Ensuring that all ecosystems are healthy is essential to ensure the sustainability of human activities and good living conditions. That is why the European Union has committed itself through its Biodiversity Strategy 2030 to limit biodiversity loss and to conserve and restore ecosystems.
An ecosystem is a system of communities of plants, animals and microorganisms and their non-living environment that are closely interconnected and function as a unit. Humans depend on ecosystems to provide essential goods and services to our society – over half of the world’s GDP depends on nature and its services. Globally, ecosystems have to endure pressures caused mainly by human interventions and climate change. To ensure the sustainability of human activities and good living conditions, it is essential that we ensure the health of all ecosystems. The imminent collapse of ecosystems can be avoided by reflecting environmental protection in all economic sectors and increasing the number of protected areas. This is why the European Union has committed itself to limiting biodiversity loss and to conserving and restoring ecosystems with its new Biodiversity Strategy 2030.
Nature provides irreplaceable services to human civilization. Healthy ecosystems are vital to human well-being because they are the source of our livelihoods, clean air and water, medicines, timber and climate regulation. These benefits from nature to humans, called ecosystem services, are divided into provisioning (supply of food, clean air and water), regulating (climate regulation, nutrient cycling, pollination, creation of fertile soils) and cultural (recreation). The extent of ecosystem services depends on biodiversity. This refers to the variety of living organisms and their environment.
However, there has been a gradual loss of biodiversity in recent decades. The main causes of this loss are human interference in nature – intensive agriculture, construction, mining and overexploitation of land and seas, pollution, climate change, and the emergence of invasive species. Ecosystems are very complex – even one damaged component can cause the demise of an entire system. Protecting the environment is therefore key to maintaining the health of ecosystems. It is important to remember that species and ecosystems in general need space to recover and grow. This is why the establishment of protected areas, which is the aim of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, is important. It is expected that 30% of Europe’s territory and 30% of Europe’s seas will be classified as protected areas by 2030. A key element of this Strategy is the restoration of damaged ecosystems, specifically:
- Expanding organic farming and biodiversity-rich landscapes on agricultural land
- Restoring natural flows in at least 25 000 km of European rivers
- Reducing pesticide use by 50% by 2030
- Halting the decline of pollinators
- Planting 3 billion trees
More attention will be focused on cities in the context of nature restoration. In the EU, over 70% of the population lives in cities. While cities and urbanised ecosystems contribute significantly to threats to biodiversity and are mostly inhospitable environments for living organisms, smart cities can reduce their environmental burden while supporting biodiversity by creating green spaces and developing climate change mitigation measures. Urban ecosystems are almost entirely man-made, but include most other ecosystems such as forests, lakes and rivers, i.e. green infrastructure. Greener and more environmentally friendly cities and peri-urban areas are one of the objectives of the new strategy. The European Commission calls on cities with a minimum population of 20 000 to develop ambitious urban greening plans by the end of 2021. These should include measures to make urban forests, parks and gardens biodiverse and accessible; urban farms; green roofs and walls; meadows and hedgerows.
Not only does the nature of the urban environment affect the health of human inhabitants, but cities can play a vital role in protecting the environment and biodiversity in particular. Recentstudies show that green spaces in cities have a positive effect on pollinators (i.e. bees, bumblebees, but also butterflies, beetles, birds and mammals). As pollinator numbers are declining globally, cities can play a positive role in their conservation by expanding green spaces.
In the Czech Republic focus on ecosystems
It defines environmental policy and provides the legislative framework. It defines plans and strategies, focusing on the protection and sustainable use of resources, climate protection and air quality improvement, nature and landscape protection and a safe environment.
- Act No. 114/1992 on Nature and Landscape Protection distinguishes general protection of nature and landscape in three levels – general protection of the territory, general protection of species and general protection of the non-living part of nature and landscape.
- Act No 17/1992 Coll., on the environment.
It provides practical care for the landscape and nature, administers financial resources from national and European funds and ensures the operation of programmes.
Within its research programmes, the CAS also deals with issues of nature conservation. The current research programme “Landscape Conservation and Restoration” is looking for answers on how to use our landscapes properly and how to restore damaged landscapes. The quality and capacity of ecosystems is one of the main research topics. Completed programmes dealing with the subject of ecosystems include ‘Diversity of life and health of ecosystems’.
Support from EU
In the EU, the European Commission – DG ENV – is responsible for environmental policy. It proposes and implements policies to protect the environment and ensure the quality of life of EU citizens.
The Agency is responsible for providing independent information on the environment. It runs the European Environment Information and Observation Network – a partnership between the EEA and its member countries. The Agency collects environmental information and makes it available to the public.
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