Europe is one of the world's most densely populated continents and has a long history of human-dominated land- and seascapes. Europe is also at the forefront of developing and implementing multinational conservation efforts. In this contribution, we describe some top policy issues in Europe that need to be informed by high-quality conservation science. These include evaluation of the effectiveness of the Natura 2000 network of protected sites, implications of rapid economic and subsequent land- use change in Central and Eastern Europe, conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainability of fisheries, the effect of climate change on movement of species in highly fragmented landscapes, and attempts to assess the economic value of ecosystem services and biodiversity. Broad policy issues such as those identified are not easily amenable to scientific experiment. A key challenge at the science-policy interface is to identify the research questions underlying these problem areas so that conservation science can provide evidence to underpin future policy development.