The European Commission has adopted a communication, outlining an action plan for halting biodiversity loss by 2010. The document specifies concrete actions under four headings, including 'the knowledge base', and outlines the responsibilities of EU institutions and Member States in relation to each heading. The document outlines how an improved standard of living for humankind, has led to a simultaneous decline in biodiversity. 'This loss of biodiversity, at the levels of ecosystems, species and genes, is of concern not just because of the important intrinsic value of nature, but also because it results in a decline in 'ecosystem services' which natural systems provide,' reads the introduction to the communication. These 'services' include the production of food, fuel, fibre and medicines, the regulation of water, air and climate, and the maintenance of soil fertility. The EU has made commitments to reducing the loss of biodiversity, and policies have been introduced EU-wide. These have achieved some pay-off, with the Commission noting the detection of the first signs of slowing rates of biodiversity loss. However, 'Much of our biodiversity remains greatly impoverished and continues to decline. Achievement of the 2010 target is still possible but will require accelerated implementation at both Community and Member State levels,' according to the Commission. The Commission has therefore drawn up this new communication, which identifies four key policy areas: biodiversity in the EU; the EU and global biodiversity; biodiversity and climate change; and the knowledge base. 'Understanding biodiversity presents one of the greatest scientific challenges facing mankind,' states the paper. 'There is a critical need to strengthen our understanding of biodiversity and ecosystem services if we are to refine our policy response in future,' it adds. The European Research Area (ERA) should therefore be strengthened through the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and national research programmes, believes the Commission. The ERA's international dimension, research infrastructures, science-policy interface and data interoperability for biodiversity should all be consolidated. The communication states that, if funding can be found from existing financial resources, the Commission will establish 'an EU mechanism for independent, authoritative research-based advice to inform implementation and further policy development'. In addition, the EU should identify and support ways and means to strengthen independent scientific advice to global policy making, says the Commission. Other objectives include: making regional development more compatible with nature; reducing the impacts of invasive alien species; reducing the negative impacts of international trade; and actions in the wider countryside and marine environment. 'The extinction of plants and animals is an irreversible loss to humanity,' said EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas. 'We need to be investing in sustaining the variety of life, in sustaining the health of the ecosystems that in turn underpin our prosperity and wellbeing. We know what needs to be done. The communication [...] will help us pull all the actors and resources together so that we meet our commitments.'