One-third of animal species in Germany in bad shape, says new government report

33% of the animal species studied are not doing well. Insects such as beetles, dragonflies and bees are particularly affected [Shutterstock | Pitaksin]

One day before the European Commission unveils its new biodiversity strategy, Germany presented its national nature report, which stressed that while some populations are recovering, insects are now in very bad shape. EURACTIV Germany reports.

More than one-third of Germany’s natural area is in poor condition. This is the result of the report on Germany’s nature, presented on Tuesday (19 May) by Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD).

Only a quarter of nature is in a healthy condition. Intact ecosystems are a “life insurance for us humans and the cornerstone of a crisis-proof society,” Schulze commented on the report. “We all notice that droughts are following each other more and more closely, the landscapes are drying up. Nature conservation is a very important part of the solution.”

The report of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) is based on 14,000 samples collected by volunteers between 2013 and 2018. Every six years, the Federal Government and the Länder carry out an assessment of environmental conditions in Germany and forward the results to the European Commission.

The latest figures show a mixed picture. Some 69% of the habitat types in the Bundesrepublik are in an insufficient or poor condition. While the environment in the Alps is largely intact, it is ailing in large parts of the country.

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At least 10% of land – considerably more than the current 3% – will have to be declared “strictly protected areas” under a new EU biodiversity strategy due to be unveiled later this month.

The situation in meadows, pastures, and farmland is particularly critical. There, biodiversity is declining significantly, especially for beetles, butterflies and dragonflies. Only one-fifth of the insect species are in a healthy condition overall, and 33% of all species studied are in a “very poor” condition.

The situation with wild birds paints a rather mixed picture. One-third of breeding bird species are now declining, while another third are increasing.

Individual species, however, are critically affected. According to the report, only one-tenth of the original population of partridges and lapwings still lives in Germany.

Schulze wants to pass an insect protection law this year

At the presentation of the report, Environment Minister Schulze emphasised that she sees large-scale agriculture as the source of many problems: “There is simply too much fertilisation, there is too much mowing.”

The CAP negotiations in Brussels are therefore the “greatest lever” for an agricultural turnaround that would create more space for unused natural areas. According to Schulze, farmers, who leave parts of their land to nature, are demonstrating a public service that must be rewarded.

“It’s worth it if we invest not only in our grey infrastructure but also in green infrastructure,” emphasised Beate Jessel, the president of the BfN. The agency had calculated that unused grassland, unlike arable land, can have a monetary value of €500 to €2,000 per hectare.

Schulze also emphasised the role of the action plan for insect protection, which the government adopted last September. The plan provides for an additional €100 million to be made available annually for the promotion of insect protection and research into this field.

In addition, pesticides will be severely restricted from 2020 onwards, and glyphosate will be banned completely by the end of 2023. The minister also announced an insect protection law that is to be passed this year.

EU plans sweeping bioenergy review by end 2020

The European Commission intends to push a “transformative approach” to all forms of bioenergy – including biofuels and woody biomass – as part of a biodiversity strategy due to be unveiled on Wednesday (20 May).

Commission wants to put 30% of the land area under protection

The report presentation comes one day before the EU Commission presents its long-awaited biodiversity strategy for 2030, which should have been published in February.

“I hope that this will be a bold strategy, and I will do everything I can to ensure that we make great progress on it under the German Presidency,” promised Schulze. Five years ago, a mid-term review of the strategy, which has been in force since 2011, found only slight improvements in the protection of biodiversity.

According to leaked information on tomorrow’s biodiversity strategy, the Commission now plans to introduce a mandatory quota of 30% protected land area and expand the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. Currently, around 19% of the EU’s land area is considered protected.

In February, the Commission launched the second stage of an infringement procedure against Germany for failing to adequately designate and maintain Natura 2000 sites.

“The deadline for the completion of these measures for all sites in Germany in some cases expired more than ten years ago,” the authority reprimanded.

New EU budget proposal reignites battle against CAP cuts

As the European Commission prepares to put forward an updated multi-annual financial framework proposal (MFF) next week (29 April), the agri-food sector has unanimously called for keeping post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) spending at least at its current level in value and avoiding further cuts.

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