By Jonas Ekblom
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – More than 5,500 scientists have signed an open letter saying that Europe is facing a severe threat to its freshwater biodiversity and must do more to protect its rivers and lakes.
The letter follows the release of a report by the EU’s own environment agency, EEA, which said that nearly two thirds of freshwater bodies across the continent are unhealthy.
The scientists call on the European Union to intensify its efforts to ensure freshwater diversity.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, more than 1 million species worldwide are at risk of extinction due to humans’ pursuit of economic growth. Freshwater species are especially at risk. Worldwide populations have crashed 83% in the past decades.
Water is also at risk of becoming an increasingly scarce resource as climate change exacerbates pressures on the water sources of half a billion Europeans who depend on it.
The EEA has said nearly half of all habitants in the countries around the Mediterranean experienced some form of drought in the past summers.
The EU policy protecting the bloc’s waterways, the Water Framework Directive, was introduced in 2000. Since its inception, implementation has been lacklustre.
The new head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has committed to fighting biodiversity loss as part of her European Green Deal, an ambitious plan which would make Europe the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050.
The scientists wrote: “There cannot be an effective European Green Deal without healthy water ecosystems at the heart of it.”
(Reporting by Jonas Ekblom; Editing by Angus MacSwan)