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Biodiversity? 70% have no idea what this word means

Eurobarometer surveys finds something new the Maltese don’t know of: biodiversity

James Debono
13 November 2013, 12:00am
The Maltese have no idea what biodiversity entails


A staggering 70% of Maltese have never heard of the term biodiversity, making the Maltese the least knowledgeable on the subject among 27 nations surveyed by the EU's statistical arm Eurostat's continental survey Eurobarometer.

While only 10% of the Maltese told surveyors what biodiversity actually means, 20% said they had heard about biodiversity but don't know what it means.

Across the EU, slightly less than half of Europeans have heard of the term  "biodiversity" and know what it means (44%). Three in ten heard of it but don't know what it means (30%) and slightly more than a quarter have never heard of it (26%).

Respondents are most likely to say that they have heard of the term "biodiversity" and know what it means in Austria, Germany (both 80%) and Bulgaria (53%).

But the Maltese are more likely to have heard of Natura 2000 sites - the network of more than 26,000 protected nature areas all over the EU - than several other Europeans.

15% of Maltese compared to 11% of all Europeans, have heard of the Natura 2000 network and know what this term means. This represents an increase of 6 points over four years ago. 

27% of Maltese have heard of Natura 2000 sites but don't know what the term means.  This represents an increase in nine points in the number of Maltese who have heard about Natura 2000 sites since 2010.

But a remarkable 58% have never heard of Natura 2000.

The most knowledgeable about Natura 2000 sites are the Swedes (37%), the Portuguese (33%), the Greeks (33%) and the Slovaks (32%). Only 2% of Italians and 9% of British knew what Natura 2000 sites are.

Among respondents of all EU member states only one in ten respondents (11%) has heard of the Natura 2000 network and know what it is, although this represents a slight increase over previous surveys in 2010 (8%) and 2007 (6%). 

Natura 2000 has become significantly better known in Poland (+11), Greece (+10), Malta (+9) and Austria (+8) since 2010. However, fewer respondents say that they know what it is in Estonia (-4) and Finland (-4) compared with 2010. 

The proportion of respondents across EU member states who agree that the EU should increase the areas where nature is protected in Europe ranges from 98% to 83%. A majority of respondents in every member state, with the exceptions of Finland (40%) and the Netherlands (47%), totally agree with this statement, with the highest levels of agreement in Cyprus (85%), Greece and Malta (both 84%).

What is Natura 2000?

Natura 2000 is the EU-wide network of nature conservation areas, established to ensure the survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened terrestrial and marine species and habitats for future generations.  The Natura 2000 network was formed in response to growing public concern over the loss of Europe's biodiversity.  It followed a commitment by Europe's heads of state in Gothenburg 2001 to "halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010".

The setting up of the Natura 2000 network of sites comes from two European Directives that are central to the EU's policy framework on biodiversity protection. These are the 1979 Birds Directive and the 1992 Habitats Directive (1992). The Natura 2000 network is therefore made up of sites designated by member states as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) under the Habitats Directive and / or Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the Birds Directive.

The network is based on the broad principle of conservation and sustainable use, where people and wildlife can live together in harmony.  It is not a system of strict nature reserves where all human activities are excluded.  On the contrary, it recognises the traditional and economic importance of nature to Europeans while respecting local and regional natural values. Natura 2000 is about "people and nature".

The Natura 2000 network is considered the largest coherent group of protected areas in the world.  Terrestrial sites cover approximately 20% of the total land area of the EU (~850,000km2 in ~26,000 sites).

The 34 local terrestrial Natura 2000 sites together cover approximately 13.5% of the total land area of the Maltese Islands (around 42km2).  These sites include the minor islands (Comino, Filfla and Selmunett, and their surrounding islets), coastal cliffs (including Rdumijiet ta' Malta: Ir-Ramla taċ-Ċirkewwa sal-Ponta ta' Bengħisa), saline marshlands (Is-Salini and Il-Ballut ta' Marsaxlokk), sandy beaches and dunes (L-Inħawi tal-Għadira and L-Inħawi tar-Ramla), areas of garrigue and maquis (L-Inħawi ta' Pembroke and Il-Qortin tal-Magun u l-Qortin il-Kbir), woodland areas (L-Inħawi tal-Buskett u Il-Girgenti and Il-Ballut tal-Wardija), and caves and other geological features (Għar Dalam and Il-Maqluba). There are also five marine sites.

Source: http://natura2000malta.com
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...