Land take by the expansion of residential areas and construction sites is the main cause of the increase in the coverage of urban land at the European level. 

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, the living space of a number of species, and fragments the landscapes that support and connect them. 
The annual land take in European countries assessed by 2006 Corine land cover project (EEA39 except Greece) was approximately 108 000 ha/year in 2000-2006. In 21 countries covered by both periods (1990-2000 and 2000-2006) the annual land take decreased by 9 % in the later period. 
The composition of land taken areas changed, too. More arable land and permanent crops and less pastures and mosaic farmland were taken by artificial development then in 1990-2000. Identified trends are expected to change little when next assessment for 2006-2012 becomes available in 2014.

Figure: Relative Contribution of land-cover categories to uptake by urban and other artificial land development (2000-2006)


For more information, statistics, figures and the detailed assessment, please click here to be directed to the EEA website.