Country Profiles

Liechtenstein - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

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

Liechtenstein is embedded between Switzerland and Austria. Natural boundaries are the Alpine Rhine to the west and the Rätikon massif to the east. Comprising an area of only 160 km2, Liechtenstein is the fourth smallest sovereign State by area in Europe. The country is structured into three physical regions with special characteristics in regard to geology, climate, exposure, and use: the Rhine Valley plain, the Rhine Valley slopes, and the mountain region. The relief in particular contributes to the diversity of the landscape. From west to east, an altitude gradient between 450 and 2,600 metres above sea level characterizes the landscape, so that plant communities occur at all altitude levels (between hilly and alpine). Climatically, the country is in the transition zone between oceanic and continental climates, with about 1,000 mm of precipitation each year in Vaduz. These factors are responsible for the great diversity of flora and fauna.

There are four categories of protection areas in Liechtenstein: nature protection area, forest protection areas, plant protection area, and landscape protection area. Nature and forest protection areas are the two most strictly protected categories, with a focus on the conservation of habitats for threatened animal and plant species. They are protected by law or ordinance and include goals on conservation and development. The nine nature protection areas are largely wetlands and situated in the Rhine Valley. They serve to protect swamps and waters. The largest nature protection area, the Ruggeller Riet, is the most significant bird breeding area in Liechtenstein and a wetland of international importance.

Liechtenstein has a species-rich fauna and flora due to its location in the Alpine Rhine Valley. This valley is a border region in terms of geology, geo-botany, and zoogeography. This is where the Eastern and Western Alps come together and the range of Eastern Alpine and Western Alpine flora and fauna overlap. Liechtenstein maintains its own Red Lists, corresponding to IUCN criteria and taking into account its particularly small-scale circumstances. The conservation and promotion of forest biodiversity rest on the three pillars of near-natural silviculture, forest reserves and special forest areas, as well as on small habitats worthy of protection. The use of pesticides and fertilizer is prohibited in the forest.

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

Threats to biological diversity arise from abandonment of use and the resulting fallowing of marginal yield areas. Threats are becoming apparent due to an increase in settlement areas and infrastructure, as well as from increasingly intensive use of the landscape for recreation and leisure. Threats to biodiversity in agricultural areas arise from the potential for intensification, due to good prices for products and the possible expansion of infrastructure in these areas. The sprawl of settlements also represents a threat to the remaining high-stem fruit orchards. These orchards are often situated at the margins of today's settlements, within construction zones, and are thus no longer enjoying long-term security.

Current foreseeable changes and adverse effects to biodiversity mainly concern the field of hydrology. As the climate heats up, the outflow volumes may continue to decline and the water temperature may additionally rise in the summer. This leads to expectations of a shift in the species spectrum among water organisms.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

Liechtenstein has developed a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2010). Strategic goals that have been set in this regard include: conservation of habitats and the promotion and upgrading of current habitats; conservation of species; conservation of landscape, forest and soil; and the incorporation of more nature in the utilized landscape.

The Development Concept for Nature and Agriculture is being implemented as the framework for the development of natural values. The starting point for developing this concept is the legal obligation for a nature and landscape protection concept. The goal is to present the policy tasks, development intentions, and positions in the two specialized areas of "nature and landscape" and "agriculture" and to jointly establish a vision for development.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Nature protection areas and forest protection areas comprise 13% of the country's territory. As a basis for assessing the potential of near-natural areas worthy of protection, the Inventory of Nature Priority Areas (1992) is used. A comparison of the current status with the inventoried areas shows that there is still potential for placement under protection. Comprehensive inventories of the plant and animal groups existing in Liechtenstein are available. For several groups of species, Liechtenstein maintains its own Red Lists compiled according to IUCN criteria. Liechtenstein has also supported the project "Conservation of the Genetic Diversity of Cultivated Plants” since 2001. Dedicated inventories have been compiled for fruit varieties, grapevines, vegetable varieties, and specifically for "Rhine Valley corn", a regional corn variety.

The conservation of the environment and promotion of responsible and sustainable treatment of natural resources are focus areas of Liechtenstein's International Humanitarian Cooperation and Development (IHCD). The Office for Foreign Affairs funds various projects related to the environment and sustainable development. The regional focus lies on mountain areas in the South Caucasus. In thematic terms, the focus lies on the preservation of biodiversity, the promotion of energy efficiency, the re-naturalisation of rivers as wells as on the combat of soil erosion. In addition, the Liechtenstein Development Service (LED) engages in development cooperation in rural regions of several focus countries. The goals are to improve rural development and food security through sustainable farming methods. Liechtenstein's engagement includes financial support as well as staffing support by carrying out projects and providing experts in the Carpathians, the Caucasus, and Central Asia and Africa. In 2013, Liechtenstein spent CHF 25.2 million on IHCD. Liechtenstein’s ODA percentage was 0.69 in 2011 which corresponds to the sixth rank worldwide.

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

It is of utmost importance to Liechtenstein to conserve its biological diversity. Liechtenstein's goal in this regard is set out in the Law on the Protection of Nature and Landscape: "The entire area of habitats shall be protected and restored where necessary”. Other pillars are the Forestry Act, the Water Protection Act, the Fishery Act, and the Agriculture Act. To implement their provisions, numerous instruments are used in the biodiversity-relevant sectors. Various inventories aim to conserve natural values. Red Lists provide information on the degree of threat to animal and plant species. Nature and forest protection areas are established to conserve flora and fauna as well as genetic diversity.

Despite the small size of the country, international cooperation plays an important role. Liechtenstein provides financial as well as practical support by seconding experts or carrying out concrete projects within the framework of multilateral cooperation. The Minister for Infrastructure, Environment and Sport coordinates responsibilities on environmental issues and sustainable development. Regional cooperation with the neighbouring countries of Switzerland and Austria is especially important.

For education in the field of environment and sustainable development, the Law on the Protection of Nature and Landscape additionally requires the promotion of nature and environmental education. Today, the subject "Humans and Environment" is a fixed component in the curriculum of mandatory school education. Examples of public outreach include public events such as annual forest tours, conducted by the municipal forestry operations, actions of the environmental commissions of the municipalities, reports in the Liechtenstein daily newspapers and several publications.

Relations between Liechtenstein and Switzerland are very close. The two countries have concluded numerous bilateral agreements. The most important of these is the Customs Treaty, which forms the basis for legal adjustments and harmonization that go far beyond its actual scope of application, including in economic and social law. Relations with the EU are characterized by intensive cooperation. Since 1995, Liechtenstein has been linked with the European Union (EU) through the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA). Liechtenstein also participates actively and regularly in bodies such as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Working Group on the Environment, the European Environment Agency and programs within the INTERREG framework.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

Liechtenstein employs three tools for evaluating environmental effects: Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and intervention procedures under the Nature Protection Act. The assessment procedures have different fields of application, but their functions complement each other.