Country Profiles

Slovenia - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

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

Slovenia is situated in the southern part of central Europe where four biogeographic regions meet (the Alps, Pannonian Plain, Dinaric Mountains and the Mediterranean), forming a large variety of eco-regions and habitats. The country’s territory comprises 20,254 km2, with 40% covered by karst areas and 16% by quaternary sediments.

Forests cover 1.2 million hectares or almost 60% of Slovenia’s surface (approximately 0.6 hectare per capita); 36% is agricultural land and 3.5% urban areas, while the remainder consists of wetlands, waters and areas with no vegetation cover. There are 514 natural and anthropogenic habitat types that have been identified and documented in Slovenia. Landscape categories are extremely rich, comprising coastal and marine types, inland waters, scrub and grasslands, forests, marshes, rocky habitats and caves, as well as agricultural and urbanized landscapes. The principal characteristic of the landscapes is the intertwining of small units and their mosaic structure. Large areas of one habitat type are rare.

To date, around 15,000 animal species, 6,000 plant species and 5,000 species of fungi have been identified and documented. The degree of endemism is considerably high. Among vascular plants, there are 40 endemic taxa, including 22 narrow endemics with predominant distribution in Slovenia. There are 850 endemic taxa of fauna, including cave animals above all. Approximately 10% of ferns and higher plants and 56% of vertebrates are endangered, including 64% of the 81 species of indigenous freshwater fish. Threatened species of vertebrates comprise 36% of mammals, 49% of birds, 73% of amphibians and 48% of fish and hagfish.

At least nine breeds of indigenous domestic animals have been classified as endangered. In situ conservation is restricted to small areas in Slovenia, with most biodiversity conservation goals achieved through sustainable land use, such as low-intensity farming. Besides agriculture, forestry is the principal land use activity affecting biodiversity that has significant economic importance.

The benefits of vital ecosystems, such as a stronger and sustainable economy and positive impacts on human health, have been broadly recognized in the country. Ecosystem services in Slovenia include basic regulatory services (e.g. water quality, soil quality, air quality, natural hazard regulation). There are however numerous services specific to Slovenia (e.g. provision of food, production of timber and fuel, areas for recreation and ecotourism, carbon sequestration, provision of habitats for pollinators).

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

The main threats to biodiversity are driven by anthropogenic activities which result in habitat fragmentation and ecosystem degradation. The most prominent of these anthropogenic threats are the pressures caused by urbanization and the non-sustainable use of wetland ecosystems, inland waters, coastal and marine ecosystems, subterranean ecosystems and extensively cultivated cultural landscapes. In addition, the spread of invasive species, new diseases and climate change are beginning to impact Slovenia’s ecosystems and biodiversity more significantly. According to the recent report on the status of habitat types, inland waters and agricultural ecosystems are the most threatened habitat types in Slovenia. The main cause of a relatively poor status of many species in Slovenia is habitat loss due to human activity (fish, reptiles, and some arthropods are of greatest concern). The conservation status of more than 40% of vascular plants and more than 30% of mammals is favourable.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

Adopted in 2001, the first NBSAP’s overall objective was to gradually achieve a long-term vision by implementing a range of measures at all levels of operation. An updated NBSAP is currently in preparation and will cover all relevant Aichi Biodiversity Targets tailored to national circumstances. Its adoption is scheduled in 2015. The fundamental strategic document in the area of environment is the National Environmental Action Programme (NEAP). The second NEAP (2005) included a chapter titled “National Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Programme” detailing the extent of public interest in biodiversity conservation for the 2005-2015 period which contributed to CBD implementation.

In general, biodiversity in Slovenia has been relatively successfully mainstreamed in relevant sectoral and cross-sectoral strategies, plans and programmes. Key cross-cutting policy instruments, particularly the ones under review, and various sectors integrate biodiversity in their strategic documents. Biodiversity is also well integrated in planning mechanisms. However, continued mainstreaming and improved implementation of these provisions are needed. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a well established system in Slovenia. EIA has to be carried out for all plans or interventions that might impact on the environment. The draft National Development Strategy 2014-2020 defines prosperity as its main target while, at the same time, highlights that development should not be limited to economic growth only but also to preserving the country’s natural capital through investments in green infrastructure.

Forest management is regulated by the Law on Forests and the Forest Development Programme. In accordance with the law and adopted management plans, landowners are obliged to sustainably manage their forests.

The National Research and Development Programme and the reform Programme for the Implementation of the Lisbon Strategy are core strategic documents in the area of scientific research. Among others, these programmes contain directions for halting the loss of biodiversity and sustainable use of its components.

The fundamental strategic document of the energy sector is the National Energy Programme 2010-2030, whose vision is to create conditions for the country’s transition to a low-carbon society.

Regardless of measures adopted, especially in relation to the extended scope of protected areas and the establishment of the Natura 2000 site network, the general condition of biodiversity in Slovenia is still not satisfactory. The main objective of Natura 2000 is to preserve and increase biodiversity within the territory of the European Union for future generations by enabling responsible sustainable development and stimulating the traditional coexistence of people and nature. Following the accession of the Republic of Slovenia to the European Union in 2004, the Natura 2000 network became a major mechanism for biodiversity conservation in the country. Over the past ten years, 354 Natura 2000 areas have been designated (covering 37% of Slovenia’s territory). The new Natura 2000 Operational Programme 2014-2020 will provide the mandatory platform for the management of Natura 2000 sites and the preparation of a prioritized action framework for the corresponding financial period.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

In 2014, a separate budget line was established to support the activities for implementing the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets. In relation to Aichi Biodiversity Target 2, biodiversity has been relatively succesfully mainstreamed into relevant sectoral and cross-sectoral strategies and programmes (this will continue to be one of the key targets of the revised NBSAP).

One of the main measures taken for the conservation of biodiversity in Slovenia relates to the sustainable use of resources (Aichi Biodiversity Targets 3, 4, 7). These actions include a variety of initiatives, such as agri-environmental measures within the Rural Development Plan which aims to popularize farming practices that protect human health, ensure sustainable use of natural resources and preserve the biodiversity and typical features of Slovenian landscapes. The Rural Development Plan is currently being renewed. Adopted in 2006, the Action Plan for the Development of Organic Farming in Slovenia by 2015 is also relevant.

In relation to Aichi Biodiversity Target 9 (Invasive Alien Species), Slovenia is taking steps to identify and prioritise IAS and their pathways. The country has also made numerous efforts towards Aichi Biodiversity Targets 10 and 11 by building a strict spatial land use planning policy, which contributes to decreased degradation of natural habitats and has specific measures for biodiversity protection. Municipal spatial development strategies are also being prepared. A system of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is fully in place and being well implemented. Since 2004, an additional system on impact assessments has been in place for protected areas and Natura 2000 sites. Regarding Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, Slovenia exceeded the 17% baseline for terrestrial protected areas by far with almost 50% of the country being designated under different protection regimes, including 37% of the national territory covered by the Natura 2000 network. Slovenia established 47 National, Regional and Landscape Parks as well as numerous Nature Reserves and Natural Monuments. Slovenia also has three marine protected areas, one World Heritage Site (Škocjanske jame), two Man and Biosphere (MAB) areas (Karst, Julian Alps) and three Ramsar sites (Sečoveljske soline, Škocjanske jame, Cerkniško jezero z okolico).

In relation to Aichi Biodiversity Target 12 and the conservation of threatened species, all commercial activities, including export, import, sale, offer for sale, etc., are prohibited for nationally protected species as well as for EU or internationally protected species. In addition to the Nature Conservation Act, regulations on the protection of endangered wild flora and fauna were adopted in 2004 in order to transpose the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives in Slovenia’s legal system and have regularly been amended. According to these Directives, species found in Slovenia, including all native bird species, have to be maintained in the favorable conservation status. Because the country has many caves in karst areas, a Cave Protection Act was also adopted in 2004. The protection of autochthonous inland water fish species is addressed in 12-year management programmes and six-year action plans. Specific programmes on the repopulation of certain threatened fish species are being prepared. Due to collection pressures, special measures have been taken to protect alpine species. Slovenia signed the Nagoya Protocol in 2011 and its ratification is expected in 2015 (Aichi Biodiversity Target 16). As a member state of the EU, Slovenia will implement the common EU regulation to cover the obligations of users, while the area of access to genetic resources may additionally be regulated at the national level. Regarding Aichi Biodiversity Targets 17, 19 and 20, a revised NBSAP will pay particular attention to knowledge, science base and resource mobilisation.

Agri-environment payments that contribute towards achieving Aichi Biodiversity Targets 3, 7 and 13 include subsidies for organic farming, breeding of traditional breeds of domestic animals, and production of traditional varieties of agricultural plants, sustainable breeding of domestic animals, maintaining extensive grasslands, breeding of domestic animals in the central areas of occurrence of large carnivores, conservation of special grassland habitats, conservation of meadows outgrown with birch fern communities and bird conservation in extensive humid meadows at Natura 2000 sites. Small-scale farmers are involved in conservation through programmes of organic farming and through Natura 2000 public awareness programmes. There are also programmes supporting traditional farming in protected areas.

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

The Republic of Slovenia is a Party to all biodiversity-related MEAs concerned (Bern Convention, CBD, CITES, CMS (including relevant Agreements), International Whaling Commission (IWC), Ramsar Convention, World Heritage Convention). In 2004, Slovenia became a Member State of the EU and thus undertook commitments for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in accordance with the acquis of the Union.

EU environmental legislation, such as the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive, play a considerable part in supporting national implementation of the NBSAP in Slovenia, as well as in providing monitoring mechanisms for species conservation.

Nature conservation is, as a rule, mainly a non-profit activity by its nature, which must be provided by the state and local communities in line with their responsibilities. This definition places nature conservation activities within the public financing system that is generally implemented through the national budget. Relevant funds from the national budget are earmarked for conservation initiatives, but funding is also available through various funds, international governmental and non-governmental organizations, conventions secretariats and the European Union which has several financing instruments.

The results of the National Capacity Self-Assessment for the Global Environmental Management (NCSA) project for the three Rio conventions were published in 2005. There has also been great emphasis on hands-on field education and training through collaborative efforts between the National Education Institute and the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning. As a part of its activities, the Institute for Nature Conservation carries out systematic communication and training activities for its staff and partners. Managers, project leaders and media are involved in implementing the Institute’s guidelines on natural resource management. Three ministries are involved in the development, protection and management of landscapes: Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning, Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food.

As part of the NBSAP, biodiversity issues have been integrated in numerous sectoral and cross-sectoral areas such as agriculture (through the use of agri-environment payments), forestry, fisheries, water management, industry and energy, transport, and tourism

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

At the national level, the Biodiversity Working Group of the Council for Sustainable Development monitors to what degree the objectives of the NBSAP have been achieved. This working group is approved by the Council (following a proposal submitted by the Government). The Biodiversity Working Group also proposes amendments to the NBSAP. The members of the Biodiversity Working Group are representatives of key government sectors, associations of local communities, main non-governmental organisations and scientific institutions. The principle task of the Working Group is to incorporate the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity components into relevant sectoral and intersectoral plans. At the EU level, when appropriate, implementation of the NBSAP is presented at the meetings of the EU Council’s Working Party on International Environment Issues and at the meetings of the EU environment ministers. Under Article 17 of the Habitats Directive, EU Member States must report on implementation of measures laid down by this Directive every six years.