EU Nature Protection Legislation – Focus on Species Protection






It is undeniable that nowadays plants and animals are disappearing worldwide at an alarming rate, and that the natural systems which all species, including humans, depend on are at serious risk. Species extinction in particular is among the most obvious reasons for biodiversity loss. Therefore, the definition of the term “biodiversity diversity” (or Biodiversity) in Article 2 of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) can be seen to encompass all of the (non-human) resources which include genetic resources, organisms or parts thereof, populations, or any other biotic components of ecosystems with actual or potential use or value for humanity Click here for more information!. The idea of species representing distinct taxonomic groups originally appeared in the 1993 Convention Relative to the Preservation of Fauna and Flora in their Natural State (the “London” Convention) and its successor, the 2003 African Convention, which defined species as meaning “any species, sub-species, or geographically separate population thereof” Click here for more information!. This 2003 definition was a direct copy of the definition of species in the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).

The extinction of species is irreversible; the rate of species extinction at present is estimated to be “100 to 1000 times the background or average extinction rates in the evolutionary time scale of the planet” (Lawton and May 2002), and for these reasons preventing extinction has traditionally been the core of conservation practice and is codified in a wide range of legislation. However, simply preventing species from becoming extinct is a minimalistic aim which does not correspond to levels of ambition defined in modern international biodiversity conservation policy. Today, conservation deals with problems of population and ecosystem resilience, ecological services provided by healthy ecosystems and restoration of degraded ecological processes and systems. Thus only focusing on preventing species extinction is too narrow an aim and instead it should serve as a basis on which to build. Modern approaches to species conservation are based on the long-term view that threatened species or species that have been historically depleted require continuous management to recover to attain a self-sustaining and ecologically resilient state (Scott et al. 2005, Scott et al. 2010).

In this context, it is important to take a closer look at the relevant species protection requirements of the Birds and Habitats Directive, which constitute the main legal instruments for nature protection at EU level.