Brussels, 1 June 2010
Environment: Commission and Agency unveil two new tools to combat biodiversity loss
The opening session of the Green Week conference in Brussels today saw the unveiling of two new weapons to step up the fight against biodiversity loss. BISE, the Biodiversity Information System for Europe, is a new web portal centralising information about European biodiversity in a single location. The European Environment Agency and the European Commission have also developed a "biodiversity baseline" to be used by policymakers, offering a comprehensive snapshot of the current state of biodiversity. The baseline will be used to monitor progress in the renewed efforts to halting biodiversity loss, and will allow trends beyond 2010 to be clearly established and measured.
"Biodiversity loss is not an abstract phenomenon – it's about the here and now,” said European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik. “By showing us exactly where we stand, these important new tools will help us review our actions and take tangible new measures to stop the loss, and reverse it wherever possible.”
“The challenge is to translate all the knowledge and information we have about biodiversity in the baseline and BISE into everyday language to mobilise communities and individuals to take action”, said Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA. “We cannot think of truly halting the loss of biodiversity without their personal involvement and commitment.“
A baseline for measuring progress
One of the reasons cited for Europe's failure to halt biodiversity loss by 2010 was gaps in available knowledge about the state of biodiversity in Europe. The baseline is intended to solve that problem, providing policymakers with a starting point for measuring the state of biodiversity inside the EU. The new tool provides a framework to articulate linkages between species numbers, habitats status and ecosystem services, and uses facts and figures that are scientifically robust and have been validated and/or peer reviewed in the Member-States. Information on species and habitats will be organised into main ecosystem types (coastal, wetlands, grasslands, forests and so forth), and, where appropriate, data will be updated each year to provide a clear historical record of progress. Most importantly, the baseline will also provide information on ecosystem services. The tool outlined today will be fully developed before the end of the year in connection with the targets set by the forthcoming revised EU Biodiversity Policy.
A new platform for biodiversity information
The conference also saw the launch of BISE, the Biodiversity Information System for Europe. BISE is an information portal designed to facilitate access to existing information about nature and biodiversity, presenting existing data in a far more comprehensive manner than before. As well as information about EU policy and legislation in the area of nature, there is a wealth of material about the state of the EU environment and ecosystems and the threats they face, information about research in biodiversity that is going on around the EU, and access to information about the state of biodiversity reporting in Member States, designed to encourage greater cooperation.
Background: the consequences of biodiversity loss
Ecosystems provide a number of basic functions that are essential for the sustainable use of the Earth’s resources. They include provisioning in the form of harvestable products such as food, drinking water and raw materials; regulating functions such as carbon sequestration, waste treatment and cultural services. The serious and continuing loss to Europe’s biodiversity is a reflection of the ongoing decline in ecosystems, natural capacity and their ability to perform regulating functions.