Europe’s Coastal Ecosystems

Europe’s coastal ecosystems are under increasing pressures including habitat loss and degradation, pollution, climate change, and overexploitation of fish stocks, reports the European Environment Agency.   Such ecosystems are important for wildlife, the economy and human health.  Conservation is needed.

The EEA has released a new assessment on coastal ecosystems, as part of their “10 messages for 2010” program.  The assessment reports that two thirds of coastal habitat types and over half of coastal species have an unfavorable conservation status.

Juan Les Pins #25About 50 coastal habitat types such as wetlands provide key feeding areas for migratory and other birds as well as 150 animal species that prefer coastal ecosystems.  Humans benefit from the services naturally provided by the ecosystems, for everything from food to medicines to freshwater storage to erosion control to recreational pursuits.

Human made structures such as seawalls and breakwaters cause fragmentation of populations and loss of natural habitats.  Add pollution from pesticides, aquaculture, climate change and invasive species, and the native ecosystems and animals are under threat.  Over 65% of coastal wetlands and seagrasses, and over 90% of wild native oyster reefs, have been lost.

Ruddy Turnstone in Cornwall UK.Shorebirds and animals such as the Mediterranean monk seal are declining due to loss of habitat.  Loggerhead sea turtles are just one species that is now endangered.

Many policies and laws aim to improve management of coastal areas but they must be better streamlined in order to safeguard Europe’s coastal biodiversity, the report suggests.  Coordinated action at the global, regional and local levels will be key to sustainable management of coastal ecosystems.

Hopefully, increased conservation activities and policy-specific responses will happen and have a positive impact which helps to save the remaining coastal ecosystems and species.

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Alison Wheatley

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