The EU Overseas size, diversity, and how these giant needs are BEST addressed

A land mass as big as the entire EU, the largest marine domain on the planet, over 70% of EU species, more than 150 islands, over 20% of the world's coral reefs. This is the EU Overseas. But with great space comes great responsibility. How does BEST (voluntary scheme for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in European overseas Territories) address ecosystem and biodiversity needs in this vast area?

The sheer size

Although the EU Overseas are linked to just 6 EU Member States (Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom) the EU Overseas locations are part of every ocean and diverse biogeographical region. They are home to a unique diversity of species and ecosystems of global significance:

  • Biodiversity hotspots (the Caribbean Islands, Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands, the Mediterranean Basin, New Caledonia, Polynesia-Micronesia)
  • Major wilderness areas (Guyana shield), and
  • Key polar ecosystems and fish stock regions (Greenland, Falkland Islands {Malvinas}, French Southern and Antarctic Territories, South Georgia).

These territories cover an area of 4.4 million km², equivalent in size to continental Europe, and have a combined Exclusive Economic Zone of over 15 million km², the largest in the world and anchored in all the oceans of the blue planet.

The incredible biodoversity

Europe overseas contain more endemic animal and plant species than are found on the whole of continental Europe. New Caledonia alone has about as many endemic species as the entire European continent, and French Guiana includes an area of Amazon rainforest the size of Portugal. Europe overseas also hosts more than 20% of the world's coral reefs and lagoons.

The biodiversity of these entities is highly vulnerable to human induced impacts such as habitat destruction, alien invasive species, overexploitation of natural resources, pollution, and increasingly the impacts of climate change. They share these threats with other countries of their regions.

The BEST initiative

BEST – voluntary scheme for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories of European overseas – aims to support the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of ecosystem services. This includes ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation and mitigation in the EU Outermost Regions (ORs) and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs).

Since 2011, the BEST Initiative has supported 90 projects enabling conservation stakeholders to tackle biodiversity and sustainable use of ecosystem services challenge in the EU Overseas. This represent to date an investment of 18 million euros.

New funding opportunities to implement action projects on the ground is possible thanks to the continued support of the European Commission and its directorates general in charge of the environment (DG ENV) and development (DG DEVCO). This extends to the EU Overseas islands stakeholders of the 9 Outermost Regions (ORs) and the 25 Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs).

The grant-making fund, and more information

A LIFE4BEST funding offer call was launched in November 2019 at projects supporting actions for nature in the EU Outermost Regions. Another one will be announced in Spring 2020 together with a BEST 2.0+ call  that will target EU OCTs stakeholders - the BEST Bright Spots keeping on glittering!


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