Land take as a result of the expansion of residential areas and construction sites is the main cause of the increase in urban land coverage in Europe.
Agricultural zones and, to a lesser extent, forests and semi-natural and natural areas are disappearing in favour of the development of artificial surfaces.
This affects biodiversity since it decreases habitats and fragments the landscapes that support and connect them.
Between 20, the annual land take in the European countries (EEA-39) assessed in the 2012 Corine land cover (CLC) project was approximately 107 000 ha/year.
The figure for the 2000-2006 period was approximately 118 000 ha/year.
In the 28 countries 1 covered by all three CLC assessment periods (1990-2000, 2000-20-2012), annual land take decreased by 10.5 % between 20, and by 13.5 % between 20.
In absolute values, the annual land take in these 28 countries was 114 000 ha/year (1990-2000), 102 000 ha/year (2000-2006) and 98 500 ha/year (2006-2012).
Between 20, more arable land and permanent crops were taken by artificial development than between 19, while fewer pastures and less mosaic farmland were taken over the same period.
In fact, between 20, the types of land most taken for artificial development were arable land and permanent crops, followed by pastures and mixed agricultural areas.
1 The 28 countries covered by all three CLC assessment periods are AT, BE, BG, CZ, DE, DK, ES, EE, FR, GR, HR, HU, IE, IT, LT, LU, LV, ME, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, RS, SI, SK, TR and UK.
Urban and other artificial land development was responsible for more agricultural land take than any other land cover category.
Between 20, an average of 46.2 % of all land areas in the EEA-39 countries that changed to artificial surfaces was arable land or permanent crops.