Country Profiles

North Macedonia - 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 remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Although being small (25713 km2) and landlocked country, with its position in the centre of the Balkan Peninsula, The Republic of Macedonia is one of the hotspots for biodiversity in Europe.

Most of the territory (44.1%) lies on altitude between 500-1000 m. Geomorphology and relief are characterized by domination of hilly terrains (almost 80% of the territory) and valleys are connected with deeply incurved canyons and gorges. Four watersheds exist in the Republic of Macedonia of which river Vardar’s is the largest one, covering about 80% of the national territory. In the southern low areas the climate is sub-Mediterranean, it is continental throughout the country and mountainous on altitudes above 1500 m a.s.l. Eight climatic-vegetation and soil regions have been defined, the largest being the warm sub-Mediterranean-continental zone of the pubescent oak. An average precipitation in mountainous areas is 1.000-1.500 mm/year, and 600-700 mm/year in the valleys, Ovche Pole plain being the driest area with only 490 mm/year.

According to EUNIS classification (with necessary modifications) 28 most important (key) ecosystem types/groups (some of them with anthropogenic origin but with some importance for biodiversity) have been identified, which equals to 177 habitat types of level 3 (according to the same classification), indicating high diversity of ecosystems in the Republic of Macedonia.

Forests cover about 38.5 % (988.835 ha) of the country’s land surface and 44% is agrcultural land (1.120.000 ha). About 90 % of the forests are state-owned. Regarding the forest types dominant are deciduous forests (22.3%) followed by the mixed forests (11.6) while the coniferous (2.8%) are least present. The structure of agricultural land is composed of cultivated land (or 44.2%) mainly concentrated in valleys (arable land and gardens, meadows, vineyards and orchards) and pastures (or 55.6%) located mainly in the highlands. Pastures of high quality are located in almost all high mountain areas, especially in the western part of the country. Grassland ecosystems occupy a large part of the country, occurring often as secondary habitats primarily caused by the permanent degradation of forest phytocenoses and re-colonization of abandoned farmland by grassland species.

There are three larger lakes of tectonic origin (Ohrid, Prespa and Doyran) and 43 small glacial lakes, approximately half of which are found on Shar Planina Mt. Wetland vegetation, which used to develop over large areas of swamps and marshes in the country’s entire central valley, underwent great changes due to the implementation of previous drainage measures which resulted in most of these ecosystems being converted into arable land. The relict wetland communities that are present exist in a fragmentary state (7 smaller marshes still exist) and their flora and fauna species are the most endangered.

So far, about 1700 species of algae, 3200 vascular plants, over 2000 fungi and 450 lichens, 13000 invertebrates, 85 fishes and cyclostomates, 15 amphibians, 32 reptiles, 333 birds and 84 mammals are recorded, being the major portion of yet insufficiently studied biodiversity. The endemism among these groups is large, with at least 150 endemic species among the algae, 120 endemic plants and over 700 invertebrate species. Among the vertebrates, the fishes are particularly rich group, with 27 endemic species. The 3.5 million years old Lake Ohrid is the center of the endemism (with 212 endemic species), being one of the global centers for endemism as well. Besides this Lake, additional 9671 km2 or 38% of the country territory fulfill the criteria for Key Biodiversity Areas.

There were 2022547 inhabitants in 2002 (the last census) with average density of 78.7 persons/km2. About 57 % of the population lives in the urban centers (half of which concentrated in the capital Skopje) and the rest 43 % lives in rural areas.

The difficult economic transition over the last decade has negatively affected the country’s biodiversity. The economic benefits arising from the use of biological resources have often outweighed investment in protection measures. Although utilized on daily basis, in form of timber, erosion prevention, fish stocks and for recreation, the economical benefits from the biodiversity are not widely recognized or valued.

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

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

Intensified economic growth has often been based on unsustainable use of the natural resources, particularly water and minerals, leading to habitat destruction and alteration, while continued and discontinued urbanization threatens some of the remaining lowland priority habitats. Succession of habitats due to depopulation of rural areas as a result of economical changes on one hand and intensification of agricultural production on the other also threatens many habitats. Forest fires are one of the root causes for modification of habitats – a total of 92223 ha were destroyed by forest fires in the period 2003-2013, particularly thermophilous oak forests (and shrublands) that are characterized with high diversity and/or presence of species characteristic for Mediterranean coastal forests and maquis biome. Almost all rivers are under great direct and indirect anthropogenic pressures (e.g. reservoirs that have been built on some rivers). Other contributing factors include global economic and financial crisis, poverty, unsustainable hunting and fishing practices, unsustainable/uncontrolled collection of wild plants and fungi species, illegal logging etc. Poaching is widespread, and non-selective methods are often used.

These and other threats have led to decrease of populations in many species, and reduction of coverage of priority habitats.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

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

The first National Strategy and Action Plan for Protection of Biological Diversity was adopted in 2004. The Action Plan encompasses 11 Strategic Approaches (that have been linked to one or more of the 12 Strategic Principles) on the following themes: in situ conservation; ex situ conservation; sustainable use of biodiversity; institutional improvement; investigation and monitoring; public awareness and education; impact assessment; incentive measures; legislation; financial resources for NBSAP implementation; coordination and implementation of the NBSAP. Obstacles to NBSAP implementation that have been identified include, among others, insufficient financial resources, lack of capacities, education and public awareness, and insufficient mainstreaming of biodiversity into different sectors.

The NBSAP is currently under revision, new national targets (in line with Aichi targets) are already drafted and biodiversity action plan development envisioned for 2014 and revision completion by 2015.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

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

Some progress has been made in relation to developing legislative and institutional frameworks for nature protection and improving the system for protecting natural values.

About 9% of the country’s territory is covered by 86 protected areas, among them re-proclaimed are: one strict nature reserve, two national parks, 9 monuments of nature, one nature park and one multipurpose area, while the rest belong to different categories not still re-proclaimed in accordance to the new categorization (in line with IUCN categorization) prescribed in the Law on Nature Protection. Management bodies have been designated for 13 of these protected areas and few of them have prepared comprehensive management plans.

International important areas have been identified (important bird areas, important plant areas, prime butterfly areas, key biodiversity areas). Two sites (Prespa and Dojran Lakes) are designated as wetlands of international importance (Ramsar sites) and Ohrid region is proclaimed as world natural and cultural heritage. Prespa Park was established by three countries (Macedonia, Albania and Greece).

The lists of strictly protected (a total of 194 species) and protected (820) wild species were adopted in 2011 without prior categorization of species based on their threat status. Protection of some species nominated as game (110 bird and 23 mammal species) is provided by the Law on hunting. Most of these species (74 birds and 9 mammals) are under full protection. Collection and trade of threatened and protected wild species of plants, fungi and animals and their parts is conducted only upon prior acquisition of license for collection and license/CITES certificate for trade. Two breeds of indigenous domestic animals have been given the status of an endangered population.

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

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

General principles and measures for biodiversity conservation are described in the Law on Nature Protection (adopted in 2004) with more amendments, mainly due to the ongoing process of transposition of EU Acqui into national legislation. Additionally, legal framework includes a number of legal acts relevant for biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources (e.g. legislation on water management, forestry, hunting, agriculture and rural development, fishing, etc.). Most of the multilateral environmental agreements and conventions (relevant to the field of nature protection) have been ratified by the Republic of Macedonia. The country also participated in developing a Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy that expanded the scope of the Convention on Biodiversity to landscapes using the Pan-European Ecological Network as a main tool for its implementation, based on which the National ecological network (MAK-NEN) was developed.

However, biodiversity is still not considered an important issue outside of nature conservation and environment sectors. To date, sectoral policies have been weak in covering the need for protecting biodiversity by placing its importance secondary to other issues and often on a formal basis.

Nature protection division (with 4 units, including GMO Unit) has been established as part of the Administration of Environment within the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning to be responsible for the execution of the expert works in the field of nature protection.

The Republic of Macedonia recognizes that a change in attitude towards biodiversity, within society at large and among officials with decision-making responsibilities, is key to implementing the Convention. Environmental and nature awareness-raising, as well as nature education as a whole, are high priorities among development needs.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

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

The monitoring of wild endangered species involved in national and international trade is proposed in the NBSAP. Inspections are carried out to control the cutting of forests and the collection or harvesting of wild plants in the country. However, activities for nature conservation and the sustainable use of bio-resources, outside of protected areas, are not monitored in the country.