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Biodiversity and ecosystem services: Protecting the planet's ecological resources

Europe is blessed with a rich diversity of flora and fauna, many of which are unique. This natural wealth provides us with clean air and water, productive soils as well as energy and natural resources for economic and social development. Such healthy ecosystems help mitigate the impacts of climate change, while supporting a green economy, creating job opportunities and enhancing biodiversity.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment
Food and Natural Resources icon Food and Natural Resources

Many animal and plant species are seriously threatened by urban sprawl, intensive agriculture, pollution, invasive species and climate change resulting from human activities. The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that up to 25 % of European animal species are now threatened with extinction.

Looking at the bigger picture

The UN Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has elaborated a global assessment of the state of nature, ecosystems and nature's contributions to people. This demonstrates the global trend of biodiversity decline and identifies its causes. European research contributes with knowledge and expertise to the IPBES assessments. The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 aims to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU as well as reducing global biodiversity loss through 6 targets and 20 actions. A post-2020 strategy is currently being developed. The targets involve a commitment to protect species and habitats, maintain and restore ecosystems, and achieve more sustainable agriculture and forestry. In addition, they will make fishing more sustainable and the seas healthier, combat the spread of alien species, and help prevent the loss of plants and animals around the world. EU and Member States contribute significant financial resources to the conservation of biodiversity. In 2016 EU biodiversity-related expenditure amounted to an estimated EUR 13 billion, i.e. 9 % of the total budget. EU investments in biodiversity-related research during Horizon 2020 are up to EUR 1.7 billion.

Spotlight on EU research

This CORDIS Results Pack focuses on 11 projects funded under the EU’s FP7 and Horizon 2020 research programmes. These prove the need for biodiversity and ecosystem services research to ensure Europe's sustainability, and their relevance for current and future global policy objectives. The BiodivERsA3 initiative mapped biodiversity research projects and funding across Europe and funded research calls on its own, strengthening the cooperation between programmes and research funders, and achieving greater resource efficiency. The ESMERALDA project created innovative strategies to facilitate European, national and regional mapping for the effective assessment of ecosystems and their services. ECOPOTENTIAL developed tools to connect Earth observation techniques with field measurements to study ecosystems and better manage protected areas such as National Parks, UNESCO World Heritage and Natura2000 sites, and marine ecosystems. Meanwhile, AfricanBioServices has sought to link biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services in the Serengeti-Mara region in East Africa with socio-economic and policy changes. AQUACROSS advanced knowledge on ecosystem management to enhance the resilience of aquatic ecosystems and arrest biodiversity loss. Wetlands are the ecosystems with the highest rate of loss around the world. The SWOS project developed a monitoring and information service for wetland ecosystems based on the European Space Agency’s Sentinel satellites. OPERAS and OPENNESS demonstrated the value of ecosystems to people by studying exemplary cases and establishing communities of practice. The Oppla resource portal contains all the tools and case studies on ecosystem services and natural capital developed by both projects. INSPIRATION developed a strategic research agenda related to land and soil, to keep providing essential ecosystem services and begin reverting biodiversity loss related to land use. The BIG4 project studied the four largest insect groups, represented by beetles, bees, flies and butterflies, and the services they could potentially provide, by combining genomics, phylogenetics, informatics, taxonomy, semantic biodiversity publishing and citizen science. All these data are stored in databases all over the world, and computational tools are needed to understand and predict biodiversity changes. GLOBIS-B is working to establish worldwide cooperation among research infrastructures to provide services for deploying the data for specific applications.