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Status and Trends of Biodiversity


The biodiversity of Latvia is determined by its geographical location in the western part of the East-European plain and on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, thereby placing it in the temperate zone with a mixed forest of the boreonemoral province. The unique brackish water communities of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga significantly enrich the country’s biodiversity. However, this coastal biodiversity is currently threatened by high political pressure for economic and housing developments in coastal regions, particularly in protected areas. Recently, forestry has become one of the leading sectors of the economy, resulting in an increase in the rate of forest harvest. Less than 0.2% of the forest area falls within the strict regime zones of reserves while 45% of forests are privately owned. It is considered that forest management and wood harvest is the most important factor affecting Latvia’s biological diversity. Latvia’s biodiversity is also enriched by its numerous bogs and fens, with the largest of them, the Teici Bog, totaling 19 587 ha. However, recent interest has stirred to intensify peat harvest, as the peat resources in some European countries have dwindled, leading to the degradation of plant and animal communities. At present, Latvian vegetation is undergoing intensive change as a result of changes in atmospheric sedimentation, climate and land use. Studies show that plant communities are on the whole becoming unstable and there is aggressive proliferation of many alien species. One third of all flowering plants and ferns, as well as 40% of the rare and endangered species, live in semi-natural meadows.

Number and Extent of Protected Areas

Protected areas, including Natura 2000 territories, cover 11.9% of Latvia’s territory.

Percentage of Forest Cover

Forests cover 44.6% of the country.

National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

Major features of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

The National Biodiversity Strategy is divided into three sections. The first section is on nature protection and it is divided into habitat types and features. Each subsection includes a short description of the current status and a list of targets such as the development of criteria for assessment of biological diversity in rivers and the prohibition of sport and training events on valuable dolomite exposures. The next section is on sustainable use and is divided into activity sectors. Lists of targets are also provided for each sector, including maintaining a constant proportion of old trees in forest stands and promoting the cultivation of local cranberries on formerly harvested peat bogs. The final section concerns the policy instruments available in Latvia for the implementation of the plan.

Implementation of the Convention

Measures Taken to Achieve the 2010 Target

Outside of designated protected areas, threatened species are protected from activities such as unsustainable forestry, intensification of agriculture, and chaotic housing developments through the Law on Protection of Species and Habitats. Sectoral programmes for forestry and agriculture also encourage the maintenance of complex biological diversity, thereby enabling species protection. Species action plans are being prepared for threatened species and completed plans include those of the Brown Bear, Eurasian Lynx, Black Stork, and Freshwater Pearl Mussel. The National Environmental Policy Plan (2004-2008) sets environmental priorities and targets for main users of biodiversity-based products, such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and land-use. The sustainable use of biodiversity in agriculture is also regulated by the Rural Development Plan, which provides positive incentives for maintenance of biological diversity, organic farming, and the breeding of local animal breeds. Biodiversity use indicators are established in the National Resources Use Evaluation (2004) and include age structure and species composition for forestry, fishing quotas and biomass of spawning groups for fisheries, and the number of organic farms for land use. Several indicators are also listed in the Environmental Indicators Report of Latvia (2002). To promote sustainability in the forestry sector, certification schemes are used such as the forest green certification system (FSC – Forest Stewardship Council) for state forests and the Pan European Forest Certification. 51% of Latvian forests are certified, but only 1.4% of them are privately owned. The invasive plant Heracleum sosnowskyi is one of the main threats to habitats and species in rural areas, therefore its expansion is being controlled and its extermination is a pre-condition for receiving EU agricultural support. To address the threat of pollution to marine biodiversity in the Baltic Sea, Latvia is participating in regional bodies to decrease the pollution.

Initiatives in Protected Areas

Following the accession of Latvia to the European Union, 336 Natura 2000 territories were designated, including 4 Strict Nature Reserves and 4 National Parks, increasing the total protected area from 8.9% to 11.9%. Marine territories are included in 7 terrestrial protected areas. According to the national legislation, all Natura 2000 territories have legal protection status. Management plans are being prepared for protected areas at an average rate of 30 per year. The Law “On Protection of Species and Habitats” also provides for the establishment of micro-reserves to protect small-scale biologically valuable areas outside of protected territories. Up to date, 928 Micro-reserves have been established. Within the Natura 2000 sites, some inland water habitats and species have been protected. Marine territories are included in 5 terrestrial protected areas, mostly for the protection of wintering, nesting and resting sites of migratory birds. With the recent addition of three new Ramsar Sites, there are now 6 sites in Latvia covering a total of 148,363 ha.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme