Fourth National Report to the cbd – malta executive Summary

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Fourth National Report to the CBD – MALTA

Executive Summary

Malta has been a Party to the United Nations (UN) Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) since 29 December 2000. It is also a Party to other UN Conventions, a member of the Council of Europe and a Member State of the European Union, amongst others. As a Party to the CBD, Malta is required to contribute to the achievement of the Convention’s three objectives at a national level. These three objectives which underpin the principles of sustainable development are: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources (Article 1 of CBD Convention text). Malta has made several efforts, especially in the last decade, in order to protect the natural heritage that it is bestowed with. Such efforts also positively contribute to achieving the CBD’s objectives at a national level as further expounded of this report.

Maltese people share their islands and surrounding marine environment with a remarkable variety of species and also depend on various ecosystem services for their day-to-day comfort and security. Such ecological services are driven by biodiversity and the functioning of healthy ecosystems. Indeed, the myriad of species of flora and fauna that inhabit the Maltese Islands interact with biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) factors to form inexorably complex communities that play an important role in ecosystem functioning and in the associated ecological services that are indispensable for supporting the Maltese community. Ecosystem functions and associated services include carbon sequestration and production of oxygen during photosynthesis, regulation of soil erosion and hence maintenance of soil fertility and agriculture productivity, screening of certain pollutants, as well as the provision of food and other raw materials. Habitats provide an important refuge for particular organisms, such as mammals, birds, reptiles and insects, including species that have a commercially important role as exemplified by bees, which are crucial for plant pollination and honey production. The natural environment is also of scenic, scientific, educational and recreational value.

Natural and semi-natural plant communities are also intrinsically important from a biodiversity aspect and contribute immensely to Malta’s natural heritage. Unfortunately, human activities can threaten this natural heritage and undermine efforts to safeguard it. Protecting Malta’s natural heritage is a very challenging task more so when considering the very high population density (1,309 persons per square kilometre - NSO Demographic Review 2008), the limited assimilative and carrying capacity, and the small overall size of the islands, apart from other environmental concerns that are associated with such insular systems. The land constrained characteristics combined with the various conflicting land uses, poses considerable pressure on Malta’s biodiversity and the ecosystem functioning and services upon which a number of sectors and quality of life depend. Malta’s State of the Environment Report (SOER) for 2005 stated that the “three principal threats to Malta’s biodiversity are development in rural and marine areas, introduction of invasive species and exploitation of wildlife”. These pressures are also identified in the 2008 SOER. The 2005 and 2008 reports and accompanying state of environment indicators (SOEI) for 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 deliver clear messages on the state of biodiversity and its drivers of change. A key message that is of concern is that many rare and indigenous species are threatened and continue to decline.

The dire need to protect and conserve nature, unfortunately, is not understood by all members of society. In fact, environmental impacts may only become apparent when adverse effects are felt by various sectors of society, and when impacts have socio-economic repercussions. When this happens remedial action can be financially taxing and consequences of certain impacts can even be irreversible. To this end, conservation action must be pro-active, while policy integration of biodiversity concerns across relevant sectors is also crucial.

A number of sectoral measures are being implemented or are in the pipeline, with the aim of harmonising various sectoral/cross-sectoral aspects with environmental protection. Such measures do positively impact, whether direct or directly, biodiversity in Malta. The following statements, documented via the 2005 SOER and accompanying SOEIs for 2006, 2007 and 20082007, illustrate this:

  • An enhanced legal framework has been put in place to ensure the protection of ecologically important sites in the Maltese Islands, including marine protected areas (SOER 2005 – Key message delivered by the Sub-report on Biodiversity).

  • Trees planted in afforestation projects increased by 14% between 2006 and 2007, with over 33,200 trees planted in 2007 (SOEI 2007 – Indicator PR4).

  • A total of 54 schools, involving 24,500 students, participated in the EkoSkola environmental education programme during the 2006/07 scholastic year (SOEI 2007 – Indicator PR3)

  • Progress has been achieved in setting-up waste management systems such as permitting, improved landfill management, and better enforcement. (SOER 2005 – Key message delivered by the Sub-report on Waste). A key instrument in Malta’s recycling policy is the use of bring-in sites by the public. By end 2007, 197 bring-in sites had been set up in various localities in Malta and Gozo, and the amount of material collected had risen by 24.6% between 2006 and 2007, from 2,255 to 2,810 tonnes (SOEI 2007 – Indicator WS3).

  • There have been significant decreases in the levels of sulphur dioxide and benzene in the air, due to switches to cleaner fuels. Annual average sulphur dioxide concentrations decreased by 41% between 2005 and 2006 (SOEI 2007 – Indicator A5).

  • In 2006 33% of the Maltese landscape was legally protected1, almost three times more than in 2000 (SOEI 2006 - Indicator LS1).

  • By end 2008, 13% of the Maltese Islands formed part of the Natura 2000 network of protected sites for habitats and species of European Community interest (SOEI 2008 – Indicator B3).

Areas for priority action have also been identified in the 2005 SOER and are mentioned hereunder.

  • Focusing on environmental impacts that have a serious effect on human health, such as air pollution from particulates;

  • Protecting renewable natural resources such as the water table;

  • Promoting eco-efficient economic growth by decoupling growth from material resource use and waste generation, and in particular addressing environmentally-damaging trends in the energy and transport sectors;

  • Promoting formal as well as community-based environmental education;

  • Drawing on public environmental concern to gain support for public and private initiatives, particularly to address countryside and coastal issues;

  • Improving the knowledge base to support the development of environmental policy, particularly in the areas of biodiversity, waste and environmental health, by building up a structured ambient monitoring information system for state of the environment reporting;

  • Leveraging finance to fund environmental improvements across government and the private sector;

  • Better coordination between government ministries and agencies to improve the coherence and effectiveness of policy, by means of early integration of environmental considerations into all government policies and plans;

  • Improving capacity for implementation and enforcement;

  • Setting up a multi-actor process to develop a government-led environmental action plan to coordinate the activities of the principal players and identify investment priorities and short and medium term objectives and targets in the environmental field.

Although major milestones have been achieved such as in strengthening legislative frameworks, raising awareness, designating protected areas and in building partnerships between entities, future efforts now need to be directed inter alia to:

  • resource mobilisation in order to address capacity needs of sectoral governmental departments, research institutions, and NGOs that all play a role in the protection of Malta’s natural environment;

  • coordinated action that drives forth conservation and sustainable use of biological resources; and

  • the need to bridge policy making and scientific research.

A biodiversity monitoring regime needs to be further developed in order to assess the conservation status of species of European Community Importance with an unknown status, and also to assess the status of species of national importance; this will require investing in additional resources. Research is needed to further evaluate the effects of climate change on local biodiversity. Findings of scientific research should also be well publicised and presented in a format that can be used by policy makers. The development of additional indicators to help elucidate habitat and species trends, as well as trends of drivers of biodiversity change, is warranted. The promotion of incentive-driven and community-based conservation can also be encouraged further.

Major leaps have been made in building a national network of protected areas, including Malta’s contribution to the EU Natura 2000 network and the Council of Europe’s Emerald Network. Instances though arise when legal status and establishment of protected areas do not suffice in guaranteeing the conservation and recovery of endangered species. Ongoing conservation efforts include the restoration of degraded habitats and the removal of invasive species. Agri-environment measures and cross-compliance requirements, as well as Structure Plan policies contribute towards safeguarding biodiversity in the wider countryside. While various forms of public awareness have been considered throughout the years (e.g. publication of posters, leaflets, workshops, talks broadcasted on mass media, and so forth) it is acknowledged by entities involved in nature conservation that more needs to be done in this field. The 2005 SOER noted that the protected area management process will need to be significantly accelerated if Malta is to reach its target to halt the loss of its biodiversity by 2010. To this end, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) as the competent authority that inter alia administers the Environment Protection Act (CAP. 435 as amended) and functions thereto, has submitted an application for funds under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) for a proposed project to establish a framework for the management of terrestrial Natura 2000 sites in the Maltese Islands and to increase awareness of Natura 2000 amongst the general public and stakeholders..

Malta shares the concerns expressed in the “Mid-term Assessment of Implementing the EC Biodiversity Action Plan” (COM/2008/864 final) that it is unlikely - on the basis of current efforts - that the overall goal of halting biodiversity loss in the EU by 2010 will be achieved. Malta has taken up various actions that provide for the protection and conservation of biodiversity. Although the process for developing Malta’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) is still ongoing, it is evident that sectors are becoming more environmentally conscious. Nonetheless, the NBSAP, once developed and formally adopted, will aim to yield results in terms of increased awareness on, and stewardship of, biodiversity, besides driving forth direct biodiversity action across sectors via an integrated approach. The participation of all relevant stakeholders is deemed of essence in order to achieve this.

Table of Contents


Page number

1.0    Overview of Biodiversity Status, Trends and Threats


    1. Biodiversity of the Maltese Islands


1.1.1 Ecosystem and Habitat Diversity


1.1.2 Species Diversity


1.1.3 Genetic Diversity


1.1.4 The Importance of Malta’s Biodiversity


    1. Assessment of Conservation Status


1.2.1 Species


1.2.2 Habitats


    1. Trends


1.3.1 Population Trends


1.3.2 Habitat Trends


1.3.3 Environmental Trends


    1. Type of Threats


2.0    Current Status of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans


  1. Progress in implementing the CBD Programme of Work on Island Biodiversity


    1. Progress in implementing National Recommendations on Biodiversity


      1. State of the Environment Reports for Malta


      1. National Strategy for Sustainable Development


      1. National Report on the Strategic Action Plan for the Conservation of Maltese Coastal and Marine Biodiversity


3.0 Sectoral and cross-sectoral integration or mainstreaming of biodiversity considerations


3.1 Agriculture & Rural Development


3.2 Fisheries & Aquaculture


3.3 Tourism


3.4 Air Quality


3.5 Climate Change


3.6 Development Control & Land Use Planning


3.7 Water


4.0 Conclusions


4.1 Progress towards the 2010 Biodiversity Target


4.2 Progress towards the Goals and Objectives of the CBD Strategic Plan


4.3 Overall Conclusions


5.0 Appendices


Appendix I - Information on the Reporting Party and Process of Preparation of the Fourth National Report


Appendix II - Further Sources of Information


Appendix III (A) - Progress towards Targets of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC)


Appendix III (B) - Progress towards Targets of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoW PA)


List of Commonly Used Abbreviations in the Report


Fourth National Report


Appropriate Assessment


Access and Benefit Sharing


Agriculture and Fisheries Regulation Division


Area of Ecological Importance


Advanced Informed Agreement


Apiculture Unit


Biosafety Coordinating Committee


Competent Authority


Coastal Area Management Programme


Common Agricultural Policy


Convention on Biological Diversity


Development Control Commission


Development Planning Act


European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development


Environment Impact Assessment


Ecosystems Management Unit (within MEPA)


Environment Protection Act


European Regional Development Fund


Fisheries Management Zone


Government Notice


Global Strategy for Plant Conservation


Integrated Coastal Zone Management


International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture


Legal Notice


Mutually Agreed Terms


Multilateral Environmental Agreement


Malta Embellishment and Landscaping Project


Malta Environment and Planning Authority


Malta Centre for Fisheries Sciences


Malta Maritime Authority


Memorandum of Understanding


Marine Protected Area


Marine Protected Area Steering Committee


Malta Resources Authority


Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs


National Biosafety Framework


National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan


National Commission for Sustainable Development


Nautical mile


National Marine Protected Area Strategy


Non-governmental organisation


National Reform Plan


National Strategy for Sustainable Development


Outside Development Zone


Protected Area


Department of Parks, Afforestation and Restoration of the Countryside


Prior Informed Consent


Petites Iles de Méditerranée


Programme of Work


Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas


Red Data Book


Special Area of Conservation


Species Action Plan


Strategic Environment Assessment


State of the Environment


State of the Environment Indicator


State of the Environment Report


Special Protection Area


Site of Scientific Importance


Urban Conservation Area


United Nations


University of Malta


Water Framework Directive


Water Services Corporation
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