The environment in Slovakia and Biodiversity

- Martin Hajduch*, Anna Pretova**
*Gene Experiment Center, University of Tsukuba,
Tsukuba Science City, 305, Japan - from March 1997 at:
**Institute of Plant Genetics, Slovak Academy of Sciences,
Akademicka 2, P.O.Box 39A, 950 07 Nitra, Slovakia
(Email: martin@sakura.cc.tsukuba.ac.jp)


Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 6 (1996), 165-6.
Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is a collective term that encompasses the variety of all plants, animals and micro-organisms on Earth (Barbault, 1995). Generally speaking, biodiversity must urge the merits of its cause through what it contributes to human welfare, preferably doing it in the way that most appeals to political leaders and the general public, economic terms (Myers, 1996). The global ecosystem, which consists of many subecosystems (ecosystem of ocean, ecosystem of forest etc.), is based on the diversity of all living organisms. Biological diversity is a very important factor for eco-stability of the subecosystems and in general, for stability of the global ecosystem. The environment has general influence on eco-stability . The relationship between environment, eco-stability and biodiversity is evident:

ENVIRONMENT = ECO-STABILITY = BIODIVERSITY

In a 100% clean environment it is not necessary to consider biodiversity. Any pollution of the environment breaks the balance in the ecosystem. When the balance of the ecosystem is broken, living conditions for some species become unsuitable for existence hence the possibility of extinction is real. So, pollution of the environment decreases biodiversity. Today it is impossible for human civilization to be in 100% unity with nature. This is the general reason why we have to value biodiversity. When we would like to know about the conditions of biodiversity, we have to know the situation in the environment especially the level of environmental pollution. According to the 1992 measurements of Cooperative Program for Monitoring and Evaluation of Transboundary Atmospheric Pollution in Europe (EMEP), Slovakia is situated in the area of greatest atmospheric pollution and acid rainfall in Europe. Also the ozone layer over Central Europe has been depleted by 2-3% within the last 10 years.

The environment in Slovakia is divided into the five classes: I. High-standard environment; II. Suitable environment; III. Distorted environment; IV. Strongly distorted environment; V. Extremely distorted environment. 45% of the population of Slovakia live in the first two classes of environment, while 14%, 26% and 15% of the population live in the third, fourth and fifth classes respectively. So, 55% of the Slovak population lives in areas of distorted environment. The emission of pollutants into the atmosphere has a big influence on the environment. Energy accounts for 64%; traffic contributes 19.5%; the metallurgic industry and chemical industry each contribute 7% to the total emission of atmospheric pollutants. Atmospheric pollution is also the reason that 10% of farmland is endangered, 76% of forests are damaged to the 1-4th degrees (85% coniferous and 69% of deciduous in 1992; in the third to fourth 7%). Therefore, in 1993 Slovakia started to effect the National Climatic Program and the national program of Reducing Emissions of Greenhouse Gases.

The negative influence of disturbed environment is manifested in the weakening of population and decreased biodiversity, including extinction of some species. Out of 2500 taxons of naturally-occurring vascular plants, 1326 (53%) were included in the red list in 1993, including 31 that are deemed to be extinct (1.2%) and 1006 are deemed to be endangered (40%). 496 of them critically (20%); 92 taxons are represented by endemites (3.7%). Thus, the situation has worsened as compared with 1983. From non-vascular plants , 41% lichen species, for example, have died out. This may be considered an indicator of the quality of the environment. Of 751 taxons (species and subspecies) of vertebrates living in the wild, 27 fish, 20 amphibians, 19 reptiles, 79 birds and 30 mammals (23,3% vertebrates) are endangered, critically endangered or extinct.

Protected areas help mitigate the critical situation involving all species of the environment. Of special importance are the five national parks covering 199,724 hectares (4% area of Slovakia) and sixteen protected areas of countryside covering 660 493 hectares (13% area). The 448 state wildlife preserves, encompassing 90 999 hectares (2% area), also perform an important eco-stabilizing function. The 104 protected habitats, comprising 6 974 hectares, are intended to protect endangered plants and animal species. An additional nineteen research areas, one protected park, three protected gardens and 936 protected natural objects are legally protected as special parts of nature. In addition, special protection is afforded trees growing outside of forest, 226 taxons of wild-growing plants (127 of them are completely, 13 partially, 86 territorially protected), and 2 families, 42 genera, and 176 species of animals living in the wild. Their protection is unconnected with protection of nature and countryside - that is, their habitat - is practically irrelevant if we do not consider limiting certain activities threatening them and authorized breeding of some endangered species, similarly as in game protection.

Biodiversity, as an important point, has been recognized by the Slovak Government, which incorporated care about biodiversity into the National Environmental Policy. The priorities of National Environmental Policy are:

I. Global environmental security and protection of the atmosphere against pollutants.

II. An adequate supply of drinking water and reduction of water pollution to acceptable levels.

III. Soil conservation and the purity of foodstuffs and other products.

IV. Proper disposal or utilization of waste and minimizing its production.

V. Preservation of biodiversity, conservation and rational use of natural resources, and optimizing of land use.

Long term (strategic), medium term and short term objectives have been formulated in the National Environmental Policy. These focus on resolving the protection on environmental components, a selected set of problems or care of environment in general. The long term objectives lead to fundamental positive changes in the whole environment and to achieving permanently sustainable development in the socio-economic and environmental conditions in Slovakia. The medium term objectives, attainable by the years 2000-2010, focus on slowing the processes of deterioration and mitigating the impact of damaged and polluted environment on life expectancy and public health. Establishing and putting these systems and provision into practice are short-term objectives to be attained by this year. Biodiversity has been included into long-term - strategic objectives as: " Halting reduction of biodiversity as a precondition for preserving ecological stability and non-renewable genetic reserves.".

Importantly, the environmental situation in Slovakia cannot be understood in isolation of the environment in Europe, nor the world, or from developments in the environmental situation abroad, which exert an influence on international economic relationship as well.


References

Barbault R. - "Biodiversity - stakes and opportunities"; Nature & Resources, Vol. 31, No. 3, 1995
Myers N. - "Environmental services of biodiversity"; PNAS 93 (1996), 2764 - 2769.
The Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic, Slovak republic - National Environmental Policy, second published 1995.


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