The Nordic Region aims to be at the forefront of environmental progress. This edition of the newsletter presents a selection of Nordic initiatives and good examples of co-operation on biodiversity, which we hope will provide inspiration for work on biodiversity at national, regional and international level.
– We need a long-term global vision and short-term measurable and action-oriented targets. Moreover, more action is needed to implement the targets nationally, regionally and globally. The post-2010 targets must be ambitious and practical. They should underscore that we must halt the loss of biodiversity and secure the delivery of ecosystem services for poverty eradication and sustainable development.
Local efforts are needed to halt the loss of biodiversity. As the bodies responsible for planning and land use, local councils play a key role. They also serve as a natural platform for engaging the public.
Although the target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010 was not met, the issue has attracted increased attention and publicity. Greater awareness of the problem and of the importance of biodiversity will improve the chances of reversing the negative trend in the future.
Nordic meadows and pastures, the product of hundreds of years of grazing or mowing, are unique in their biodiversity. Habitat changes caused by land use changes are, however, putting this rich biodiversity at risk. The old hay meadows and pastures are being ploughed up for crops, planted with trees or left to grow wild.
The Norwegian spring-spawning herring was once the biggest fish stock in the world. This was the case up until the 1950s, when it was almost wiped out by overfishing. Despite the rapid decline in stocks, fishing was not banned, which delayed recovery. Catch quotas were introduced in the 1980s, and a particularly productive spawning season in 1983 represented the turning point in the species’ fortunes.
In January 2007, the Danish Minister of the Environment sent a New Year card to the director of the local council in Odder. The front of the card featured the early purple orchid, which is threatened with extinction, while the message inside encouraged the council to take good care of the protected species. That same year, the council rescued a stock of the rare flower by stopping the planned disposal of dredged material on a site where the plant grew.
Fishing for species that provide important sources of food for seabirds needs to be limited and fishing practices must be developed that prevent seabirds being caught accidentally.
Co-ordinating international work on biodiversity under the auspices of the most important international conventions would reduce duplication of effort and free up administrative resources for use in the practical implementation of their provisions, a Nordic conference in Finland in April 2010 concluded.
Instead of equipping its wastewater-treatment plant with a nitrogen-removal capability, the local council in Lysekil, on the west coast of Sweden, entered into an agreement with a local mussel farmer. The farmer is paid per tonne of nitrogen absorbed by the harvested mussels. In other words, the mussels provide the public sector with an ecosystem service.
Giant hogweed. North American comb jelly. Spanish slug. Three species brought to the Nordic Region by humans, and now spreading rapidly in the wild. Like other invasive alien species, they pose a threat to native biodiversity and may trigger major economic losses.
Arctic fox numbers have declined dramatically in Norway, Finland and Sweden over the past century – there are now only 50– 120 individuals left. One explanation for the decline is that a warmer climate has allowed the red fox to spread northward and compete with its Arctic counterpart.
Replacing fossil fuels with biofuels is an important element in the Nordic countries’ strategies for coping with climate change. The potential is great, but the process of growing and harvesting biofuels impacts upon biodiversity, landscapes and opportunities for outdoor recreation. The Nordic Council of Ministers’ report “Increased Biomass Harvesting for Bioenergy” analyses the effects of various forms of secondgeneration biofuel harvesting.