Country Profiles

Albania - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

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

Despite the relatively small size of Albania, the country is well known for its high diversity of ecosystems and habitats. Its territory is comprised of maritime ecosystems, coastal zones, lakes, rivers, evergreen and broadleaf bushes, broadleaf forests, pine forests, alpine and sub-alpine pastures and meadows, and high mountain ecosystems. Forests cover 36% of the country’s territory, and pastures about 15%. The mountain alpine forest ecosystems are also rich in biodiversity. The higher areas are dominated by beech and pine forests and preserve a large number of endemic and sub-endemic plant species. In general, timber practices have created forests that are younger, more even in age structure, biologically less diverse, and economically less productive. In some instances, forests are now more susceptible to damage from insects, disease and fire. To compensate for deforestation activities that are a consequence of the developing economy, efforts to reforest large areas are being carried out. Figures related to illegal logging are encouraging and illustrative of a recovery of forest coverage and state.

Albania is also well known for its rich and complex hydrographic network of rivers, lakes, wetlands, groundwater and seas. Wetland ecosystems are important migration routes for migratory species of wild fauna (3 Ramsar sites of international importance have been designated, namely, Karavasta Lagoon, Butrinti Lake and Shkodra Lake). Albanian lakes and rivers are also important in terms of their contribution to the biological and landscape diversity of the country. About 247 natural lakes of different types and dimensions, and a considerable number of artificial lakes, are located inside the country. The alteration to the natural flow regimes of rivers and streams and their floodplains and wetlands is recognized as a major factor contributing to the loss of biological diversity and ecological function in aquatic ecosystems, including floodplains.

Two biogeographical regions are present in Albania (Mediterranean and Alpine). The major part of the country belongs to the Mediterranean biogeographical region which is a biodiversity hotspot. In Albania, 3,200 taxa of higher plants, 800 fungi, 1,200 diatoms, as well as 313 taxa of fish, 323 birds, 36 reptiles, 70 mammals and 520 molluscs have been identified so far. A total of 27 plant species, with 150 sub-species, are endemic to the country. There are a number of threatened species in Albania (73 vertebrate and 18 invertebrate). For some of them (e.g. Pelecanuscrispus, Phalacrocoraxpygmeus, Salmoletnica and Acipensersturio), Albania is a country of critical importance. During a decade of transition to a market economy, Albania has gone through major political, social and economic changes and developments. Despite many positive results, the country has also suffered from poor natural resource management which has led to environmental degradation. According to different IUCN categories, the scale of threat for the bird species listed in the Red Book of Albanian fauna has been estimated as follows: 26% are critically endangered and 25% are endangered.

The issue of protection of traditional knowledge, innovations and practices has not been resolved in the whole and systematically. However, in the last few years, efforts have been made to reduce pressure on the natural populations of medicinal and aromatic herbs by specifying limits for their picking in the landscape. Efforts have also been made to reduce pressure on wild fauna.

Hunting and fishing are economic activities generated by the surrounding biodiversity. There are around 400 hunting grounds in Albania. The list of huntable species includes 17 species (2 mammals and 15 bird species), the majority of which are migratory. Fishing activity takes place along the entire coastline. Also, during recent years, aquaculture has been increasingly promoted with particular focus on carp fingerlings and fish for general consumption (including sea farms). Currently, there are 58 fish farms in the country (9 fish farms, 3 carp fingerling hatcheries and 46 for trout culture).

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

Current pressures on biodiversity are varied. Climate change impacts on biodiversity have been identified, especially in the country’s coastal area. Major climatic events have led to excessive flooding of large areas and erosion along the coastline. Other main threats are infrastructure development, uncontrolled land use, urbanization, tourism, deforestation, hunting, fishing, soil erosion, petroleum and mining exploitation, invasive alien species, and water pollution resulting from excessive nutrient load and a lack of sewage treatment and coastal and surface water management. Land conversion resulting in habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation is arguably the most significant factor responsible for endangering species in Albania. Land has been, and continues to be, converted for commercial, tourism, recreational (e.g. ski resorts) and residential purposes. Wetlands have been drained and residential or commercial areas are encroaching upon native habitats. Further, the conversion of native habitats to human-dominated environments has reduced the area of habitat available to biodiversity, while also fragmenting and degrading remaining areas.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan approved by the Council of Ministers in 2000 is the main document on biodiversity for the 2000-2015 period. The Strategy defines the main directions for preserving biodiversity and habitats, through their identification and proclamation as protected areas, and through the protection of species inside and outside protected areas. The NBSAP’s main objectives include: protection and improvement of biological and landscape diversity; incorporation of principles and policies required for sustainable biodiversity use and management; promotion of sustainable development for present and future generations.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Significant progress has been accomplished in protecting biodiversity over the last 10 years through the implementation and enforcement of institutional and legislative frameworks. Noteworthy developments include the establishment of the Ministry of Environment and relevant institutions (and their enactment of environmental legislation), accession to the MEAs, increased public awareness-raising activities.

The extent of the protected areas network is a particular success story, presently comprised of 798 sites covering 455,021.7 ha (15.8%). In this regard, the country reached the 10% objective of the 2010 Biodiversity Target, while also making progress in regard to the establishment of Ramsar sites (3 sites comprise more than 83,000 ha) and Important Bird Areas (12), as well as participated in the Green Belt Initiative. In southern Albania, the first Marine Protected Area was designated in early 2010. Regional cooperation, especially with West Balkan neighboring countries, can be cited as another success story. A number of donor-funded projects, such as the Prespa Lake Basin Integrated Management Project between Albania, Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, are currently being implemented. A Red List of Albanian Wild Fauna and Flora and conservation action plans for 5 species have been elaborated (Brown bear, Lynx, Pygmy cormorant, Cetaceans and Posidonia oceanic meadows). The identification of Areas of Special Conservation Interest (ASCIs) was also carried out in the 2002-2008 period which identified 25 potential sites. The Lake Skadar-Shkoder Integrated Ecosystem Management Project (LSIEMP) is a cross-border project financed by GEF and being successfully implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Water Administration of Albania and the Ministry of Tourism and Sustainable Development of Montenegro, under the supervision and guidance of the World Bank. The global project development objective is to maintain and enhance the long-term value and environmental services of Lake Skadar-Shkoder and its natural resources, through enabling the establishment and strengthening of institutional mechanisms for transboundary cooperation.

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

Biodiversity and conservation issues are sufficiently presented in the 2007 National Environment Strategy, but remain largely under-represented in other strategic sectoral documents. The National Environment Strategy considers biodiversity a priority area, namely, the increase of protected areas coverage; elaboration of management plans and their implementation; completion of a legal framework aligned with the EU acquis for nature and environment; elimination of illegal logging and hunting by means of enhanced enforcement of the legal framework and capacity building activities; implementation of action plans for threatened species and habitats and NBSAP updating. These issues have been taken into consideration in the National Strategy for Development and Integration (2007-2013).

Supporting legislation comprises the Law on Biodiversity Protection (2006), Law on Protected Areas (2002, amended in 2008), Law on Wild Fauna Protection (2008), Law on the rules and procedures governing the international trade of endangered species of wild fauna and flora (2008), Law on Hunting (2010).

Albania has also prepared an action plan for managing the implementation of the three Rio Conventions (Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification).

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The current status of biodiversity monitoring in Albania is rather incomplete and fragmented. One of the most important missions of the Albanian Agency of Environment and Forest, established in 2006, is to gather data from environmental monitoring, including biodiversity monitoring, to process and assess the data and report findings at the national and international levels. Also, according to the provisions of the Law on Biodiversity Protection, the Red List of Albanian Fauna and Flora shall be updated every five years and approved by the Minister of Environment (the current list, reviewed in 2007, is being revised and updated with the view to having the process completed by March 2013). Nevertheless, the establishment of a comprehensive network of biodiversity inventorying and monitoring is in the early stages of development. A decision on biodiversity inventorying and monitoring was adopted by the Council of Ministers in 2009, with more comprehensive monitoring of protected areas set as one of the priorities for the future.