EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy – is it forward-thinking enough?

The EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy is the European Union’s plan of action for conservation this decade. However, given rapid environmental change in Europe, it needs to consider future patterns of biodiversity.

EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy

As part of the European Green Deal, the EU launched its Biodiversity Strategy last year, with a minimum of 20€ billion for ecosystem restoration, protected area expansion and green infrastructure investment. It also aims to protect 30% of EU land by 2030. Importantly, together with the Farm to Fork Strategy, it includes goals for eco-friendlier agriculture: more organic farming, more biodiversity in agricultural areas, and reduced pesticide and fertiliser use. Despite all these ambitious goals, it fails to incorporate future patterns of biodiversity, as a new review in Conservation Letters reveals.

Climate change shifting biodiversity patterns

As we have all experienced with the extreme heat this summer, global warming is accelerating rapidly. Many species respond by changing their geographical distribution. To match the environmental conditions needed for survival, a species may shift its range, i.e. further north if it needs colder temperatures. So already established protected areas meant to protect a species or ecosystem may now be outside of their range. To reach new habitats, species may need to move through fragmented landscapes and across national borders, further complicating their conservation.

The review found that the Biodiversity Strategy failed to directly incorporate future biodiversity and species distribution patterns. The problem is that the expansion of protected areas will take place within the existing Natura 2000 PA network. This network is legally embedded in the Habitats and Birds Directive, which were developed decades ago without considering species redistribution under rapid climate change. As a result, the conservation priority in the Directives of protecting natural habitats and native species is outdated, as climate change has shifted where a species is considered native.

The Biodiversity Strategy guidelines do mention that adequate conditions for habitat and species movement under climate change should be considered. And the strategy’s commitment to protecting biodiversity by expanding protected areas, establishing ecological corridors etc. will likely benefit “neonative” species. However, it need to concretely deal with species redistributions given the accelerated rate of environmental change. Focusing on historic species distributions and habitats that may no longer exist is inadequate.

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