WWF`s project "Europe's Living Heart" has in the last four years evaluated the biodiversity of species and catalogued the most important natural habitats in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), which is one of the conditions for starting EU negotiations in the environmental field. The most significant result of the project is the production and publication of an interactive map NATURA 2000 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, offering an overview and detailed information about all identified species and habitats, and which will be of great help to experts, non-governmental organisations and politicians in the pre-accession negotiations and the adoption of EU standards.
"The results already shown by the 'Europe's Living Heart' project represent a great step towards the EU regarding nature protection," said Branko Vučjak, project coordinator of WWF. "In four years we were able to identify and list all the most important natural habitats and plant and animal species that need protection in order to preserve the rich biodiversity of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
Fragmentation and destruction of habitats, with overexploitation of natural resources, led to a dramatic increase in environmental degradation, reduction in natural habitat areas and number of species but also of the services provided by the same natural resources. In order to stop the loss of biodiversity and conserve the most significant ecosystems, the EU governments adopted in 1992 legislation to protect the most seriously threatened habitats and species across Europe. These legal acts are referred to as the Directive on the protection of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive in short) and supplemented the Birds Directive adopted in 1979. At the heart of both directives is a creation of a network of natural habitats called Natura 2000.
In 2007, WWF Mediterranean started an ambitious project to support the implementation of the European environmental network Natura 2000 in BiH. With the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, the aim of the project “Europe's Living Heart” is to support government institutions in the process of preparing BiH to nominate areas for the European ecological network NATURA 2000. The project also improves the system of nature protection through data collection and monitoring, with the application of EU standards. The project also aims at strengthening national capacity to identify habitats and species that exist in BiH, which are protected by EU legislation.
The creation of a habitats list was based on positive cooperation with the relevant authorities responsible for nature protection and conservation of biodiversity in BiH. WWF has carried out various field activities, professional training and workshops to educate staff of relevant institutions on the system of Natura 2000 and geographical information system (GIS) analysis. The project implementation team included top experts, both from BiH and abroad, which greatly improved the quality of the results.
Publications and interactive maps will be available to the public at the end of July 2011 on the website: wwf.panda.org/ŽivjetiNeretvu.