A study carried out at the Forest Science Centre of Catalonia with the collaboration of CREAF and CSIC shows that the distribution of conservation funds in the UE has not covered conservation needs and focused on non-threatened species. Seventy-five % of EU Life-Nature program funding in the period 1992-2013 was directed towards non-threatened species and to low conservation-priority regions. This lack of conservation-investment relevance could compromise the EU capacity to achieve the committed conservation goals
In the last two decades, the European Union has made a great effort on protecting habitats and species through conservation policies and investment. The LIFE program, founded in 1992, is the main financial tool for conservation actions. Virgilio Hermoso researcher at the CTFC, in collaboration with other CSIC and CREAF researchers, has reviewed all 1448 funded projects funded by the LIFE-Nature program with a total investment of €3 billion. In the review published in the prestigious magazine Nature, Virgilo Hermoso and colleagues show that about 75% of the funds invested have been directed towards species that are not under threat according to IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The authors also point out that most of these financial resources have been directed towards regions of low conservation priority, like Central and Northern Europe, according to the biodiversity threat-status they hold.
“This mismatch between funds and conservation needs reveals the need for a more strategic planning and flexibility when it comes to setting biodiversity conservation priorities”, exposes Hermoso, and adds “indeed, lists setting conservation priorities in EU have been always fixed and static”. Current priorities are based on lists provided in the Annexes of the Directive, where there are several species not globally threatened by IUCN, while other species considered vulnerable or critically endangered by IUCN are not included.
Biodiversity conservation programs should be more flexible and continental
The authors claim for the need on a better distribution of conservation funds based on more adequate planning, leading funds to be directed towards the most endangered species. To achieve this, the authors also propose establish new mechanisms for setting conservation priorities, so the latter can be revisable periodically and adapted to the rapid changing circumstances. This could help avoid making decisions based on outdated lists. The researchers consider funds should be allocated according to continental and global needs, overriding socioeconomic and government interests.
This piece of work arrives in a moment when the EU environment policies are being evaluated for their relevance and adequacy (REFIT process aimed to be finished in 2016). The analysis of how the conservation investment has been done is key to give an alternative point of view to this evaluation The take home message is that increasing conservation resources cannot necessarily be the answer to the problem of biodiversity crisis, but the need to plan future investment more wisely.
Virgilio Hermoso et al. (2015). Continental targets for EU conservation. Nature 528, 193. doi:10.1038/528193bRead More