Country Profiles

Belarus - Country Profile

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 Republic of Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, with natural complexes and ecosystems occupying 65.8% of the territory. The Belarusian territory belongs to two geo-botanical regions (Eurasian taiga and European deciduous broad-leaved zones). Although there has been an increase in total forest cover—from 32.4% in 1966 to 38% in 2008—boreal areas are decreasing, with a shift evidenced towards more steppe and forest-steppe zones due to an increasingly warmer climate. Recovery activities for broad-leaved forests are escalating. As a result of state forestry regulations, there is sustainable growth in forest areas, all of which have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). However, complex natural forests are being replaced with mono-dominant forest species for economic purposes. Notably, in spite of industrial activity having increased in recent years, there has only been a modest increase in the level of pollutants released.

Belarus possesses about 12,000 plant species, including 7,000 and 2,000 species of fungi and algae, respectively, together representing nearly 80% of the total flora. There are 1,638 species of vascular plants, notably comprised of over 1,500 herbal species. In terms of fauna, Belarus is home to 46 indigenous fish species out of a total of 63 fish species. There is a lack of endemism for terrestrial faunal species, which total 467 species of vertebrates and more than 30,000 species of invertebrates. There are however a few relict species from the Ice Age. Critically endangered species comprise 54 plant species and 16 fauna species. Quite a few animal species, such as the mute swan and aquatic warbler, have been successfully protected and some even removed from the Red Data Book as the result of a number of conservation projects.

Belarus has 47 game species and 31 commercial fish species, which have yielded an average annual fish yield of 803.06 thousand tons in the last ten years. However, as a result of unsustainable activities, a reduction in fish stock, changes in species composition and structure are expected to emerge. One of the major water corridors, through which invasive species from the Black and Caspian Seas penetrate through to Central and Western Europe, passes through the territory of Belarus. The total number of invasive species within Belarus amounts to over 600 species of plants and 30 species of animals.

The most valuable Belarusian landscape types identified are those that are rare in Europe (swamps, inundated territories, forests, kame moraine, lake complexes). As such, an area given priority is the conservation and sustainable use of one of Europe’s most important inland water regions, Belarus Polesie, located in the southern part of the country. In the twentieth century, wetlands were extensively drained; more recently, the area of wetlands has increased as a result of the natural re-swamping of previously-drained wetlands.

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.

One of the main pressures to biodiversity is climate change, causing a reduction in habitat for boreal plant and animal species, a decrease in population numbers of some species of wild plants and animals of inundated, riverside and wetland ecosystems. Another effect is the emergence of certain bird species with southern origins, especially exacerbating inter-specific competition near water sources. Introduction of invasive species like the American mink, giant hogweed and Canadian golden rod has led to the competitive exclusion of Belarusian species of fauna. The most significant anthropogenic factors driving negative changes include: changes in types of extensive land use; weeds in natural open meadows and lowland swamps; pollution in natural ecological systems; habitat fragmentation and degradation from urbanization and the development of transport and communication systems; damage to natural hydrological regimes due to irrigation and drainage practices; replacement of complex forests with mono-dominant forest plantations; recreation and tourism; fires in forests and from grassland vegetation; radioactive contamination from the Chernobyl Atomic Power Station accident affecting some species of wild plants with low degrees of ecological flexibility. The main factors that determine damage and destruction to forests in Belarus are the mass reproduction of forest insect pests, tree diseases, hurricanes and fires.

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.

The strategic aims of the revised NBSAP (2011-2020) are to prevent a decrease in species populations and diversity, as well as achieve the sustainable use of biological diversity for present and future generations. These aims will be attained through measures that take into consideration four main directions: improved legislation and economic mechanisms; a networked system of specially protected sites; a system for managing and disseminating information; more active international cooperation. The country’s action plan consists of 89 actions, categorized under these four directions, with each action assigned to a responsible organization and an implementation timeframe. Belarus intends to adjust certain chapters in the existing NBSAP to strengthen compliance with the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

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.

The country’s system of specially protected areas accounts for 7.7% of the country. However, together with the natural sites subject to special protection, such as water conservation zones and areas of habitat and growth of rare and endangered wild animal and plant species, this figure increases to 22.1% of the country’s total area. Due to activities on recovery of broad-leaved forests, the total area of oak forests has increased by 15.8 thousand ha since 2000. The total forest area has also increased from 32.4% in 1966 to 38% of the country’s total area in 2008. With funding from various donors, like the UNDP, GEF, and European Commission, numerous projects on landscape conservation have been carried out. Priority has been given to wetlands, river basins and forests, including projects on the Polesia wetlands and transboundary cooperation with Poland and Lithuania on lakes and river basins to increase management efficiency and improve land use practices, among others.

Under the state program on the restoration and development of rural areas (2005-2010), activities were implemented to protect land and soil cover from degradation and erosion during the restoration of land reclamation systems. Additionally, a strict protection regime is in place for the Polessie State Radio-Ecological Reserve (PSRER) which was evacuated after the Chernobyl incident. According to data, there is intensive restoration of native fauna in the contaminated area due to a largely indirect effect from the incident, but owing directly to the lack of human activity. This allows us to consider these lands as a major reserve in which species can evolve dynamically.

Various species conservation projects have been successfully implemented. These include projects for the mute swan and European lynx, which have been removed from the threatened species list of the Red Data Book, as well as habitat conservation for the aquatic warbler for which species abundance has stabilized. Notably, the state program for the preservation of the Belaya Vazha auroch has placed Belarus second in the world in terms of species abundance. Currently under way are projects for the conservation of the greater spotted eagle and the great snipe. Different zoos in the country also participate in ex situ conservation programs (e.g. Stellar’s sea eagle, Amur tiger, snow leopard). Further, renters of fishing sites provide protection for Belarusian fish species through various actions (e.g. maintaining natural spawning grounds; selective capture of certain fish species; introduction, reintroduction and acclimatization of fish species).

Reductions in the use of mineral fertilizers within watersheds have been linked to the stabilization and improvement of surface water quality since 1990.

Rural tourism has become very popular in recent years; consulting services are provided to rural residents in the field of agricultural and ecological tourism aimed at socioeconomic development. Additionally, the development of agri-estates, organization of ecological educational tours and hunting wildlife photography are promoted in the National Program for Tourism Development (2008-2010).

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.

The country’s legislative framework is well established, with the following laws enacted for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity: ‘On Protection of the Environment’ (2002), ‘On Specially Protected Areas’ (2000), ‘On the Vegetable World’ (2003), ‘On the Safety of Genetic Engineering Activity’ (2006), ‘On the Animal World’ (2007), among other laws. Laws that forbid the use of certain tools for catching fish, methods which harm biological diversity, as well as activities that negatively affect fish resources, conditions of fish reproduction and migration paths, are in place. Additionally, a Presidential Decree (8 December 2005) establishes taxes for damages done to the environment.

With the NBSAP’s identification of natural resource optimization for different socioeconomic areas, such as spatial and urban planning, transportation systems, agriculture, energy, tourism and recreational activities, the State scheme for territorial organization of the Republic of Belarus (GSKTO) has been approved by Presidential decree. Through integrated planning, ecological modernization of industrial enterprises, this model promotes the development of an ecological network that does not intensify contradictions between urbanization and the protection of the country’s natural complexes.

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.

The National Environmental Monitoring System (NEMS) is a set of observation systems for evaluating and predicting natural environment conditions and events, as well as the biological responses to changes in the environment caused by natural and anthropogenic factors. It now includes 11 independent environmental monitoring types: land, surface water, underground water, air, ozone layer, flora, forest, fauna, radiation, geophysical and local environment. The NEMS also has an information system that ensures information exchange between the various monitoring systems as well as consolidation of this information.

The Republican Centre for Analytical Control in the Area of Environmental Protection fulfills tasks related to environmental analysis, evaluation and monitoring, management and provision of guidelines, among others. The Centre also maintains databases and provides laboratories for conducting tests.

Notably, an inventory of all plant species in Belarus has been completed. Also, due to State inspections carried out since 2003 for the protection of animal and plant species, as well as various activities conducted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, substantial reductions in the instances of poaching have been achieved.