Nature protection and biodiversity - Drivers and pressures (Poland)

SOER 2010 Common environmental theme (Deprecated) expired
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SOER Common environmental theme from Poland
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 21 Mar 2015

Poland has long traditions of protecting the natural environment. It has successfully set in place a series of mechanisms that favour the protection and conservation of biodiversity. However, it has not been possible to avoid the threats to biodiversity posed by modern civilisation. Particularly serious issues which need to be resolved if further progress is to be made in protecting biodiversity include: the strong degradation of the natural environment in areas previously and/or currently subjected to increased anthropogenic pressure, and the decline in biodiversity observed in intensively farmed agricultural land. The gradual modernisation of farming in Poland, excluding large areas of light soils from farming and the general availability of modern crop seeds pose a threat to local populations and old varieties of all crop plants. Another factor that threatens biodiversity is increasing pressure from tourism on areas of high natural value. Tourism, along with other economic activities, can degrade the environment, destabilise the way its resources operate, and thereby upset the mechanisms by which they can be used in the process of creating and offering tourist products. It is estimated that tourism makes a 5-7 % contribution to degrading the natural environment, compared with 60 % for industry and 15 % for agriculture. The dangers from tourism are increasing in the more popular areas, places of large-scale recreation, where norms for permitted tourist impact are flouted. Areas that are under particular threat of this kind of degradation are the Baltic coastline, the Mazurian Lakes, and the Tatra and Karkonosze Mountains. Encroaching urbanisation and infrastructure development (in particular linear infrastructure) resulted in the loss and degradation of natural habitats through shrinking farmland around big cities.

Another problem is the increasing threat of invasive alien species, which is the result mainly of global trade, transport and tourism, which makes it easier for alien species to be introduced and multiply in the environment. Alien species have been considered a substantial threat to native biodiversity for many years. It is estimated that over 30 % of all fish and over 10 % of all mammals in Poland are alien species introduced deliberately or accidentally. The native flora is also affected by this problem. The flora of Poland consists of some 2 935 species that are or have become native species, 445 of them of alien origin, of which 290 species are kenophytes (plants introduced to Poland after 1500).

Fig. 7: Proportions of species introduced deliberately, accidentally or the reason for whose introduction in Poland is not known (source: IOP PAN)

Information on alien species has been collected by the Polish Academy of Sciences Nature Conservation Institute in a database available on the internet. In 1999, the Natural Conservation Institute started work on a database of ‘Alien species in Poland’. This database initially contained some 233 alien species. In 2003, this was supplemented and made available on the Internet in Polish and English at: 

In 2008, the database contained a total of 791 alien species of plants, animals and fungi. Information has been collected for some of them regarding their biology and the reasons, time and place of introduction to Poland, current location and population trends, as well as their impact on native species, habitats and ecosystems. It has also been determined whether some species need to be controlled, and methods of population control suggested.

Of the total woodland species, around one-third are species whose survival depends on having a sufficient quantity of deadwood. Forestry is currently undergoing a process of transformation towards multifunctionality. These changes are reflected in records on protecting the forests (Forestry Rules), which recommend that as much of 10 % of the volume of wood be left until it ‘dies of natural causes’.

Table 1: Quantity of deadwood in forests (source: MŚ)







of the total forested areas of Poland

Proportion per hectare

of the total forested areas of Poland

Proportion per hectare

















[million mt]


[million mt]


The amount of deadwood in private forests is less than that in state forests, due to the lack of protected areas where certain quantities of deadwood are left in order to preserve biodiversity.


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