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Bosnia and Herzegovina

Nature protection and biodiversity (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Why should we care about this issue

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a part of the Balkan Peninsula characterised by great abundance in terms of the diversity of its genes, species and eco-systems.

Several factors have led to the development of the unique plant and animal life in the Dinaric Alps of Bosnia and Herzegovina: a unique process of bedrock formation, the types of soil, the relief, the ecoclimate and the water table, to name but a few. The isolation of distinct habitats, such as cliffs, canyons and the highest mountain peaks has resulted in the development of special types that are specific to certain areas. In fact, the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina has acted as a dispersal centre for some types of flora that have expanded to other parts of the Balkan peninsula. 

Refugio-relict habitats represent the most unique element of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s environment, created during the formation of the Earth’s crust, geogenesis and the evolution of both climate and the living world. These habitats were the least altered during the period between pre- and post-glaciation and have preserved their natural ecological qualities. They contain many tertiary plant and animal species which were subject to drastic climate changes during the last glaciation period. Species living in these refugia are considered to be relicts. These types of habitat, where numerous tertiary relict species of plants and animals live, are of the greatest importance for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s biodiversity, and also for global biodiversity. Tertiary relict ecosystems in Bosnia and Herzegovina are located mainly in canyons, cliffs and on the steep slopes of mountains in the basins of the Una, Vrbas, Bosna, Drina and Neretva rivers.

A state assessment carried out as part of the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) project emphasised the following characteristics of landscapes and biological diversity: 

  • High level of genetic, species and ecosystem diversity
  • Well-preserved landscape diversity units important on a European and global scale
  • Significant degree of change in terms of the distribution and composition of climax ecosystems
  • Trend towards loss of biological and landscape diversity, caused by a wide spectrum of anthropogenous factors.

In addition to the diversity of endemic and relict taxa, nature management in Bosnia and Herzegovina prioritises the protection of: 

  • Habitats outside their usual distribution range and rare habitats (bogs, salt marshes, mountain sources, sea cliffs, small marshes, caves, etc.)
  • Karst ecosystems as natural phenomena (karst fields, sinking rivers, caves, karsts) ;
  • Ecosystems in relict black pine woods on different foundations (limestone, dolomite, ophiolite, tuff).

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Genetic diversity of crops and livestock

The diversity of the eco-climate has supported a varied and well-preserved group of genetic resources in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Factors that determine genetic diversity on a national scale are:

  • Heterogeneity of ecosystems and landscapes in Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Unique processes and levels of cultural diversity
  • Historical process of habitation
  • Influence of other civilisations from both east and west.


The diversity of herbal genetic resources is considered a significant gene pool, based on information concerning the rich variety of vegetables, fruits and cereals in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is reflected in the many types of cherries (Prunus avium: alice, ašlame, hašlamuše, hrušćovi, crnice, bjelice); plums (Prunus domesticus: bijele, prskulje, mrkulje, savke); pears (Pyrus sp.: ječmenke, krivočke, mednjače, takiše, bijeli karamut, crni karamut, krupnjače, jeribasme); apples (Malus sp.: petrovače, golubače, šarenike, zelenike, senabije, šahmanuše, krompiruše, crvenike etc.), as well as sour cherries, apricots, peaches, almonds, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and currants.

During the long period in which various civilisations have inhabited the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, many animal breeds have been domesticated. The majority have evolved as distinct ecotypes, today clearly separated and even isolated, and they now form the general gene pool of domestic animals. There is a high level of diversity among the various breeds of horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, dogs and pigeons.

A large proportion of the indigenous gene pool of breeds and species has already vanished. For this reason, urgent action is now required to make an inventory and ensure conservation of the remaining herbal and animal genetic resources.

The available genetic diversity represents an outstanding resource and great potential for the production of healthy and high-quality foods, as well as for the cultivation of various types of fruits, vegetables and cereals and healthy breeds of animals.

Species diversity

The process of preparing Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first report under the Convention on Biodiversity represented the first assessment of the country's total plant, animal and ecosystem diversity. Based on data in literature and current knowledge of the distribution of species, plant diversity is estimated as follows: 

Table 1. - Assessment of plant diversity in Bosnia and Herzegovina













































Based on the actual knowledge of the animal kingdom, biodiversity was assessed by phylogenetic groups, as shown in Table 2:

Table 2. – Assessment of animal diversity in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Animal group




Threatened species in BiH

Threatened species in Europe

Endemic species in BiH































51 (2?)

85 (+2?)






319 (2?)

588 (2?)





Unfortunately, there is no established for monitoring the population status of species. However, research that includes the status of populations, number, indicator values, etc. is occasionally carried out for certain species in order to acquire knowledge of their ecological range. These data provide the basis for the future monitoring system.

Research is also occasionally conducted on certain types of ecosystems in order to acquire knowledge of their structure and dynamics. However, a national list of indicators for regular monitoring of the environment has never been established.

Invasive species

Among the invasive species in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the most common are: Asclepias siriaca, Helianthus tuberosus, Solidago gigantea, Tagetes minuta, Amorpha fruticosa, Robinia pseudacacia, Phytolaca americana, Reynoutria japonica, Ailanthus altissima and Impatiens glandulifera. The majority of these species live in ravines, cuttings, wood clearings and similar kinds of habitat.

Certain species (Asclepias syriaca, Helianthus tuberosus and Amorpha fruticosa) have a negative effect on the habitats of hygrophilous woods of willow, alder and poplar, which  are particularly common in the Posavina area of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hygrophilous ecosystems are now under severe threat as a result of invasion by alien species. 

Animal alien species are mainly types of fish that have escaped from fish farms or found their way into adjacent rivers and lakes. Natural and artificial lakes are the types of habitat that are easily invaded by alien species. Gudgeon (Gobio gobio) is one of the most significant invasive fish species in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

The goldfish (Carassius auratus gibelio) is often found in warmer hydro-accumulation areas. In the hydro-accumulation of the Neretva river there are carp (Cyprinus carpio) which are becoming highly abundant. Due to a poor living conditions, the Californian trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) has fled from many fish farms, while the Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) has also been introduced into the Neretva river and its hydro-accumulations. 

Invasive fish species have significantly disturbed the ecosystem structure of many watercourses. This has endangered the endemic gene pool of species such as Neretva's own soft-muzzled trout (Salmothymus obtusirostris oxyrhynchus). Through the arrival of invasive species, endemic species, such as Paraphoxinus metohiense and Leuciscus svallize have now become endangered in karsts and underground rivers.


The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010


The one event which still has consequences and effects on all areas of society in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the 1992-1995 war. The state of biodiversity and the war are linked through the management of natural resources which, according to the terms of the Dayton Agreement, came under the jurisdiction of the separate entities. For this reason, even today a consolidated nature management policy does not exist in Bosnia and Herzegovina, neither is there a unique institutional organisation or a functional network for nature protection.

While the functionality of the institutional framework is one aspect of the effects of war, another is the fact that large areas of land are still mined and unavailable for management. Mined areas are also the reason for migration from rural to urban areas, abandonment of the land and traditional agricultural practices and the weak development of eco-tourism.

In the post-war period, society in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been undergoing an intense process of ownership transition. However, it is necessary to emphasise that the transition process began with the creation of a new state in an economy destroyed by war. This difficult ownership transition process has also significantly affected the status of biodiversity too. One of the most obvious examples is the construction of mini hydro-power plants in areas that used to be protected in the pre-war period.

According to a study in 2004 by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), domestic nutritional products cover 35-40 % of the country's needs, which is much less than before the war (60 %). Apart from potatoes, Bosnia and Herzegovina does not produce any important agricultural products in the required quantity. Moreover, the age structure of those employed in agriculture has changed as young people have begun to leave the countryside and move to cities and abroad, in search of a better life. According to records from 2004, 33-50 % of arable land in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska remains unused.

Power production comes mainly from the use of the country's own resources - hydroenergy and coal. Development of the energy sector, especially over the last 50 years, has been contributing to the visible destruction and degradation of entire areas of diverse habitats.

The lack of a clear and consistent framework for sustainable land use over the last 50 years has become more obvious in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed. This results from an unbalanced process of urbanisation. The unplanned expansion of urban and rural areas is accompanied by the construction of communication systems and the conversion of arable land and woodland which is often of outstanding natural value.

Before the war, apart from the massive development in connection with the Winter Olympic Games (Sarajevo, 1984), Bosnia and Herzegovina had mainly developed its capacity for transit tourism. However, Bosnia and Herzegovina also has great potential for eco-tourism and sustainable tourism, which includes mountain tourism, rafting, spa visits and cultural tourism. 

The 2003 National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) envisages the establishment of a number of protected areas and the development of ecotourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, the Plan has not been implemented extensively due to difficult socio-economic conditions.


During the preparation of Bosnia and Herzegovina's first report under the Convention on Biodiversity various types of pressures were identified on particular groups of organisms, certain ecosystems and landscapes.

Pressures on species and ecosystem diversity on a national scale:

  • Habitat conversion
  • Unsustainable use of resources
  • Logging, hunting and poaching
  • Permanent pollution of all environmental spheres
  • Devastation and destruction of ecosystems
  • Degradation and fragmentation of ecosystems
  • Disturbance of the wilderness
  • Unsustainable gathering of economically-important species
  • Uncontrolled use of pesticides and fertilisers
  • Uncontrolled introduction of alien species
  • Uncontrolled introduction of and manipulation using GMOs     


Pressures affecting the diversity of the landscape:

  • Construction of infrastructure
  • Construction of traffic networks
  • Construction of power facilities (hydro-accumulation, power plants, power transmission, pipelines, gas lines etc.)
  • Construction of water supply facilities (catchment areas, trenches, dam lakes, retention basins, etc.)
  • Agricultural activities (melioration, replotting, exhausting of habitats through monoculture, use of pesticides and fertilisers)
  • Uncontrolled urbanisation
  • Imbalance between development goals and sectors.


The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010
Over the past few years, while preparing the NBSAP document for the first time, three strategic directions have been identified for preserving the biodiversity of genes, species and ecosystems in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Strategic direction 1: Decrease biodiversity loss

Target 1.1 Conservation of ecosystems and landscape diversity

Target 1.2 Conservation of species diversity

Target 1.3 Conservation of gene diversity

Strategic direction 2: Set up a conservation system and ensure sustainable use of biodiversity

Target 2.1 Arrange financing to support the system for conservation of biodiversity

Target 2.2 Set up efficient institutional framework

Target 2.3 Adopt an inter-sectoral approach to nature management

Target 2.4 Exchange scientific and technological information in the field of biodiversity

Target 2.5 Maintain traditional knowledge and practices.

Strategic direction 3: Decrease pressures on biodiversity

Target 3.1 Control habitat conversion

Target 3.2 Monitor the effects of global climate change

Target 3.3 Control invasive species in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Target 3.4 Raise public awareness

Implementation of the NBSAP document has not yet begun in Bosnia and Herzegovina. For this reason it is premature to discuss the extent to which objectives have been realised. The Strategy was prepared for the period 2008-2015. However, as the document has not yet been adopted, the results will be delayed. Once the NBSAP has been implemented, this will imply a significant change in the state of biodiversity in the future.


Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

The preparation of Bosnia and Herzegovina's NBSAP document (Strategy and Action Plan for the Protection of Biological and Landscape Diversity of Bosnia and Herzegovina 2008-2015) is extremely important for the country. Not only will it improve the state of biodiversity, but also other related aspects such as sustainable development, perhaps even helping to pave the way towards negotiations for accession to the European Union.

Since its finalisation in 2008, the document has successfully passed through the phases of public consultation and expert review and is currently in the adoption phase. According to the official procedure in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is necessary for the Strategy to obtain approval by the governments of both entities before it can be adopted at state level.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a clear intention to join the European Union. To this end, in recent years the country has been working to transpose  European legislation into national law. Thus, the principles of the EU Habitats Directive and Birds Directive have been embedded into the nature protection laws of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently preparing a new law on nature protection which will be more similar to European law on nature protection.



The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

European Environment Agency (EEA)
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1050 Copenhagen K
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