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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The Maltese archipelago is located in the central Mediterranean and approximately 93 km south of Sicily and 290 km north of the African continent. The archipelago consists of a group of three islands, Malta and the two smaller islands of Gozo, together with a series of smaller uninhabited islets, which are found scattered around the 271 km long coastline of the islands. Islets such as Filfla, St Paul’s Islands and Fungus Rock are of a very high conservation value in that each harbours endemic species, as well as distinct plant communities, that are solely restricted to these islets. The topography of the islands is low-lying for the most part comprised of low hills and terraced slopes only; there are no mountains, rivers or lakes present. The scarcity of freshwater has contributed to the overall rarity of freshwater flora and fauna in the Maltese Islands, especially those species that are dependent on a relatively constant supply of water.

With a relatively small land area of 316 km2, Malta displays an interesting variety of flora and fauna in the islands and its surrounding waters. Malta’s isolated yet central position in the Mediterranean has led to some species exhibiting elements of Western Mediterranean, Eastern Mediterranean, and North African and Sicilian affinity. The historical interchange of species has particularly influenced the composition of plants and animals that currently inhabit the Maltese Islands. The urban fabric, which covers approximately 22.3% of land area, is also important for certain species that have managed to adapt to living alongside man and use man-made structures as refuges. Such species include various birds, invertebrates, and reptiles. Other species that are encountered within urban environments include the House Mouse, shrews, and bats, with the latter roosting in old and abandoned dwellings and bastions.

When considering the flora, vascular plants are the most taxonomically diverse and are also the most studied group. Malta’s indigenous flora amounts to some 1,200 species of flowering plants with around 25 strict endemics. The Maltese plant endemics are the Maltese Rock Centaury, Maltese Cliff-Orache and Maltese Everlasting and are included amongst the top 50 Mediterranean Island Plants at the brink of extinction. In terms of the fauna indigenous to the Maltese Islands, there is an immense diversity of insects, this being the most taxonomically represented group with new records continuously being discovered. As a result of the scarcity of freshwater ecosystems in Malta, and rivers being entirely absent, freshwater organisms are very limited in number. One can also appreciate the importance of soil biodiversity. Numerous diverse species live in Maltese soils. Such soil types act as a habitat and food source for soil microorganisms, microfauna, macrofauna, megafauna, microflora and macroflora. Important habitat types in terms of soil biodiversity include woodlands of various types.

The importance of Maltese biodiversity has been echoed in various works, with authors expressing the necessity to safeguard the country’s natural heritage. Benefits derived from ecosystem services, such as provision of food and raw materials, freshwater and clean air, are indeed considered to be indispensable life-support services. These greatly contribute to the human well-being and quality of life of the Maltese population. Biodiversity also provides other key benefits to the Maltese community, including scenic, recreational, scientific, educational, cultural and socioeconomic benefits. The use of local biological resources also provides the country with a degree of self-sufficiency and reduces its reliance on the importation of foreign produce and resources. It also minimises the risk of the introduction of invasive non-native species and pests associated with plants and plant products, which could severely impact Maltese agriculture and horticulture, not to mention other environmental and socioeconomic impacts that these could cause.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The high population density and the growing demand for natural resources have adversely affected the conservation status of a number of species and habitats alike. The State of the Environment Report for Malta (2005) acknowledged development in rural and marine areas, the introduction of non-native species that may compete with native biodiversity, and the exploitation of wildlife, as the main threats to local biodiversity. The four economic sectors that are considered to have the most significant impacts on the environment are housing, transport, energy generation and tourism. The conservation status of native and endemic flora is thwarted by an intricate suite of threats that act simultaneously to the detriment of Maltese biodiversity. Such threats can be essentially traced to changes in land use and mismanagement of natural resources. Ensuing adverse impacts include those associated with pollution, nutrient overload, land fragmentation, soil erosion, anthropogenic climate change and biological invasions.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Adopted in December 2012, Malta's first National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2012-2020), entitled "Working Hand-in-Hand with Nature", serves as a policy driver to set the country on the right track to meet its biodiversity and environmental objectives, as identified in Malta's National Environment Policy (2012) and in the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets and EU targets. The NBSAP addresses the need to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem services through biodiversity integration in decision-making as well as within policies, plans and programs of those sectors that act as drivers of biodiversity change.

Nineteen national targets with action-driven and outcome-oriented measures, grouped under 18 thematic areas, have been set out, with implementation of actions assigned to one of four possible timeframes. CBD, EEA, SEBI and EU indicators, including the EU 2010 Biodiversity Baseline, have been adapted to serve as examples of indicators to measure progress towards NBSAP implementation and are subject to revision. Examples of prioritized actions relate to the establishment of: species and habitat action plans for priority species, especially endemic species, and for rare specialized habitats; a strict protection regime, incorporating measures to address the illegal and the incidental capture and killing of protected species, including those that are migratory; a range of governance types for long-term management of protected areas, based on good governance.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Malta has taken considerable action towards achieving 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Notably, the values of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and the opportunities derived from their conservation and sustainable use, are recognised and integrated in national policies as well as decision-making and planning processes. The main sectors that are beneficiaries of ecosystem services have incorporated biodiversity concerns into their sectoral and cross-sectoral plans, policies and programmes and positive incentives for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity are increasingly promoted. Malta cooperates in efforts to address environmentally-harmful subsidies.

Malta has gained ground in the reduction of direct pressures of biodiversity and in the improvement of the status of biodiversity. Significantly, the rate of loss of natural and semi-natural habitats of conservation value is at least halved, and degradation and fragmentation significantly reduced. The implementation of effective measures to address pollution in line with the requirements of established legislation is showing signs of a decreasing trend in current pollution levels. Also, measures are in place to prevent the introduction and establishment of new invasive non-native species, while those that are established are identified and prioritised for eradication or control. Finally, the risk of local extirpation of known threatened species has been reduced, with 30% of the species of European Community Importance in the Maltese territory having a favourable or improved conservation status.

With regard to enhancing the benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services and enhancing implementation, vulnerable ecosystems that provide essential services are safeguarded, with at least 15% of degraded ecosystems restored, while 20% of the habitats of European Community Importance in the Maltese territory have a favourable or improved conservation status. There has also been significant advancement towards the enhancement of capacity for national implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Implementation of the NBSAP will require collective action across sectors and at all levels using existing or updated environmental and relevant sectoral policy instruments. New policy instruments for biodiversity are envisaged at the EU level, as required by the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, which includes a coherent framework on addressing invasive non-native species, and the forthcoming EU Strategy on a Green Infrastructure. The European Community and new funding opportunities for biodiversity, including public and private investment and innovative financing of biodiversity conservation and protected areas, are identified at a national level bearing in mind the findings of “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity” (TEEB) study, which are to be incorporated into a national biodiversity financial plan by 2014.

National authorities responsible for overseeing the sustainable use of resources and the regulation of species trade and movement of non-native species are well-equipped with adequate human, financial and technical means. Capacity-building via training and continued professional development; reviewing administrative structures, adopting mechanisms for adequate support in line with the CBD Resource Mobilisation Strategy and via a flexible and adaptable framework which promotes inter-sectoral planning, cooperation and synergy, serve as support mechanisms for national implementation.

The NBSAP also aims to mobilise action in order to contribute to the achievement of the EU biodiversity headline 2020 target at a national level, which is “to halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, and restore them in so far as feasible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss”.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

A review of the implementation of the NBSAP will be undertaken in 2014, 2017 and 2020. The indicators that will be used to assess such progress will be based on CBD and EU indicators, including the EU 2010 Biodiversity Baseline. Malta’s NBSAP is a living document, which will continue to evolve on the basis of experiences and reviews, as well as feedback received through consultation with stakeholders, especially with respect to its targets, strategic directions and actions. This requires the participation of a broad spectrum of the community, comprising all major groups as well as individuals, to build a sense of ownership and commitment. The NBSAP aims to achieve consensus on a set of practical and realistic actions that reflect national aspirations for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, together with other environmental goals in Malta.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme