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Biodiversity Facts

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

The surface of agricultural land in Serbia decreased from 65% of the national territory in 2003 to 60% (equivalent to 5,346,596 ha) in 2012. Traditionally the most important sector of the economy, the agricultural sector was transformed during the 1990s and early 2000s, a consequence of which was the privatization of public farms, especially in Vojvodina. Since this time, significant portions of agricultural land have been converted into land for construction and industrial uses. At present, organic production is currently being carried out on a surface of 7,500 ha (excluding the areas used for the collection of wild strawberries, mushrooms and medicinal herbs).

The forest surface in Serbia covers a total of 2,252,400 ha (or 29.1%) of the national territory, of which 53% represents public property and 47% private property. Since 1979, the total forest cover of the country has increased by 5.2% which is attributed to regular afforestation activities and a trend towards a decrease in the number of inhabitants in rural areas, especially in highland areas, which has decreased extensive agrarian production in these parts. However, as these data are irregularly updated, these figures should be treated with caution, especially as relates to land use. Coppice forests dominate the total forest cover at 64.7% of the territory, natural high stands cover 27.5%, whereas artificially raised stands with cultures stretch over 7.8%. From the standpoint of biodiversity and ecosystem services, high stands of natural origin are the most important. Of the natural stands, 38 species of trees have been identified, two of them being allochthonous, and the most represented species being beech representing 57.1% of the total volume.

According to the data of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, trade in medicinal and aromatic herbs in 2012 amounted to more than $24.5 million, of which $19 million was export income. The export of plants was dominated by spice herbs (at two-thirds of export), whereas export income from medicinal plants amounted to $5.8 million. The largest importers of plants from Serbia were European Union countries (62%) and Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) countries (35%).

Of the total number of fish which inhabit Serbian waters, about 50 species are subjected to economic and recreational fishing. From the standpoint of economic fishing, 29 fish species have larger or smaller economic significance, of which 12 species represent the target group which is predominantly caught. Other species represent an accompanying and occasional catch and are of secondary economic importance. Recreational fishing encompasses about 45 species however, in this case, about 50% of this number represents a target group.

The UNDP (2013) assessment of Serbia’s progress towards the MDGs for the periods 2006‒2009‒2012 revealed that the surface of the forested land had increased, and the number of households which utilize solid fuel had halved. An increase in the emission of carbon dioxide was registered in 2009 however was followed by a decrease in 2012.

The inclusion of Serbia into the Global Ecosystem Services Partnership ( implies the establishment of research in ecosystem services in Serbia.

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

Over the last 3 to 4 years, pressures on biodiversity have been mainly exerted by: fires in protected areas which have impacted forest ecosystems and led to changes in the biogeocenotic balance; agricultural production (exaggerated application of artificial fertilizers and pesticides, uncontrolled drainage of liquid manure from cattle farms, land management in steppe and salty water habitats and diffuse pollution on agricultural fields); construction of hydroelectric power plants; intensive exploitation of sand and gravel from the river bed which produces changes in its morphologic and hydrologic characteristics, causes destruction of the flood zone vegetation, decreases shore stability and increases the risk of flooding during periods of high water levels; regulation of rivers and flood prevention measures, interruption of connections between rivers and flooding areas along river beds and drainage of these areas; protection of agricultural land from internal waters, as well as drainage of wet meadows and pastures aimed at increasing the surface of arable land, which endangers natural habitats that are prioritized for protection, as well as the species connected to them.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

Serbia’s Biodiversity Strategy (2011-2018) was adopted in 2011 in relation to the Law on the Verification of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Biodiversity Strategy has been harmonized with the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, and with the principles of European Union (within the context of aligning Serbian legislation with EU legislation). The Biodiversity Action Plan defines 11 strategic areas, 28 objectives and more than 140 activities.

A preliminary analysis of NBSAP implementation established that most progress has been achieved in regard to the two strategic areas of ‘Conservation of Biodiversity’ and the ‘Protected Areas System’. No progress has yet been achieved regarding analysis of sensitivity to climate changes, using existing geographically explicit models for assessing the sensitivity of inland and freshwater ecosystems to climate changes. Also, the implementation of activities and measures which relate to protected areas financing have been insufficient to date. In 2013, a review of the NBSAP (2011-2018) was initiated, with consideration being given to the Nagoya outcomes. Activities are ongoing.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Serbia has determined that greater emphasis should be placed on objectives related to halting biodiversity loss through the integration of biodiversity in activities of Government and society (re Strategic Goal A of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020), and on factors which can lead to biodiversity threats (re Aichi Biodiversity Targets 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10). In particular, goals which relate to Strategic Goal B, including the management and utilization of fish stocks, invertebrates and aquatic plants, should be better defined. As well, ecosystem services need to be included in the Serbia’s redefined goals related to Strategic Goal D.

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

Examples of supporting legislation include:

Law on the Verification of International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Law on Incitements in Agriculture and Rural Development

Law on Agriculture and Rural Development

Law on Energy

Law on Mining and Geological Researches

Law on Nature Conservation (which is the framework law)

Law on Organic Agriculture

Law on Game and Hunting

Law on Waters

Law on Environmental Protection

Law on the Means for the Protection of Plants

Law on the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of the Fish Stock

Law on Tourism

Law on Planning and Construction

Law on Forests

Law on the Evaluation of the Influence on the Environment

Decree on the allocation of incentives in agriculture and rural development

Decree on the Ecological Network

The Law on National Parks is being drafted.

The protection of biodiversity in Serbia is realized through the implementation of measures for the protection and improvement of species, their populations, natural habitats and ecosystems and has been regulated by the Law on Nature Conservation as the framework law (“The Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, No. 36/2009, 88/2010 and 91/2010-correction), and relevant by-laws.

The total surface of protected areas is 564.063 hectares, which represents 6,38% of the total territory of the country.

The Decree on Ecological Network (“The Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, No. 102/2010) determines the manner of protection, management and financing of ecological network, with a view to conservation of biological and landscape diversity, i.e. the habitat types of special conservation interest, and conservation of certain species. Ecological Network consists of 101 areas of ecological importance (including Emerald and Natura 2000) and ecological corridors of national and international importance.

Currently, 1,760 wild species of plants, animals and fungi are strictly protected and 853 are protected by law and by-law acts.

A National Agri-Environment Programme has been drafted. This programme is intended to encourage the adoption of sustainable farming practices by farmers through, for example, the provision of financial incentives and/or technical advice.

The Nagoya Protocol was signed in 2011.

The Habitats Directive has been almost completely transposed in legislation and accompanying sublegal acts. The total transposition will occur with Serbia’s accession to the EU. The Birds Directive has been completely transposed.

Serbia has initiated regional cooperation related to NBSAP development with Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro through UNDP and UNEP offices. The country is also participating in a broad collaboration framework known as the Dinaric Arc Initiative with 7 other countries. This Initiative aims to improve protected areas and ecological corridors, enhance nature conservation planning, assess the value of natural resources, integrate the goals of nature conservation in plans for the economic development of the fishing, forestry, agriculture, energy, spatial planning sectors, increase intersectoral cooperation, empower local communities through engagement in local community development, promote scientific cooperation among countries in the region, among other objectives. Serbia is also cooperating in activities for the implementation of the Convention on Cooperation in the Protection and Sustainable Utilization of the Danube River, through the work of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

Strategic area 6 of the current NBSAP on the “Knowledge Database” aims to implement actions towards the creation of a national information system for biodiversity (NISB), biodiversity monitoring and biodiversity research. Work in this strategic area has just begun (however a work programme for the Biodiversity Information Centre, located in the Faculty of Biology of the University of Belgrade, has been defined).