Nature protection and biodiversity - State and impacts ()

SOER 2010 Common environmental theme (Deprecated)
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SOER Common environmental theme from Montenegro.
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 11 May 2020

Picture 1 Map of Montenegro

Picture 1 Map of Montenegro

Source: Environmental Protection Agency of Montenegro

In terms of wealth of flora and fauna and diversity of ecosystems Montenegro is among the leading countries of Europe.The results of a monitoring programme suggest that adverse consequences for biodiversity are mostly visible in aquatic ecosystems and forests, and then in urban and agricultural areas. The vulnerability of different ecosystems differ and depends on the intensity of the anthropogenic causes of vulnerability. In that sense, the biggest pressure is on forest vegetation because of constant exploitation. Coastal ecosystems are also endangered because of changing these natural habitats through deveopment. Aquatic ecosystems are under pressure from different forms of pollution, which reduce their productivity.

The national network of protected areas currently covers 108 866 ha, or 7.88% of the territory of Montenegro, of which four national parks have the biggest impact: Durmitor, Skadar Lake, Lovcen and Biogradska Gora.

As a small European country and because of its geographical position, distribution, heterogeneity of habitats, topography, geological past and climate variations, Montenegro is characterised with high biodiversity in most taxonomic groups. Freshwater algae show a high level of diversity: 1 200 species and varieties so far described, including a group of siliceous algae (Bacillariophyta) and green algae. By far the most significant location for algae in Montenegro is Skadar lake. More than 300 classes of macro algae have been recorded in Montenegrin sea waters – and there are probably more) – of which the majority are red algae (Rhodophyta).


On the teritorry of Montenegro 589 species of Briophita have been recorded, which include 483 types of moss and 106 marrubium vulgare. This is more than in most of the surrounding countries, but this may be the result of limited research on these groups.The Balkan peninsula, which includes Montenegro, is the most diverse area of Europe for vascular plants, with 7 000-8 000 recorded species. There are 3 250 species  of vascular flora in Montenegro. The number of endemic species is also high – there are 392 Balkan (regional) endemic species, more than 7 % of the Montenegrin flora.

Terrestrial invertebrates are a very large group of animals with many types, of which many are poorly studied in Montenegro. Until now, the most studied types include molluscs with 323 recorded species: 136 types of terrestrial snails which are considered to have international significance, mostly endemic species; articulated worms, Oligochaeta with 27 recorded species. There are 16 000-20 000 estimated species of anthropoda, but it is estimated that the number of insect species is actually more than 25 000.

Data on marine invertebrates suggest relatively high diversity, but also a low degree of endemicity. For example, around 50 of 101 species of echinodermata which appear in the Adriatic sea in Montenegro have been recorded: 127 species of shells have been recorded in the inner part of Boka Kotorska (Kotor-Risan bay) with an estimated 250-300 species in Montenegrin waters; and 17 species of cephalopods have been recorded in an open part of the Montenegrin coast.

Among the most significant areas inhabitated by freshwater fish is Skadar Lake, where 40 species of fish have been recorded, including species which migrate from sea to the freshwater ecosystem, including eel (Anguilla anguilla), cubla (Alossa falax nilotica) and others. The diversity of fauna of saltwater fish in the Adriatic sea includes 117 recorded families, but a low level of endemism. Until now for Montenegro, 40 742 species of saltwater fish have been recorded, which represent around 70 % of the species recorded in the Mediterranean.

Montenegro has a diversity of coastal and aquatic amphibians and reptiles, including lizards, snakes, turtles, frogs, toad frogs and sea turtle. Till now 56 species – 18 species of amphbians and 38 species of reptiles – and 69 subspecies have been recorded from 38 genera, and the list is probably not final. The mountain regions of Lovcen and Prokletija are paticular hot spots of diversity of amphbians and reptiles.

The location of Montenegro along long paths of migration – the Adriatic route of migrating birds – and its diversity of natural habitats result in a high diversity of bird species. Of all 526 European bird species, 333 are regularly present in Montenegro. As a significant habitat of water birds, Skadar Lake was included in the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance in 1996.

Montenegro has a rich fauna of mammals with the highest number in forested mountains in the north. Apart from the investigation of some species, for example brown bear (Ursus arctos) and bats in Ulcinj and the area of Arsenal, and assessments of the scale and types of hunting made by hunting organisations, there are no systematic data on sizes of populations of mammals.

Adding together national (108 866 ha) and international (237 899 ha) protected national areas, regardless of the existence and forms of management, and avoiding overlapping/doubling, there are 252 459 ha under protection, which represents 18,27 % of the state territory.

With 3 250 species of plants found in high numbers, Montenegro is one of the most diverse areas for flora, which can be compared only with Greece and Bulgaria. The situation is similar for the index for density of nesting birds which is 0.557 for Montenegro, higher than the whole Balkan peninsula (0.435).

Agriculture is a relatively large part of Montenegrin GDP, 11.3 %, and rests directly upon biological diversity, through provision of food – meat, vegetables, etc. – and materials – leather, wool, etc. – while the diversity of exploited species, agri-biodiversity, contributes to food security. Under current economic development conditions , agriculture remains a low productivity sector based on a large number, 60 043, of private holdings covering around 96.3 % of arable and livestock land. Holding companies and cooperatives cover 7 040 ha of arable area, of which 828 ha are fields, 376 ha orchards, 1 891 ha vineyards and 3 945 ha meadows (Table 1). Of the total surface area, forests and forest land cover 744 000 ha or 54 % of the state teritorry, of which 621 000 ha are forested – 45 % of the state territory, while 123 000 ha are bare forest soil – 9 %. Together with Scandinavian countries with 0.9ha of forest per citizen, Montenegro is one of the  countries with most forests with great potential for recreation and tourism. Forests and forest land in state holdings cover 500 000 ha or 67 % of the total while forests and forest grounds in private holdings cover 244 000 ha or 33 %. Total growing stock in the forests of Montenegro is estimated at 72 million m3, of which 29.5 million or 41 % is conifers and 42.5 million or 59 % is deciduous. Forests for expoitation cover 348 000 ha or 81 % of all forests, while protected forests covers 66 000 ha or 16 %, with forests in national parks covering 12 975ha or 3 %.


Table 1. Land use by holding companies and cooperatives


            828 ha            


            376 ha


           1 891 ha


           3 945 ha


Table 2. Representation of forest types


Area covered


State of Montenegro

13 812 sq km



621 000ha


Bare forest soil

123 000ha


Total forests and forest lands

744 000 ha


State property

500 000 ha


Private holdings

244 000 ha


Forest for growing stocks

348 000ha


Protected forests

66 000 ha


National parks forests

12 975ha



Despite being exposed to numerous pressures, biodiversity and other natural and landscape values in Montenegro are largely preserved. The most significant pressures include the direct use of natural resourses, intense and unbalanced development of tourism and urbanisation, conversion of some habitats into semi-natural and artificial land, and wastewater and solid waste pollution. The nationally protected area is 7.72 % which is mostly composed of four national parks. A significant part of the teritorry, 17.2 %, is internationally protected as being of exceptional natural and cultural value, or as wetlands of international significance – under the criteria, respectively, of the UNESCO World Natural and Cultural Heritage and Man and Biosphere Reserve Commission programme and the Ramsar Convention. Although previous protection has essentially covered all key areas of biodiversity – biocentres and biocorridors – EMERALD and Natura 2000 have not been implemented.

Finally, knowledge of biodiversity is not systematic, and is scattered throughout the expert and scientific literature; thus, there are insufficient scientific inventories of numerous taxonomic groups. Monitoring of the state of biodiversity is not sufficient and does not provide the necessary level of information.


The ministries in charge of environment and health should work together with public health institutions to determine priority environmental health risks, develop well-targeted policies and campaigns to remove them, as in the case of phasing-out lead in petrol, and integrate environmental health objectives into overall development plans. Health effects should be used as an important factor in setting priorities and schedules for adoption and implementation of EU environmental standards.


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

Filed under: SOER2010, biodiversity
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