A quantitative assessment of policy options for no net loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the European Union

C.J.E. Schulp, A.J.A. van Teeffelen, G. Tucker, P.H. Verburg

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Biodiversity Strategy of the European Union includes a target to "ensure no-net-loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services by 2020". Many policy options can be envisioned to achieve such a no-net-loss target, mainly acting on land use and land management. To assess the effectiveness of such policies at a European Union (EU) scale, we simulated land use changes and their impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services indicators. We analysed a Business-as-Usual scenario, and three no-net-loss scenarios. The no-net-loss scenarios included measures that aim to reduce negative impacts of land use change on biodiversity and ecosystem services, by better implementation of existing biodiversity conservation measures (Scenario 1); and enhancement of existing measures (Scenario 2); and offsetting residual impacts on areas of high biodiversity and ecosystem service value (Scenario 3).Results show that none of the scenarios achieved overall no-net-loss. Compared to a Business-as-Usual scenario, the no-net-loss scenarios reduced the overall degree of land cover change at EU level, hence reducing impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services in large parts of the EU. The more comprehensive no-net-loss scenarios resulted in a gain of natural land cover. Moreover, natural areas became better connected, especially in peri-urban areas as a result of impact avoidance and offsetting. Richness of farmland bird species was projected to increase. Measures included in the no-net-loss scenarios had net positive effects on pollination and carbon sequestration, neutral effects on crop production, erosion prevention and flood regulation, and negative effects on nature-based recreation, compared to Business-as-Usual. In particular circumstances policy measures invoked displacement effects in land use allocation, reducing the effectiveness of the measures. This was primarily the case for flood regulation services throughout the EU.This study differentiates the potential effectiveness of a no-net-loss policy framework in three manners: (i) considering biodiversity and ecosystem services simultaneously; (ii) in the light of existing policies and land use pressures; and (iii) in different land use contexts across the EU. Taken together, we conclude that achieving no-net-loss for biodiversity and ecosystem services throughout the EU remains challenging given high land use demands. Nevertheless, in large parts of Europe there appears room for improvement for certain kinds of biodiversity and ecosystem services compared to Business-as-Usual, while still meeting other land use demands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-163
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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