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The European environment – state and outlook 2010

The European environment – state and outlook 2010

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Nature protection and biodiversity - Drivers & Pressures (SOER 2010)

The related key drivers and pressures on nature protection and biodiversity in Belgium

Key message

Land conversion, fragmentation, artificialisation, eutrophication, acidification, climate change and invasive alien species are the most prominent drivers behind the loss of biodiversity in Belgium.

Land conversion, fragmentation and artificialisation - whether for urban and industrial expansion, agriculture, infrastructure or tourism - are among the major causes of biodiversity loss in Belgium. This topic is treated elsewhere, under commonality topic land use.

Other key drivers and pressures such as eutrophication, acidification, climate change and invasive alien species are discussed in this section with regional indicators and figures on the subject. Additionally, high recreation pressure – especially in the Brussels-Capital Region - is also an important driver of biodiversity loss in Belgium1, but is not discussed in the current analysis.

 


1 National Focal Point of Belgium for the Convention on Biological Diversity (2009), p15.

Exceedance of critical load for eutrophication in the Flemish Region

Key message

The exceedance of the critical load for eutrophication in Flanders is one of the highest in Europe.

Figures

Figure 8: Exceedance of critical load for eutrophication in Flanders 1990-2006

Figure 8: Exceedance of critical load for eutrophication in Flanders 1990-2006
Data source
http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?lang=en&detail=57
Figure 8: Exceedance of critical load for eutrophication in Flanders 1990-2006
Fullscreen image Original link

Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen in Flanders amounted to an average of 37.0 kg N/ha in 2006, a reduction of 33 % compared to 1990. In 2006, nitrogen deposition exceeded the critical load in 100 % of forest, 100 % of heathland and 68 % of species rich grassland areas. Together, this amounts to 91 % of the nitrogen sensitive areas. The exceedance in 2006 averaged 17.6 kg N/ha. The mean exceedance is highest in forests (+23.4 kg N/ha in 2006), followed by heathlands and species-rich grasslands (+13.4 and +5.8 kg N/ha respectively in 2006). The exceedance of the critical loads in Flanders is one of the highest in Europe (European Environment Agency, 2005). The average exceedance of the critical load has been decreasing since 1999 (trend 2000-2006: -1.7 kg N/ha/year).

Exceedance of critical load for acidification in the Flemish Region

Figures

Figure 9: Exceedance of critical load for acidification in Flanders 1990-2006

Figure 9: Exceedance of critical load for acidification in Flanders 1990-2006
Data source
http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?lang=en&detail=58&id_structuur=9
Figure 9: Exceedance of critical load for acidification in Flanders 1990-2006
Fullscreen image Original link

The area of sensitive ecosystems where deposition of acidifying compounds exceeded the critical load decreased steadily during the period 1990-2006, primarily as a consequence of emission reduction policies. In 2006, this downward trend was halted and even reversed, with critical load being exceeded on 49, 22 and 41 % of the area of forests, heathlands and high nature value grasslands, respectively. Taken together, critical loads for acidification were exceeded on 44 % of the overall area covered by sensitive terrestrial ecosystems in Flanders in 2006. Given the downward trend in deposition rates of nitrogen and sulphur, a further decrease of the area with exceeded critical load is to be expected. However, the current 2010 policy target will not suffice to allow for spontaneous soil chemical recovery. A further decrease of deposition rates to levels below the critical loads is a prerequisite for such a recovery and for halting the pressure on biodiversity2.

 


Exceedance of critical load for eutrophication of forest and semi-natural ecosystems in the Walloon Region

Figures

Figure 10: Exceedance of critical load for eutrophication in Wallonia 1999-2010

Figure 10: Exceedance of critical load for eutrophication in Wallonia 1999-2010
Data source
http://etat.environnement.wallonie.be/index.php?mact=tbe,m787b7,default,1&m787b7what=fiches&m787b7alias=Enrichissement-en-azote-des-ecosystemes-forestiers-et-semi-naturels_1&m787b7returnid=40&page=40
Figure 10: Exceedance of critical load for eutrophication in Wallonia 1999-2010
Fullscreen image Original link

In 2007, around 6 % of forest land, and almost all open land ecosystems (moors, swamps, peatlands...) were affected by exceedance of the critical load of nitrogen. In forests, the situation has noticeably improved compared to 1990, following a reduction in atmospheric deposits of nitrogen (-12 % between 1990 and 2004). This does not apply to the other semi-natural ecosystems that are more sensitive to this kind of disruption; important exceedings (superior to 3.5 kg N/(ha.an)) were still recorded in 2007, particularly to the north of the Sambre-and-Meuse river line. The acidifying effects of nitrogen deposits are less problematic, in that they only affect less than 1 % of the total area of the land concerned.

The areas of forests for wich the critical loads were exceeded in 2007 coincide with the ones that have been calculated considering that the emission ceilings fixed by european legislation (2001/81/EC directive) were respected. This shows the positive impact of measures that are implemented in order to reduce nitrogen pollutants atmospheric emissions in Wallonia (AGW dated 25/03/2004, Plan Air Climat) and at the european level.

On the other hand, no beneficial effects are expected for the semi-natural vegetation of open environments, given that more than 98 % of corresponding superficies (areas? surfaces?) are still set to suffer the negative impacts of excessive nutrient nitrogen fallout between now and 20103.

 


3 Cellule Etat de l’Environnement wallon (2010), p129. Also available at: http://etat.environnement.wallonie.be/index.php?page=le-tableau-de-bord-2010

 

Exceedance of critical load for acidification in the Walloon Region

Figures

Figure 11: Exceedance of critical load for acidification in Wallonia 1990-2010

Figure 11: Exceedance of critical load for acidification in Wallonia 1990-2010
Data source
http://environnement.wallonie.be/
http://etat.environnement.wallonie.be/index.php?mact=tbe,m787b7,default,1&m787b7what=fiches&m787b7alias=Enrichissement-en-azote-des-ecosystemes-forestiers-et-semi-naturels_1&m787b7returnid=40&page=40
Figure 11: Exceedance of critical load for acidification in Wallonia 1990-2010
Fullscreen image Original link

The exceedance of the critical load for acidification has decreased sharply since 1990 in the Walloon region, as is illustrated in Figure 11.

Invasive alien species in Belgium

A list composed by the Belgian Biodiversity Platform of all the alien species threatening native biodiversity in Belgium can be found at: http://ias.biodiversity.be/ias/species/all. Trends are further discussed per region.

Invasive alien species in the Flemish Region

Figures

Figure 12: Threat from introduction of new alien animal species.

Figure 12: Threat from introduction of new alien animal species.
Data source
http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?detail=654&lang=en
Figure 12: Threat from introduction of new alien animal species.
Fullscreen image Original link

During the last five years, the number of alien plant and animal species has increased by an average of more than 25 per year in Flanders. The cost of controlling invasive species (e.g. Black Cherry and Canada Goose) is high. Between 1900 and 2007, about 900 alien plant species appeared in the Flemish countryside. Nearly 400 of these established permanent populations. The number of alien species increases exponentially. Whether these species will disappear or spread far beyond their place of introduction, is unknown at the moment. In 2006, 37 alien vertebrate and 38 invertebrate species were inventoried which were introduced through human activities (in 1900, the numbers were 11 and 4 species respectively)4.

 


4 Research Institute for Nature and Forest (2008), p19. Also available at: http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?lang=en&id_structuur=19

Invasive alien species in the Walloon Region

Figures

Figure 13: Geographic distribution of the presence of the number of black listed species in the Walloon Region

Figure 13: Geographic distribution of the presence of the number of black listed species in the Walloon Region
Data source
http://etat.environnement.wallonie.be/index.php?mact=tbe,mf7538,default,1&mf7538what=fiches&mf7538alias=invasive-exotic-species&mf7538returnid=35&page=35
Figure 13: Geographic distribution of the presence of the number of black listed species in the Walloon Region
Fullscreen image Original link

In the Walloon Region, 297 species of ornamental plants and 26 species of vertebrates of exotic origin are spontaneously developing in nature (naturalised species). Among them, 30 species of plants and 11 species of vertebrates have a high environmental impact and are therefore included in the black list5.

The pressure of introduction and the presence of anthropised ecosystems are particularly high in the north of the Sambre and Meuse river line, producing a concentration of observations of exotic species which damage the environment in this area6.

 


5 See http://ias.biodiversity.be/ias/definitions#list for a definition of the term ‘black list’.

Cellule Etat de l'Environnement wallon (2010), p128. Also available at: http://etat.environnement.wallonie.be/index.php?page=le-tableau-de-bord-2010

6 Cellule Etat de l’Environnement wallon (2008), p141. Also available at: http://etat.environnement.wallonie.be/download.php?file=uploads/tbe/en_tbe2008_full.pdf

Invasive alien species in the Brussels-Capital Region

Cities are important introduction points for alien plants and animals. The number of alien plants present in Brussels has considerably increased since 1960. It has risen from about 54 alien species inventoried during the 1960-1974 period to 301 inventoried in the period 1990-2005. One plant species out of four is currently a new exotic plant in Brussels, some of which belonging to the category of invasive alien species7.  Even though most invasive alien species present in the Brussels-Capital Region are plants, there are also species present which belong to other taxonomic groups such as birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

 


Impact of climate change on biodiversity in Belgium

There is increasing evidence that climate change affects nature in Belgium. The arrival date of migratory birds and the first appearance of butterflies and dragonflies in spring are advancing. Not only the phenology but also the geographical range of species is changing. Southern species are expanding northwards. Some southern European dragonflies are increasingly observed in Belgium. The number reported in 2006 was the highest since the start of recorded observations. Some species that were only occasional visitors in the past, such as the migrant spreadwing (Lestes barbarus), now have permanent populations.

Since some species adapt better than others, there is a risk of changes in the food web and/or ecological cohesion of ecosystems. This is illustrated by the pied flycatcher. The arrival date of this migratory species advances more slowly than the period of occurrence of the main food for its young, the caterpillars of the winter moth. This is a possible cause of the decline of this woodland bird.