The first ever European Red List of marine habitats has been published.
Using a modified version of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems, the new EU Red List focuses on marine habitats and is designed to highlight the pressures these underwater systems currently face. Perhaps unsurprisingly the Red List reveals pollution and fishing are applying the most severe environmental pressure.
The just published European Red List, the culmination of efforts by over 300 experts working for three years on behalf of the European Commission, covers all of Europe and its neighbouring seas and it attempts to review the current state of health of our marine habitats.
For the purposes of the study Europe was divided into research areas with Ireland included in the the North-East Atlantic region along with the UK, Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal as well as some Spanish coast, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands.
The Red List reveals that of all areas studied the North-East Atlantic had the second highest proportion of threatened habitats in the EU (23%) behind only the Mediterranean Sea (32%).
In total 86 marine habitats in the North-East Atlantic were assessed but for 52 (60%) of the habitats studied there wasn’t enough information to make firm assessments. However, of the remaining 40% (34 habitats), 59% were threatened (Vulnerable to Critically Endangered).
What are the pressures on our marine habitats?
Overall the most frequently cited pressures on the North-East Atlantic habitats were pollution, natural system modifications and fisheries.
Closer to the coast, pollution (mainly eutrophication) and modification of the shoreline (such as the removal of sediments) were the most common pressures while further out from the shore, resource usage (mostly from commercial fishing where trawling equipment routinely disturbs and alters the seabed) was the most frequently listed habitat pressure.
Urbanisation was also a frequently listed habitat pressure, particularly in areas close to estuaries, and all habitats were found to be under the common pressure of historical and continuing pollution caused by oil spills and synthetic compound contamination (e.g microbeads).
You can read the full document here: EU Marine Habitat Red List