Drivers of conservation success in the EU

A new study by IEEP and partners for the European Commission set out to identify the main success factors underpinning conservation success stories relating to the habitats and species that are the focus of the EU nature directives (i.e. Birds Directive and Habitats Directive). The study draws on Member State monitoring and reporting data and 53 in-depth case studies across the EU (please find an example here).

The study confirms that strong and coherent conservation governance backed up by political support is a key ingredient in reaching genuine improvements in the status of habitats and species. Furthermore, success stories are also commonly underpinned by targeted research, to diagnose the cause of decline, and adequate funding to test and deploy management solutions that led to recoveries that are sustainable in the long-term. The participation and motivation of key stakeholders (eg landowners, farming organisations, foresters, hunters, fishers, industry and local communities) is also crucial, as is the wider recognition by society of the value of nature conservation. In addition, the findings demonstrate the importance of protected areas as the cornerstones of national and international conservation strategies; by securing key sites and also acting as a catalyst and focus for concerted action.

Interestingly, the study also revealed that broad scale measures, such as those tackling air and water pollution, were by themselves generally unable to deliver improvements in the conservation status of the habitats and species that are the focus of the nature directives. This is, for example, the case with the Water Framework Directive, even though it has been effective in tackling water pollution. However, such broad non-site based policy measures and actions have often been an essential element of the policy mix that has contributed to the conservation of many habitats and species, especially those that have dispersed distributions or that are sensitive to pollution.