Increasing public awareness about EU nature protection policy, utilising EU nature data

Biodiversity, the enormous variety of ecosystems, species and genes surrounding us, is under threat. The EU endeavours to protect it, with the Birds and Habitats (Nature) Directives as the main legislative instruments for delivering their Biodiversity Strategy. Through these Directives, the Natura 2000 network has been established, the largest network of protected areas globally. Although EU-wide surveys show that the general public believes the conservation of biodiversity is of great importance for their lives and livelihoods, it is clear that concrete information on species, habitats and protected areas is lacking. The public remains generally uninformed about actions it could take itself.

This is despite the vast amount of information available: Under the Nature Directives, a common reporting framework has been set up which requires all EU member states to monitor and report on the conservation status of birds, other protected species and habitats every six years. This reporting generates significant amounts of data which are used to assess the state of nature. The European Environment Agency (EEA) and European Commission have already made significant efforts to ensure data is publically available in a searchable format, for example in the Eionet portal and through the Biodiversity Information System for Europe (BISE). Nonetheless, the sheer quantity of information and use of technical terms means that it is not easily accessible to a non-expert audience. Extracting the relevant information and presenting it in an easily accessible and understandable way is therefore key to ensuring better understanding.

adelphi is leading a partnership of biodiversity, communication and education experts to address this issue. The project, steered by the European Commission and the EEA, aims to better use existing EU nature data to enhance public awareness about the EU nature directives and the Natura 2000 network. The project involves developing a range of webpages aimed at a less technical audience and integrating them into the already existing BISE website. Further activities are designing a more user-friendly Natura 2000 map showing the location and important features of Natura 2000 sites as well as adapting the Standard Data Form used to communicate information on each Natura 2000 site. The second part of the project focuses more strongly on the educational sector, providing tools and products for teachers to support them in teaching about species, habitats and sites.

In this context, the "European Nature Protection Toolkit" was published in February 2022. It aims to inspire young people between the ages of 13 and 16 to learn about Europe’s diverse environments and conservation. The four thematic modules contain a variety of activities, resources, materials and ideas for working with children and young people in schools and other educational institutions.