The concept of biodiversity was first used by the American scholar Walter Rosen in 1985. The word is a combination of the Greek “bios” - life, and the English “diversity” - variety.

The term was established by the Convention on Biological Diversity, signed by 159 countries at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

According to the Convention “biological diversity” means the variability among living organisms from all sources including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

  • Species diversity: the number of species at a certain place or habitat;
  • Genetic diversity: the variety that lies within the species itself and constitutes the hereditary changes in genetic information;
  • Ecosystem diversity: the totality of different ecosystems and the habitats in them. In reality it is very difficult to assess ecosystem diversity, except on local or regional level, and using as a basis only the descriptions and classification of habitats and / or vegetation.

These three components make up the whole variety of life, which is essentially biodiversity.

Extinction of biological species has always been a natural part of evolution.

The process of natural loss of species continues nowadays as well, but in recent centuries human activities have increasingly accelerated it.

There is evidence that some 400 species of birds and mammals have disappeared in the past 400 years and that the process is being stepped up: in the 17th century there was one extinct mammal in every five years, while in the 20th century there was one extinct mammal in every two years. Today the scientific community is unanimous: the world is on the verge of a new period of mass extinction, but this time caused by man.

Red books and lists of endangered species: their purpose is to provide information and to illustrate these dangers so as to warn governments and the nature protection community.

  • Global Red Lists of Endangered Species – both plants and animals, are published regularly, every four years, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The 2000 edition is organized in a radically different way compared to the previous ones: it uses quantitative estimates of the state of the species; and its latest issue of 2012 is also accessible as a data base in Internet at: http://www.iucnredlist.org/‎

  • The Red Book for Bulgaria was published in 1984 in two volumes: plants and animals. They were updated in 2011, when a new, separate volume of habitats was added. The electronic versions of the volumes are accessible at: http://e-ecodb.bas.bg/rdb/bg/

 

Threats are most often the result of human activities (overuse of resources, destruction or contamination of habitats, etc.), but they can also originate from natural processes (avalanches, floods, etc.), and usually they are a combination of both.

  1. Global climate change: air temperature has increased by 0.5oC since 1900. This is due to the "greenhouse effect", which is the result of the anthropogenic (caused by man) increase in carbon dioxide, methane, and the like.

  2. Pollution: By-products of human activities affect human health, as well as that of species and ecosystems. Many industrial and agricultural chemicals are poisonous. The “food chain effect” implies that predators (including humans) are most vulnerable in this respect because the accumulation of toxins in them is the greatest.



  3. Loss of habitats: The change in traditional land use is the outcome of the growth in human population and of the release of land for agricultural areas. The most significant loss for Earth is the loss of natural forests, especially in the tropics. Another serious issue is the loss of wetlands. They are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth.



  4. Habitat loss and alteration of the water regime: creation of quarries, building of hydro power plants, etc.



  5. Excessive use: Biological resources can be used excessively, which may lead to loss of species and to changes in the composition of communities and ecosystems: from such with higher conservation value to such with lower value.



  6. Introduction of exotic (alien, non-indigenous, non-native) species (known as “introduction”): The process is excessively enhanced by the introduction of alien species and varieties, which may be purposeful (in agriculture, forestry, hunting, landscaping, etc.) or accidental, caused by man (such as diseases, pests, weeds), and which entails ousting and extinction of local species.




  7. Genetic degeneration: Small, isolated populations lose the ability to maintain genetic diversity through interbreeding. This causes loss of the ability to adapt to changes in the environment and accumulation of negative features (reduced fertility and survival).

The Global Biodiversity Strategy defines conservation as: “the management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to current generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations.”

  • The preservation of biodiversity contributes to the conservation of the biosphere in a state that ensures the life of humans on Earth;

  • Mankind is dependent on the current and future use of biodiversity seen as a resource; 

  • Biodiversity conservation is a way to maintain evolutionary processes; i.e. if biodiversity is reduced, the “building material” of evolution will be lost. 

  • Ethical dimensions of biodiversity conservation
    The World Charter for Nature adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1982 states: “Every form of life is unique, warranting respect regardless of its worth to man, and, to accord other organisms such recognition, man must be guided by a moral code of action.”

The maintenance of species richness and in particular their non-extinction are crucial for biodiversity conservation. Activities in this respect may be planned in two ways: on the basis of habitats or ecosystems and on the basis of species.

  • The ecosystem approach seeks to ensure the preservation of representative samples of ecosystems or of important types of habitats. This is done by announcing networks of protected areas.
  • The species approach requires knowledge of the species, so as to be able to prioritize conservation: endangered, resource and other species. A major “tool” in this type of approach are Action Plans.

Legal Basis for Biodiversity Conservation:

Nature protection policy is usually pursued by national governments. Bulgaria, as a European Union Member State has to comply with the EU legislation as well as with the ratified international legal instruments, such as:

  1. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) adopted in 1973: http://www.cites.org/

  2. Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (the Bern Convention) of 1979.

  3. Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds of 1979. 

  4. Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora of 1992. 

  5. Biological Diversity Act of the Republic of Bulgaria of 2002. 

  6. Protected Areas Act of 1998.

For more information and the full texts of the instruments please visit: http://www.biodiversity.bg/

Implementation of the Legal Framework – NATURA 2000

NATURA 2000 is a type of an environmental protection network made up of areas established on the basis of scientific criteria in implementation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.

This is the form that the EU has chosen to preserve nature and biodiversity in the long term, for the future generations, by ensuring their sustainable use.

The establishment of the network is also part of the implementation of “Objective 2010”: an action pooling the efforts of scores of countries to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010 and beyond it in the long range.

Map of the Natura 2000 areas as per the Habitats Directive.

Map of the Natura 2000 areas as per the Birds Directive.

Although Bulgaria is a relatively small country, it is in the top five European states in biodiversity due to its varied climate, geology, topography and hydrology. Furthermore, it lies at the crossroads of three broad bioclimatic regions: Central European continental, Eurasian steppe, and Mediterranean, that overlap and create transitional climatic conditions.

95 species of mammals

413 species of birds, of which 300 breeding in Bulgaria

38-39 species of reptiles and 20-21 species of amphibians

207 species of Black Sea and freshwater fish

approximately 27 000 species of insects and other invertebrates

3 567 species of higher plants and over 6 500 lower plants and fungi

The Bulgarian flora of higher plants contains 170 Bulgarian endemic species as well as 200 Balkan endemic species and subspecies. The Bulgarian endemic species constitute about 5% of the total flora.

Endemism, both in the Balkans and in Bulgaria, has been established with respect to 387 non-insect invertebrate species (8.8% of all species, including protozoa) and with respect to 744 species of insects (4.3% of all insect species).

Bulgaria is characterized by a great variety of plant and animal communities and contains almost all major habitat types that are found in Europe. They include a number of unique and representative communities and ecosystems that are particularly valuable in terms of biodiversity:

  1. An alpine treeless zone: Rila, Pirin, the Balkan Mountain, Vitosha, the Rhodope Mountain, Belasitza and Slavyanka.



  2. Natural old-growth coniferous and beech forests in mountainous areas. Particularly important are the primary forests of fir trees (Abies alba), spruce trees (Picea abies) and pine trees (Pinus heldreichii, Pinus peuce, P. sylvestris, P. nigra) in Rila, Pirin and the Rhodope Mountain, and the beech forests in the Central Balkan Mountain; communities of dwarf pine (Р. mugo) in Rila and Pirin; and the unique forests of Oriental beech (Fagus orientalis) in Strandja mountain.



  3. Oak (Quercus species) woodlands and forests, mainly in the lower mountains and in the surrounding hills and plains.



  4. Karst regions, particularly in the Rhodope, Balkan, Pirin and Slavyanka Mountains. These areas are notable for the wide variety of endemic plants and animals, raptors and bats. They are the lands of the majority of the total of 5 000 Bulgarian caves with their rich cave fauna.



  5. Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean communities in the valley of the Struma River (especially the Kresna Gorge and the Sandanski-Petrich plain), the valleys of the Maritsa and Mesta Rivers, the Eastern Rhodope Mountain, the region of the Sakar and Strandzha Mountains and that along the southern Black Sea Coast.



  6. Steppe communities as well as natural lowland forests.



  7. Riparian shrub and forest vegetation (mostly of the Salix, Populus and Alnus species) along the Danube and some smaller rivers (particularly Batova, Kamchiya, Ropotamo Tundzha and Veleka).



  8. Natural wetlands along inland rivers, the Danube coast (Belene Island, Srebarna Lake) or the Black Sea coast (the Shabla Lake, the estuary of the Kamchiya River, the Burgas Lakes, the estuary of the Ropotamo River).



  9. Riparian communities and habitats along the Black Sea Coast, including Black Sea coastal lakes; sand dunes; wetlands and coastal limestone cliffs.

  • Learn as much as you can about the biodiversity in the area where you live.

  • Reduce your consumption of physical goods.

  • Consume energy wisely.

  • Use less cars and more public transport.

  • Use more environmentally friendly and recycled products

  • Consume more seasonal, organic food.

  • Recycle as much of your waste as possible.

  • Let your voice be heard and inform your family and friends.



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