International year of biodiversity
Today is the official opening of the UN International Year of Biodiversity 2010. Through the EEA and Norway Grants, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway provide important support to protecting biodiversity in Europe.
Human activity wipes out 3 species every hour, according to United Nations figures. In 2002, almost all countries in the world pledged to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010. To increase awareness of the issue of biodiversity the UN has declared 2010 to be the International Year for Biodiversity.
During 2010, initiatives will be organised across the world to spread information and increase understanding for the need to protect biodiversity. One of the worldwide celebrations takes place in Norway, one of the three donor states of the EEA and Norway Grants, on 1-5 February.
The Trondheim Conference on biodiversity is one of several in multiple countries that seeks to feed in views and lessons learnt from stakeholders and experts to form a basis for the new biodiversity targets for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations that will be set in the second half of 2010.
Under the EEA and Norway Grants, 10 countries have chosen biodiversity as a priority. The supported projects include expansion of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, development of national biodiversity databases, mapping of species and habitats in forests and natural parks, and recovery programmes for endangered wildlife.
Biodiversity project in the Carpathians
Among the supported projects is an initiative to protect the remarkable biological wealth of the Polish part of the Carpathians, Europe's largest mountain range. Its biodiversity includes one third of all European plant species, significant populations of endangered birds and animals, and the largest remaining area of virgin forest in Europe.
The 4-year project under the EEA and Norway Grants, implemented by the Institute of Nature Conservation in Krakow, will develop management strategies for the Natura 2000 sites in the Carpathians, carry out biodiversity conservation activities and bring onboard local communities in managing the sites.
Much of the concrete actions within the project are directly aimed at the forest landowners. Forestry is an important land user in Poland, and a large part of Poland`s biodiversity is connected with the forest environment. Local foresters have been contracted for clearing shrub and constructing ditches to raise the water level. These activities are important preparatory measures for the research of endemic species and the monitoring of their development under changing conditions done within the project.
To ensure local ownership, stakeholders are engaged through an educational programme and regular meetings. Additionally, local communes and school children are targeted through information campaigns and training activities. The environmental awareness of the local population is rising as they start to understand the need for protection of their pristine forests, birds and wildlife.