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Europe's nature under threat.

Climate change is already having an impact on European biodiversity, said Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency (EEA), on the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May. 'We can already see startling changes in growing seasons,' c...

Climate change is already having an impact on European biodiversity, said Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency (EEA), on the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May. 'We can already see startling changes in growing seasons,' commented Professor McGlade. 'Many species are already on the move, expanding northwards as temperatures rise.' The areas most at risk from climate change include mountain regions, coastal areas, the Arctic and parts of the Mediterranean. On the same day, the European Commission released a study showing that one in six European mammals is at risk of extinction. The situation for marine mammals is particularly stark, with 22% listed as being threatened with extinction. For birds the figure is 13%. According to the report, the main threats to European mammals are habitat loss, pollution and over-harvesting. Marine mammals are most affected by pollution and accidental mortality from fisheries bycatch and collisions with boats. 'The report highlights the significant challenge that European governments face in keeping their promise to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010,' said European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas. 'It is clear that if we are to protect Europe's species, it is of utmost importance to implement fully the Habitats Directive, which covers nearly all the mammals now under threat.' However, the EEA warned that climate change will mean that some protected areas will no longer be suitable for the species they were set up to protect. The IPCC has also warned that climate change will require countries to take a more dynamic approach to biodiversity conservation. Protecting Europe's biodiversity requires scientific data on the status of Europe's species. With this in mind, a number of EU-funded research projects are studying Europe's biodiversity and the factors affecting it, such as climate change. These include ALARM (Assessing Large Scale Risks for Biodiversity with Tested Methods), which is assessing the threats to biodiversity with a view to minimising both the direct and indirect impacts of human activity. Climate change is a focus of their work, alongside environmental chemicals and biological invasions. The ALTER-Net project is a Network of Excellence which was set up to promote the integration of European biodiversity research in terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. In this way, it is contributing to the goal of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010. Meanwhile the BRANCH (Biodiversity, Spatial Planning, Climate Change) project is focusing on how changes to spatial planning and land use systems can help wildlife adapt to climate change.