Main facts about biodiversity in Serbia

According to the literature data, the territory of the Republic of Serbia is characterized by great genetic, species and ecosystem diversity, although species diversity has not yet been fully researched and documented. Approximately 44200 species and subspecies have been registered so far and the total number of taxa is estimated at about 60000. Precise data are not available on the number of prokaryotic species (Monera kingdom), and the diversity of the most heterogeneous Protista kingdom is largely unknown. Limited information is available on the diversity of freshwater algae (1400 species) and amoebae with species of a phylum Rhizopoda (236 species), while data on other groups of protozoa and aquatic and slime mould are not available (Radović & Kozomara, 2011, Biodiversity Strategy of the Republic of Serbia for the period from 2011 to 2018, Official Gazette of RS, No. 13/2011). 586 lichen species (Lichenes) have been recorded (Radović & Kozomara, 2011), and in relation to the fungal diversity of the Fungi kingdom, about 1300 species of macromycetes (Macromycetes) have been described (Ivančević, 2006; Mijović et al., 2012), however, it is estimated that there are between 3000 and 6000 of these species in Serbia (Radović & Kozomara, 2011). About 800 moss species (Bryophyta) belonging to the Plantae kingdom, precisely 654 true mosses, 120 liverworts and 1 hornwort, have been registered (Sabovljević et al., 2008) along with 3730 autochthonous vascular flora taxa, assuming that their total numbers range between 3 900 and 4000 (Tomović, 2007).

It is estimated that there are between 700 and 800 plant communities in Serbia. Balkan endemics make up 14.94% of Serbia's flora (547 species), while local endemic species make up 1.5% of the flora (59 species) (Radović & Kozomara, 2011).

In relation to the diversity of species within the animal kingdom (Animalia), invertebrates have been least studied, with an estimated occurrence in Serbia of around 12000 (Mijović et al., 2012). There is data on 139 species of roundworms (Nematodes), 18 species from the groups Anostraca, Notostraca and Conchostraca and 33 species of Amphipoda (Radović & Kozomara, 2011). There is also data about 98 bony fish and jawless fish species (Osteichthyes and Cephalaspidomorphi) (Simonović, 2001; Kotlík et al., 2002; Šipoš et al., 2004; Cvijanović et al., 2005; Miljanović et al., 2007), as well as about 19 species of amphibians (Amphibia) (Vukov et al., 2013), 26 species of reptiles (Reptilia) (Tomović et al., 2014), 352 species of birds (Aves), of which 249 birds are nesting birds (Šćiban et al., 2015) and about 95 mammalian species (Mammalia) (Savić et al., 1995; Paunović et al., 2011).

In relation to the above data on the diversity of species, the Balkan Peninsula is one of 153 centers of world biodiversity, and the highland and mountainous area of our country, as part of the Balkan Peninsula, is one of 6 centers of European biodiversity (Stevanović & Vasić, 1995). Although Serbia covers an area of 88 361 km2 or 0.82% of the European continent of 10 180 000 km2 (, in Serbia occur:

- 44,4% of the European bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts), with about 1 800 recorded species of bryophytes (Hill et al., 2006)
- 18,6% of the European vascular flora (more than 20 000 species, Bilz et al., 2011)
- 12% of invertebrates (about 100 000 species, Source: cite_note-11)
- 16,25% of fish fauna (603 species, Kottelat & Freyhof, 2007; Freyhof & Brooks, 2011)
- 15,46% of amphibians and reptiles fauna (291 species), of which 20,88% amphibians (91 species) and 13% reptiles (200 species, Arnold & Ovenden, 2002)
- 66% of avifauna (533 bird species in Europe, BirdLife International, 2015)
- 43,4% of the European terrestrial mammalian fauna (219 species, Source: topics/species/mammals)

In 2009, the Law on Nature Conservation (Official Gazette of RS, No. 36/2009, 88/2010, 91/2010, 14/2016 and 95/2018 – another law) was passed, which was the basis for the adoption of the Rulebook on the proclamation and protection of strictly protected and protected wild species of plants, animals and fungi (Official Gazette of RS, No. 5/2010, 47/2011, 32/2016 and 98/2016). The lists of this Rulebook included within certain protected regimes almost all species of birds, amphibians and reptiles, a large number of mammals, insects (especially prime butterflies and beetles) and plants, whereas for the first time certain species of algae, moss, fungi and lichen were put under protection. A total of 1759 species were declared as strictly protected wild species of plants, animals and fungi, precisely 1032 species of animals, 75 species of fungi and lichens, 627 species of plants and 25 species of algae, while a total of 854 species gained the status of protected wild species, of which there were 258 species of animals, 37 species of fungi and 559 species of plants.

On the one hand, such a large number of species, the populations and habitats of which should be conserved in the state as favorable as possible, is a consequence of the process of harmonizing national legislation with international treaties at the European and global level. On the other hand, rising levels of air, water and soil pollution and damage to environment, along with global climate change and human impact reflected in the irrational exploitation of natural resources, unplanned urbanization and infrastructural construction, uncontrolled introduction of alien species into the wild, etc., are increasingly destroying natural habitats and endangering many plant and animal species to such an extent that the number of populations in nature is reduced or there is a threat of their extinction from Serbia.

With the application of provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity (Law on the Proclamation of the Law on Ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Official Gazette of the FRY - International Treaties, No. 11/2001) and the Ramsar Convention (Decree Ratifying the Convention on wetlands of international importance, especially as waterfowl habitats (Official Gazette of the SFRY, No. 9/1977), the harmonization of national legislation with international treaties pertains to the protection and conservation of the most valuable and most endangered species and habitats on the lists of ratified documents, as well as in the regulations governing the field of nature conservation in the European Union:

- Berne Convention (Law on Ratification of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wild Flora and Fauna and Natural Habitats, "Official Gazette of RS - International Treaties", No. 102/2007)
- Bonn Convention (Law on Ratification of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, "Official Gazette of RS - International Treaties", No.02/2007)
- CITES Convention (Law on Ratification of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, "Official Gazette of the FRY - International Treaties", No. 11/2001)
- Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora)
- Birds Directive (Council Directive 79/409/EEC and 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds)
- EU Regulation on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein (Council Regulation 338/97 EC)

Certain species of fungi, plants and animals that are on the lists of the Decree on the Proclamation and Protection of Strictly Protected and Protected Wild Species of Plants, Animals and Fungi are also protected by the Decree on the Control of Use and Trade in Wild Flora and Fauna (Official Gazette of RS, No. 31/2005, 45/2005, 22/2007, 38/2008, 9/2010, 69/2011 and 95/2018 - another regulation), with the aim of regulating the collection of certain economically significant wild species in order to protect their populations from excessive and uncontrolled exploitation from nature. The list of the Decree contains a total of 97 species, including 63 plant species, 10 lichen species, 15 species of fungi and 9 animal species. The collection of these species from nature may be carried out for commercial purposes with the permission of the ministry responsible for environment and according to the previously obtained opinion of the Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia and the Institute for Nature Conservation of Vojvodina Province (if it relates to collection in the territory of Vojvodina). For all these species, the permitted quantities/contingents and the time of collecting are determined on an annual basis, and an Ordinance on the prohibition of the collection of protected species of wild flora and fauna is issued for each year separately (Official Gazette of RS, No. 17/2010, 58/2010, 24/2011, 24/2012, 21/2013, 23/2014, 22/2015, 29/2016, 17/2017, 18/2018 and 13/2019), which prohibits the collection of certain species on the territory of the entire Republic of Serbia or in the one of its areas within a specific region.

The transboundary traffic and trade in endangered and protected wild species of plants and animals, their parts and derivatives is regulated by the Law on Nature Conservation. The Rulebook on transboundary traffic and trade in protected species (Official Gazette of RS, No. 99/2009 and 6/2014) pertains to the species listed in the Rulebook on the Proclamation and Protection of Strictly Protected and Protected Wild Species of Plants, Animals and Fungi, the CITES Convention lists and the lists of EU Regulation on the Traffic and Trade in the wild flora and fauna. This Rulebook prescribes the conditions under which the import, export, entry, transit, trade and breeding of certain wild species is carried out. It also defines the procedure for issuing licenses and other legal acts (certificates, official opinions), documentation submitted with the application for licenses, contents and form of the license, lists of species, their parts and derivatives subject to issuing licenses or other acts, as well as species, their parts and derivatives the import or export of which is prohibited, restricted or suspended, the exceptions from the issue of a license, the manner of marking animals or consignments, the way of conducting control, keeping records and producing reports.

The fauna of fish, molluscs, crustaceans and other aquatic organisms is also protected by the Law on the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Fisheries Fund (Official Gazette of RS, No. 128/2014 and 95/2018), which was adopted at the same time as the Law on Nature Conservation. In accordance with the aforementioned Law, the Decree on Measures for the Conservation and Protection of the Fisheries Fund (Official Gazette of RS, No. 56/2015 and 94/2018) was adopted, according to which, among other things, a close season was determined, i.e. a complete ban on fishing for 26 fish species, all species of jawless fish and for 2 species of crustaceans. 17 species of fish were banned from hunting for a certain period, whereas unrestricted hunting of allochthonous fish species was determined along with hunting and trade in 24 species of fish and one species of molluscs below the prescribed size, as well as the restriction in the daily catch of recreational fishermen (in pieces for individual species of fish or in relation to the total weight of specimens caught).

The protection, management, hunting, use and improvement of the populations of protected game animal species by introducing close season are regulated according to the Law on Game Animal and Hunting (Official Gazette of RS, No. 18/2010 and 95/2018 – another law) and also according to the by-law, the Rulebook on the Declaration of the Close Season for Protected Species of Game Animal (Official Gazette of RS, No. 9/2012, 31/2013, 55/2015, 67/2015 and 75/2016). This Rulebook defines the hunting ban on the protected game animal species, the duration of the hunting season for the game animal species protected by the close season, and measures for the protection and regulation of the number of populations of permanently protected game animal species and the game animal species protected by the close season. The close season refers to 7 protected species of large game animal, 35 species of small game animal (12 species of furry game animal and 23 feathered game animal species) and 3 species of large carnivores. In addition, 7 species of mammals and 10 species of birds are permanently protected game animal species.

According to the Forestry Development Strategy of the Republic of Serbia (Official Gazette of RS, No. 59/2006), Serbia's primary interest is the conservation and enhancement of the very rich biological diversity contained above all in forest ecosystems. The forest ecosystems are composed of about 250 autochthonous woody species belonging to the Central European, Pontic and Mediterranean elements according to their geographical-floral elements, whereas the presence of 88 wild woody fruit species is of particular importance within the forest resources. Considering the importance and role of forests, as well as their general function in the conservation of biodiversity and the gene pools of forest trees and other species within the forest community, the Law on Forests is also mentioned here (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 30/2010, 93/2012, 89/2015 and 95/2018 - another law). This Law regulates, among other things, the conservation, protection, planning, cultivation and use of forests and the management of forests and forest land.