cannot be trusted under any circumstances. No one in my country voted for that lunatic woman but yet she can undemocratically sell out protections out in order to get a thank you note from Barack Obama. Shame on her.

  14. avatar
    john bevegaard.

    hi we need a strong eu soft Power in the World butt with a strong eu defence battlegroups with it nato a green ecofriendly sustainable economy go more environmentally friendly union eu should be the cutting edge in green technology more Money to our universities go green europé go johnnyb.

    • avatar

      We need nothing of the kind. This, above all, proves that the sooner we get rid of the EU, the better.

  15. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Biodiversity is part of Europe humanity must contribute to improving Europe´s natural ecosystems will be a valuable contribution to the environment through universal

  16. avatar
    Jim Young

    OK, then as an Englishman and British and not European, Biodiversity, the EU has to a large extent; must be blamed for making our farmers cut down Apple orchards, hedgerows, opening up fields that once were small and historic and basically killing off animals, flora and fauna, birds and insects in our Eco System. Farmers for years were paid do do nothing, told not to grow crops, told to pollute their land with chemical fertilisers. what else do we want for an excuse to GET OUT OF THE EU NOW.

  17. avatar

    A number of things could be done. Looking at and dealing with human overpopulation would be an obvious avenue. Europe is significantly over-populated in most of its regions. Therefore the rate of immigration into Europe is a key area that should be addressed. Furthermore, although the birthrate average isn’t too high, it could be lower. A two child policy addresses this issue quite well. Most families keep within 2 children anyway, some don’t. Ironically it is mainly the immigrants that have the higher birthrates.

  18. avatar

    In an overpopulated world,stop people from breeding.
    If you think this is a ridiculous idea just think about it,no more than two children for a couple, No child benefit for anyone at all.Why are we paying people to have children,if you cant affford a car you dont have one,if you cant afford a holiday dont have one,if you cant afford children dont have one,its not the states job nor is it the job of other tax payers to subsidise your family.
    Harsh maybe,and I suppose someone is now going to complain that its everyones right to have children.
    Actually its NOT your right its a privilege, but do it on your own ,dont expect financial help and reduce the population ,which is clearly going to take decades and decades,but we have to start somewhere and then the rest of the planet might stand a small chance. …….Rant over !

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