Biodiversity hotspots in Central and Eastern Europe urgently need better protection | WWF
Biodiversity hotspots in Central and Eastern Europe urgently need better protection

Posted on 01 March 2017

Valuable natural territories face critical threats
Kyiv / Bratislava / Sofia / Budapest – Better protection is essential for safeguarding the unique biodiversity treasures in the Green Heart of Europe. It is critically important to complete the network of protected areas in Central and Eastern Europe that effectively works for biodiversity conservation. Many valuable territories are not declared as protected areas. Their status is pending for years due to government delays, or unclear regulations leading to harmful activities. Well-protected areas not only secure wildlife but also offer a multitude of economic, social, and cultural benefits to people.

WWF has been working with environmental organizations and governments to increase the total area under protection and to ensure stronger law implementation in the region. Still, many valuable natural territories urgently need better protection.
Ukraine: Dnieper-Teterevsky area with an uncertain status for years

The former hunting area of Dnieper-Teterevsky was first proposed to become a national park more than 30 years ago. Since 2014, new projects to develop eco-tourism and nature activities in benefit of the local communities have started, along with a renewed proposal for the area to become a national park. Over 30,000 hectares of forests between the rivers of Dnieper and Tetereva have unique wildlife and well preserved biodiversity ecosystems, shaping one of the few remaining untouched areas in Ukraine. The national park establishment plan was approved by the Dnieper-Teterevsky forestry authorities, but the Ukrainian State Forest Agency continuously delays the decision for dubious reasons. WWF urges for immediate actions so that the Dnieper-Teterevsky area receives a status of protected area which will preserve its pristine biodiversity ecosystems and will bring opportunities for sustainable tourism development.

Slovakia: Hron River threatened by 42 small hydropower plants creating harmful barriers on the river

The nearly 300km-long mountain river Hron consists of well-preserved islands, oxbows and wetlands in the middle section of the river. Now, the watercourse is threatened by 42 small hydropower plant (SHP) - 20 existing and 22 planned projects, that will create barriers in the river ecosystem, harming the movement of fish, and limiting the access of local people and species to the water. If all new plans are approved, there would be a hydropower plant on every 5-7 km of the river flow. Existing infrastructure blocks the Hron river in Zvolen and Velke Kozmalovce village, but the impact on the river ecosystems, local businesses and communities is not calculated at all. The currently proposed governmental plan allows for SHP construction in areas planned to be included in the EU’s Natura 2000 network. Environmental NGOs, experts and local people lead a campaign to revise the national water strategy and ensure better control over the hydropower policy implementation. Slovakia has so far not stipulated hydropower “no-go” areas to protect valuable habitats. 

Bulgaria: The terrestrial part of the Natura 2000 network is almost completed with one exception in Rila Mountain

The European Commission acknowledged in the last EU Environmental Implementation Review Report for Bulgaria that “The terrestrial part of the Natura 2000 network is almost completed with only one exception in Rila Mountain”. In 2016, Bulgarian government denied to comply with the EU legislation, delaying again the inclusion of "Rila Buffer" in the Natura 2000 network. The European Commission referred Bulgaria to court as the lack of status of "Rila Buffer" caused constant damages to an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA).

WWF has been insisting for the expansion of the protected areas in Rila Mountain and for better management of the existing ones. If the entire IBA "Rila" was established as a protected area for birds, this would have increased the national coverage of Natura 2000 by only 0.19%, but at the same time would ensure effective conservation and sustainable use of the old-growth forests in Rila Mountain. This will benefit many nationally significant forest bird species. But it is also vital for the needs of the local people for drinking water, clean air, flood prevention and storage of surplus carbon dioxide.

Hungary: An alarming data on the state of the old-growth forests and their conservation status

The latest scientific data in the Hungarian National Forest Stand Database disclosed that Hungarian forests older than 120 years, which are crucial to nature conservation, constitute barely 2% of the country’s forest area or 37,000 ha. One-third of these forests are not located inside protected areas. Currently, 95% of the country’s forests are being used for wood production and more than half of the old-growth forests located in areas with conservation status are still being exploited. WWF is working to prevent over-usage and harvesting in the old-growth forests, but also to enlarge the protected areas that possess such valuable ecosystems. Timber production is needed, but it should not result in biodiversity loss and harm the long-term interests of the Hungarian people. Better conservation efforts in the protected areas and expanding the network, where needed, should be a priority.
Hron River
© WWF-Slovakia
national park
Dnieper-Teterevsky area
© Andrii Plyha
National Park Rila
© Димитър Граматиков
© WWF-Hungary