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Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

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Nature protection and biodiversity (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)

Why should we care about this issue

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Brief overview of the abundance of biological diversity

The abundance of ecosystems, habitats, communities and species places the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at the very top of the list of countries with impressive biodiversity in Europe (‘hot spot’). Based on the available scientific research, it has been established that several ecosystem types are present in the Republic: wetland, shore, grassland, highland, steppe-like, forest and mountain, of which wetland, dryland/grassland, forest and mountainous are the key ecosystems. More than 260 flora communities have been recorded with dominance of grass and forest communities. Species diversity is represented by more than 16 000 taxa of wild flora, fungi and fauna. The fact that more than 900 regionally endemic species, among which 850 are truly endemic, exist in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is of particular importance.

Two bio-geographic regions can be distinguished: continental and Alpine, and one sub-region: sub-Mediterranean. Depending on the location and height above the sea level, eight climatic vegetation and soil zones are distinguished. Two areas are distinguished in the sub-Mediterranean belt: the sub-Mediterranean area – 50-500 metres above sea level (masl.) – covering a surface area of 800 000 ha and the continental sub-Mediterranean area – 501-600 masl – with an area of 97 000 ha, more 35 % of the sub-Mediterranean belt. Four areas are distinguished in the continental belt: the hot continental area of 601-900 masl with a surface area of 740 000 ha, 27.4 % of the total; the cold continental area of 901-1 100 masl with a surface area of 342 000 ha, 13.3 % of the total; the lowland mountainous area of 1 101-1 300 masl with a surface area of 250 000 ha, 9.7 of the total; and the mountainous continental area of 1 301-1 650 masl with an area of 269 000 ha, 10.4 % of the total. Two areas are distinguished in the Alpine belt: the sub-Alpine area of 1 651-2 250 masl with an area of 97 000 ha, 3.8 % of the belt and the Alpine mountainous area of more than 2 250 masl with an area of 13 000 ha, just 0.5 % of the total belt.

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011
Key message

  • Under the legally regulated procedure for the protection of natural sites with nature value, six categories of natural heritage sites have been established;
  • CORINE biotopes with 77 Corine sites and the National Emerald Network of the Republic ­ with 35 Emerald areas and 11 protected areas included in the Republic’s green belt as part of the Balkan green belt ­ have been established;
  • the number of protected areas has risen during the past decade, from 7.4 % of the national territory in 1991 to 8.7 % in 2008.
  • the protected areas coverage is 2 220.5 km2;
  • degradation of natural habitats and reductions of the areas of endemic, relict and rare species of flora and native fungi have been recorded;
  • there has been a slight decrease in the populations of several species of migratory waterfowl in lake, river and swamp habitats, as well as a decrease in the populations of  the four globally threatened birds of prey (eagles and vultures) and globally threatened mammals (bats, otter, badger, etc.);
  • the amendments of the law on hunting (2008) have provided for an increased number of wild animal species (game) to acquire the status of permanently protected wild species;
  • the effect of implementation of the amendments to the 2008 law of hunting is positive. Hunters are supporting activities for permanent protection of endangered wild species.


Data on the number and area of protected areas is presented in the table 1.

Table 1. Number and area of protected areas, 1948-1998

Year protected

Number of protected areas


(in ha)

% of the total national territory



131 599




52 538




184 137


According to the data presented above, 11 areas and objects were protected in the period between 1948 and 1960 as natural rarities on the basis of the Law on Protection of Monuments of Culture and Natural Rarities applicable in that period, with a total surface area of 131 599 – 5.11 % of the national territory. Under the Law on Natural Rarities Protection enacted in 1960 and its amendments of 1965 and 1973, a further 58 objects were protected, resulting in the total number of protected areas and objects reaching 69 with a total area of 184 137 ha – 7.16% of the territory of the Republic.

With the establishment of a separate Ministry of Environment in December 1998, the process of natural heritage protection continued in the period 1999-2008. Adoption of the Law on Nature Protection in 2004, incorporating the European directives related to natural heritage protection, has been of particular significance. Data on protected areas in this period is presented in Table 2.

Table 2. Number and area of protected areas, 2008 status

Protected area


area (in km2)

% of national territory

National park


1 130


Strict nature reserve




Landscape of outstanding natural characteristics




Individual flora and fauna species




Monument of nature




Multi-purpose area








Data in Table 2 indicate that protected areas occupy around 8.7 % of the national territory. The majority of them are national parks – around 4.4 % of the national territory – followed by monuments of nature at around 2.5 % and the Jasen multi-purpose area of around 1.1 % of national territory. A relatively small area of 0.5 % is strict nature reserves, the smallest being around 0.1 % of the Republic. Each landscape category has outstanding natural characteristics and individual flora and fauna species.

At present, the first three categories of protected area – strict nature reserve, national park and monument of nature – have been established and there is only one multi-purpose area (Jasen), while the fourth and the fifth categories of protected area – nature park and protected landscape – have not yet been established. Upon finalisation of a re-evaluation of the natural heritage of the Republic, the objects of nature included in the categories of landscape of outstanding natural characteristics and individual flora and fauna species will be incorporated into the six categories of protected areas under the Law on Nature Protection.[1]

[1] Under the Law on Nature Protection, the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning is obliged, within six months from the day of implementation of this law, to carry out a re-evaluation of areas protected prior to the the application of this law and to prepare new acts for declaration in accordance with the relevant provisions. Due to this, the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, Administration for Environment is carrying out intensive activities to conduct the procedure of the Government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for declaration of new or redeclaration of existing protected areas. Within this context, the site of Kuklica near Kratovo has already been declared as a nature monument; re-declaration has been carried out for Markovi Kuli (King Marko's Towers) and Smolare Waterfalls as monuments of nature, as well as re-designation of part of the Pelister Mountain as a National Park. Activities for declaration/re-declaration of around ten objects of nature are in progress in the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning.




At the international level, UNESCO listed the Ohrid region as a world cultural and natural heritage site in1979, while the Tentative List has included the monuments of nature Markovi Kuli and the Cave of Slatino Springs since 2004. The responsible state authority for coordination of environmental activities for integral protection of the Ohrid region’s UNESCO status is the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning (MEPP), and, at the regional level. the Division for the Protection of Ohrid Lake and the Hydrobiological Institute – Ohrid (monitoring and research). Separately, the Ministry of Culture and the Regional Institute and Museum in Ohrid are responsible for cultural and heritage activities.

Ramsar Site

The Ramsar List of wetlands of international importance includes Prespa Lake (1995) and Dojran Lake (2008). The responsible authority for coordination of activities for protection of the natural heritage and biological diversity conservation are MEPP and the National Ramsar Committee. Monitoring and research at two Ramsar sites is organised by the Institute of Biology, the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Skopje, the Hydrobiological Institute – Ohrid and the Bird Study and Protection Society of Macedonia (NGO).


Map 1 National Emerald Network of the Republic of Macedonia

Data source
Map 1 National Emerald Network of the Republic of Macedonia
Fullscreen image Original link

National Emerald Network

In accordance with the provisions of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern, 1979) and the Law on Nature Protection, four projects that aim to establish the National Emerald Network in the Republic were implemented between 2002 and 2008. This was an important enabling activity/mechanism for the establishment of a coherent European  Natura 2000 network (Table 3).

Table 3. Identified Emerald sites, 2002-2008

Period of identification

Number of identified sites


(in ha)

% of the planned national Emerald network

First project  (2002-2003)


27 660


Second project (2004)


28 000


Third project  (2005-2006)


144 783


Fourth project (2008)


556 447




756 890


Thirty-five sites have been identified in the National Emerald network of areas of special importance for conservation. Under the first project implemented in 2002-2003, three areas were identified: SNR Ezerani, NP Galicica and MN Dojran Lake, with a total area of 27 660 ha –3.6% of the total network. Under the second project implemented in 2004, three more areas were identified: SNR Tikves, NP Pelister, and MN Demir Kapija, with a total area of 28 000 ha –3.8% of the total network. Under the third project implemented in 2005-2006, 10 areas were identified with a total area of 144 783 ha – 19.1%, and under the fourth project implemented in 2008, 19 areas were identified with a total area of 556 447 ha – the remaining 73.5%. By this, the National Emerald Network comprises 35 sites covering 752 223 ha or 29 % of the Republic’s territory.

For the purpose of compatibility of the National Emerald Network with Natura 2000, the areas have been categorised into three types:

A.    Important Wild Bird Area corresponding to Special protected areas (SPAs) for birds under Natura 2000. Four areas have been included in the Emerald network.

B.     Important wild species and habitats area corresponding to Special areas for conservation (SACs) under Natura 2000. Five areas have been included in the Emerald network.

C.     Important bird, other species and habitats areas – 26 areas have been included in the Emerald network.



Balkan Green Belt

Within the framework of the activities of the IUCN concerning the initiative for establishment of the Balkan Green Belt, the Republic’s part of the green belt was established in 2004 in its border regions with Bulgaria, Greece and Albania (Map 2).

The Republic’s Green Belt includes 11 protected areas: the three National Parks Pelister, Mavrovo and Galicica; three natural lakes, which are also Monuments of nature - Ohrid, Prespa and Dojran; a Strict nature reserve - Ezerani (Prespa Lake); Monuments of nature – Vevcani springs, Smolare waterfall, Kolesino waterfall; and a floral site - Majdan.

The goal of the initiative is to link the protected areas in South Eastern Europe to provide integrated protection of nature and biodiversity and promote cooperation between countries for the protection of natural heritage.

In total 42 areas have been identified in the Republic as the most important plant habitats (IPA), 77 sites as Corine biotopes, 14 important bird areas (IBA) and 8 important butterfly areas (ILA). Parts of the protected areas cover important plant habitats, the most important bird areas and important butterfly areas, and constitute part of Corine biotopes.

Main components of biodiversity in the Republic of Macedonia

The main components of biodiversity in the Republic have been determined in accordance with the international criteria of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). The status of preservation of ecosystems, habitat types and species have been analysed by scientists in development of the Country Study for Biological Diversity of the Republic (MEPP, 2003) and the National Strategy for Biological Diversity Action Plan (MEPP, 2004).

Habitat types

In research carried out so far in the framework of the projects on CORINE biotopes, Catalogue of aquatic habitats, Emerald Network and PEEN, 32 habitat types have been identified.

Vegetation communities

The number of vegetation communities in the Republic is high – more than 270.  Forest wood communities dominate with more than 55 % of the total, followed by grass communities, lake and river vegetation communities, with swamp communities and temporal communities being the smallest areas.  The analysis of the structure of forest communities shows that Quercus coccifera and Caprinus betulus communities are dominant – 35 %, followed by Quercus pubescens and Caprinus betulus– 27.5 %, Quercus petraea – 13.5 %, then highland beech (Fagus silvatica)- ,10.6 %, lowland beech (Fagus silvatica), 9.7 %, five-leaved pine (Pinus peuce)  and Macedonian pine (Pinus mugos)- 3.8%.

Wetland vegetation communities are represented in running and standing waters. Floating and submersed plant communities in the three natural lakes are of particular significance. Swamp plant communities have been preserved in a fragmentary form in major swamps and marshes. Thirteen swamp plant communities dominated by reed-mace, reed, and other species are especially significant.

Species diversity

Species diversity includes more than 16 000 wild species in several groups: bacteria, lichens, fungi, mosses, higher plants, invertebrate and vertebrate animals, 853 of which are endemic (Table 4).

Table 4. Abundance of wild species

Taxonomic group

Number of species




2 198






1 250








Peat mosses










3 200



7 486















Segmented worm






Nemertine worms







8 234


Vertebrate (Chordates)




9 370


Total (flora and fauna):

17 604


Flora diversity of 7486 species is dominated by more than 3 200 higher plants species, followed by algae – 2 169 species, fungi – more than 1 250 species, mosses – 398 species and lichens – 354 species. Other groups are represented by small numbers of species.

Fauna diversity of 10 354 species is dominated by invertebrates, namely arthropods –8234 species, roundworms – 613 species and molluscs – 366 species. There are also 535 species vertebrates animals. There are 308 species and 20 subspecies of birds, 82 mammals, 78 indigenous fish species, 32 species and 8 subspecies of reptile and 15 amphibians species and 2 subspecies.

It is also notable that the number of endemic animal species, 602, is far greater than the number of endemic plant species – 251.

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Key threats to ecosystems, habitats and wild species

Based on the assessments conducted in different projects and studies, several reasons for threats to biodiversity have been identified. These include loss of natural ecosystems and especially habitats due to their modification and fragmentation. In this context, the most significant changes are occurring in aquatic habitats – natural lakes, swamps and marshes, and in specific sections of major rivers. Grassland ecosystems have also changed significantly, with large areas in ravine parts having been transformed into arable land.

Status of threat to ecosystems, habitats and wild species

Uncontrolled anthropogenic activities have negative impacts on and continue to negatively influence the survival of ecosystems, habitat types and especially populations and spread of wild species. As well as by degradation of land and vegetation, threats are also induced by over-use of biological resources, mostly for commercial purposes. Thus, high number of indigenous medicinal plants and native fungi are under threat: Orchis spp., Gentiana lutea, Gentiana punctata, bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) Adonis vernalis, Polipodium vulgare, Boletus pinikola, Boletus edulus, Boletus aereus, and Morchella spp. Among diatom algae (Bacillariophyta), more than 110 species are under threat. Among lichens, 12 species are under threat, as are 12 species of ferns and 20 species of mosses. Of native fungi, 67 species are under threat.

For fauna diversity, groups of day butterflies, stream crab and crayfish, river and lake shells, and 115 vertebrate species are also under threat. The most endangered group among the last of these is fish of which as many as 30 native species are threatened – Macedonian stream trout (Salmo macedonicus ), Pelister trout (Salmo peristericus), Pelagonian trout (Salmo pelagonicus), Ohrid trout (salmo letnica), Struga trout (Salmo balcanicus), Prespa bleak (Alburnus belvica), Prespa barbell (Barbus prespensis), Macedonian barbell (Barbus macedonicus), Prespa minnow (Pelasgus prespensis). The Prespa carp (Ciprinus carpio prespensis) is critically threatened as are Stream and lake crayfish and Macedonian sand-hopper. Due to illegal collection, populations of terrestrial snails – the edible snails Helix pomatia and Helix figulina; terrestrial turtles – the spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca) and Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni); aquatic turtles and nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) have been affected, and the sharp-headed viper is under threat. As a consequence of poaching, more than 60 bird species are threatened, including six species of birds of eagles and vultures. Among mammals, bats, lynx, otter and badger are under threat.

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Current plans, especially the National Strategy for Biodiversity Action Plan, NEAP 2, the Spatial Plan of the Republic, the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, the National Strategy for Rural Areas Development, etc., envisage a significant increase in protected areas and their integrated protection through capacity building with management bodies and the adoption and implementation of management plans in the coming period – 2010-2020 (Table 5).


2009 status Prospect: 2010-2020  Aggregate
Category of protected area (PA) Number of PAs Area
% of the national territory Number of proposed PAs Area
% of the national territory Number of PAs Area
% of the national territory
NP 3 108.388 4.21 2 79.858 3.105 5 188.246 7.321
SNR 2 12.08 0.47 6 952 0.037 8 13.682 0.532
SRNR / / / 38 11.836 0.46 38 11.836 0.46
LONC 3 2.338 0.09 3 11.628 0.452 6 13.966 0.543
CL / / / 1 200 0.007 1 200 0.007
ONR / / / 26 5.155 0.2 26 5.155 0.2
IFFS 14 2.647 0.1 / / / 14 2.647 0.102
MN 47 58.084 2.26 118 3.147 0.122 165 61.231 2.381
Total: 69 184.187 7.16 194 112.776 4.38 263 296.963 11.546

According to current projections, 194 areas and objects of nature will be protected by 2020 reaching a total of 263 protected areas and objects, in all 296 963 km2 or 11.5 % of the Republic.

The establishment of the Natura 2000 and National Ecological Network is of particular importance as this will create conditions for full achievement of international criteria, as well as the requirements of the relevant EU acquis concerning the protection of natural heritage and conservation of biological diversity in the Republic.

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

The basic legal act regulating the protection of the natural heritage is the Law on Nature Protection (Official Gazette Nos.67/04, 14/06 and 84/07). Under this, the system of protected areas was established for the purpose of protecting biological diversity within natural habitats, natural processes, as well as abiotic characteristics and landscape diversity. By declaring an area protected, it acquires the status of natural heritage.

The Law on Nature Protection, which incorporates the criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for protected areas categorisation, provides for the establishment of the following six categories of protected areas:

      1. Strict nature reserve

      2. National park

      3. Monument of nature

      4. Nature park

      5. Protected landscape

      6. Multi-purpose area.

The Ib-area – wilderness – is the only IUCN category that has not yet been introduced.

Natura 2000

The Natura 2000 Network in the European context is a continuation of the process of establishing the Pan-European Ecological Network and national ecological networks. It consists of SPAs declared under the Directive concerning wild bird protection (ЕЕС 79/409) and Special SACs declared under the Directive on natural habitats, wild fauna and flora (ЕЕС 92/43). Taking into account that the criteria for the identification of Emerald sites under the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats are compatible with those for establishment of areas of Natura 2000 (EU Bird Directive and EU Habitat Directive), the establishment of Natura 2000 sites has been significantly advanced. Future steps in this process will be specified in the Action Plan that is under elaboration.


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

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