Foreword by EEA and MNHN Directors

Identification, description, classification and mapping of natural and semi-natural habitats are gaining recognition in the sphere of environmental policy implementation. Although plant science remains at the core of the approach, habitat mapping increasingly finds applications in land planning and management and is often a necessary step in preparing nature and biodiversity conservation plans. 

The vegetation in our forests, meadows, heathlands and rocky mountain slopes reflects the ecological conditions which occur in a given area, and as importantly, the changes in these conditions under environmental and human influences. A good knowledge of the condition and distribution of habitats is thus an important element to inform long-term and forward planning decision making. Key policy instruments such as the Habitats Directive and the Bern Convention implicitly address the need for habitat mapping. So does the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy with its aim to ensure the restoration and maintenance of ecosystems and ecosystem services.

Initiatives in Europe are numerous and diverse, ranging from local to national scales. However, information on the methodologies used and project organisation is difficult to find, especially details of project planning and finance. This report is the first review and analysis of terrestrial vegetation and habitat mapping initiatives across Europe, including the methodologies used and the project organisation. It shows the development of relevant concepts and techniques, as well as the ongoing efforts to harmonise information at the European level.

The review was originally foreseen to serve the needs of the national CARHab project on habitat mapping in France, which wanted to learn from experience elsewhere in Europe. It was led by the Museum national d'Histoire naturelle (MNHN) at the request of the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy. However, the review was rapidly seen by the European Environment Agency (EEA) as relevant to all European countries, and this led to the development of the present report. 

This report is thus the result of a fruitful collaboration between the Service du Patrimoine Naturel of the MNHN — the French National Reference Centre (NRC) for biodiversity — and the EEA-European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity (ETC/BD), coordinated by the MNHN in Paris. It involved more than 70 of Europe's leading experts on habitats and vegetation who contributed to individual sections of the report. A consultation through the EEA's European information and observation network (Eionet) provided valuable additional information, particularly for countries where gaps existed.

It is a pleasure for us to recognise and promote this example of synergy between the national and European dimensions, giving full meaning to the partnership between the European Environment Agency and the European information and observation network, of which the MNHN is a key member. 

Hans Bruyninckx Executive Director, European Environment Agency
Thomas Grenon General Director, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle

  • European Environment Agency. 2014. Terrestrial habitat mapping in Europe: an overview. EEA Technical report No 1/2014 [PDF]

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