The European Commission has published its first Action Plan for habitat restoration and conservation of biodiversity in the EU.
The Commission’s Action Plan for nature, people and the economy outlines a series of commitments on the preservation and restoration to two key types of habitat, dry heaths and dry calcareous (chalky) grasslands. Both habitat types are considered among the most under threat in the EU; and their preservation is considered essential to maintaining a biodiverse ecosystem – calcareous grassland habitats in particular host a large number of rare and endangered species, including mammals, birds, reptiles and pollinating insects. In addition to the benefits they offer for species biodiversity, grassland habitats are widely used for livestock grazing; act as carbon sinks and prevent soil erosion; and offer opportunities for outdoor recreation and tourism.
The Action Plan details four priority areas for habitat restoration:
- Ensuring coherence between Member States and promoting wider understanding of EU legislation governing habitat preservation;
- Shoring up Member States’ compliance with the EU’s Nature Directives and sustainability guidelines;
- Growing investment in the Natura 2000 network, the world’s largest network of protected habitats, as well as improving integration with EU funding mechanisms; and
- Improving communication, outreach and engagement with citizens, stakeholders and communities, to promote wider participation in protecting natural resources.
EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said: “European dry calcareous grasslands are the hub of Europe’s biodiversity and a vital source of livelihood for local communities. They provide essential services that our society depends on. With this first EU action plan for endangered habitats, we want to make sure that these valuable natural systems continue to sustain Europeans’ health and quality of life. The action plan is a key tool to support the efforts of authorities on all levels, non-governmental organisations, local communities and stakeholders in the conservation and management of this crucial habitat.”