Fourth National Report to the cbd – malta executive Summary




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Indicator

2005

Indicator

2006

Indicator

2007

Indicator

2008

Theme: Driving Forces for Environmental Change

Population trends and projections



Population trends and projections



Population changes



Population Density



Sectoral contributions to GDP



Sectoral contributions to GDP



Sectoral contributions to GDP



Sectoral contributions to GDP



Housing permissions



Housing permissions



Housing permissions



Housing permissions



Vehicle fleet per capita



Vehicle fleet per capita



Vehicle fleet per capita



Vehicle fleet per capita



Sectoral electricity consumption



Electricity Generation



Electricity Generation



Electricity Generation



Daily number of tourists



Daily number of tourists



Daily number of tourists



Daily number of tourists



/

/

Area covered by Operational Quarries



Area covered by Operational Quarries



Area covered by Operational Quarries



Theme: Air

Particulate matter concentrations



Particulate matter concentrations



Particulate matter concentrations



Particulate matter concentrations



Ozone concentrations



Ozone concentrations



Ozone concentrations



Ozone concentrations



Benzene concentrations



Benzene concentrations



Benzene concentrations



Concentration of benzene and other volatile organic compounds



Nitrogen oxides concentrations



Nitrogen oxides concentrations



Nitrogen oxides concentrations



Nitrogen dioxide concentrations



Sulphur dioxide concentrations



Sulphur dioxide concentrations



Sulphur dioxide concentrations



Sulphur dioxide concentrations



Theme: Climate Change

Greenhouse emissions by sector



Carbon dioxide emissions from energy generation



Greenhouse emissions by sector



Greenhouse gas emissions by sector



Energy intensity of growth



Energy intensity of growth



Energy intensity of growth



Energy intensity of the economy



Theme: Water/Freshwaters

Water consumption by source



Water consumption by sector



Billed water consumption



Billed water consumption by sector



Nitrate and chloride levels at abstraction boreholes



Nitrate and chloride levels at WSC pumping stations



Nitrate and chloride levels at WSC pumping stations



Nitrate and chloride levels at WSC pumping stations



Groundwater quantitative status



/

/

/

/

/

/

Theme: Water/Coastal and Marine Environment

Bathing water quality



Bathing water quality



Bathing water quality



Bathing water quality



Theme: Waste/Resources & Waste

/

/

/

/

/

/

Domestic material consumption



Waste generation by type



Waste generation per unit GDP



Waste Generation



Waste Generation



Municipal waste generation per capita



Municipal waste generation per unit GDP



Municipal waste generation per capita



Municipal waste generation per capita



Waste separation and recycling



Waste recycled



Waste recycled



Waste recycled



Theme: Land

Land cover by type



/

/

Land cover by type



/

/

% 1Km coast built up



% 1Km coast built up



/

/

/

/

% Organic farming



% Organic farming



% Organic farming



% Organic farming



/

/

/

/

Vacant dwellings



/

/

Theme: Soil

Soil organic matter



Soil organic matter



/

/

/

/

Concentrations of heavy metals in soil



Lead concentrations in soil



/

/

/

/

Risk of soil erosion



Soil salinity



/

/

/

/

Theme: Landscape

Areas protected for landscape value



Areas protected for landscape value



/

/

/

/

Theme: Biodiversity

Natural areas designated & managed



Natural areas designated &managed



Natural areas designated &managed



Natural areas designated



Percentage of total species of international importance per group protected by national legislation



/

/

/

/

/

/

Status of selected groups of species



Status of selected groups of species



Status of breeding birds



Status of Maltese habitats and species of European community importance



/

/

Sites proposed or designated as part of the Natura 2000 Network



Sites proposed or designated as part of the Natura 2000 Network



Sites designated as part of the Natura 2000 Network



Theme: Policy Responses

Public environmental expenditure



Public environmental expenditure



Public environmental expenditure



Public environmental expenditure



Take-up of voluntary schemes



Take-up of voluntary schemes



Take-up of voluntary schemes



/

/

/

/

Schools covered by Ekoskola



Schools covered by Ekoskola



Schools covered by Ekoskola



/

/

Number of trees planted in afforestation projects



Number of trees planted in afforestation projects



/

/

/

/

/

/

/

/

Sites requiring IPPC permits



Table 6 – Trends depicted by State of the Environment Indicators

    1. Type of Threats

The high population density and the growing demand for natural resources in a land constrained insular system such as Malta, has inevitably adversely affected the conservation status of a number of species and habitats alike. Threats to Maltese biodiversity have been reviewed in detail via the state of environment reporting process (1998, 2002 and 2005). The State of the Environment Report for Malta 2005 (SOER 2005) acknowledged development in rural and marine areas, the introduction of non-native species that may compete with native biodiversity, and the exploitation of wildlife, as the main threats to local biodiversity. Four economic sectors are considered to have the most significant impacts on the environment in general: housing, transport, energy generation and tourism (SOER 2005). One should appreciate that various actions have been considered in order to control such threats, especially in the last 15 years or so. The conservation status of native and endemic flora is thwarted by an intricate suite of threats that act concurrently to the detriment of Maltese biodiversity (Table 7). Such threats can be essentially traced to changes in land use and mismanagement of natural resources. Ensuing adverse impacts include those associated with pollution, nutrient overload, land fragmentation, soil erosion, anthropogenic climate change and biological invasions.

Bioinvasions

Inappropriate management of natural resources

  • competition for resources

  • alteration of habitat and environmental regimes (such as water, fire, soil)

  • homogenisation

  • loss of native species

  • introduction of diseases

  • hybridisation

  • excessive water abstraction and alteration of hydrodynamism affecting freshwater ecosystems

  • redirection of water courses adversely affecting inland water biodiversity

  • afforestation using non-native species (happened in the past, but no longer practised) – although the use of specimens of foreign provenance might result in genetic pollution

  • abandonment of agricultural land

  • high input agriculture

Pollution (Diffuse & Point Source)

Land conversion (including illegal land reclamation and encroachment)

  • nutrient overload and eutrophied water bodies

  • biomagnification and bioaccumulation of chemicals such as heavy metals

  • other toxic effects

  • acid deposition




  • loss of species and natural habitat

  • habitat degradation

  • fragmentation and edge effects

  • range contraction of species

  • local extirpation of species especially those exhibiting high habitat specificity

Illegal Capture and Trade of Species

Climate Change

  • incidental capture and killing

  • illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

  • direct persecution of species as an act of vandalism

  • illegal trade

  • indiscriminate methods of collection

  • changes in species migration and breeding times

  • increased stress

  • shifting habitats

  • extinction of species with high habitat specificity

Overexploitation of Species




  • selective removal of species

  • dwindling populations in view of rate of removal being far greater than rate of natural population recovery

  • changes in food web structures



Table 7 – General Threat Categories and Related Issues, including Examples of Ensuing Impacts on Biodiversity

Following is an overview of some of the threats to biodiversity in Malta.



Land Conversion: Land development in Malta is of major concern particularly given the very limited land area (316 km2). Since land is Malta’s primary non-renewable resource it is an important investment good, with construction occupying an important role in the economic development of the islands (although it has a relatively small contribution to the GDP). Undoubtedly, this leads to negative impacts on habitats and species; land use takes up natural and agricultural land area which is important for native biodiversity to flourish. One must say that various efforts have been made to identify those locations where important habitats and species thrive. Despite the fact that various measures have indeed been successful, land development is still a direct and indirect driver of biodiversity loss; transport and mineral extraction are two drivers of biodiversity loss even in undeveloped areas. It has been estimated that between 1990 and 2006, about 2.5km2 of land area which consisted of sclerophyllous vegetation, agricultural land and non-irrigated arable land, has been converted to discontinuous urban fabric, industrial or commercial units, mineral extraction sites and dumping sites. Being small in size and having a high population density, land use in the Maltese Islands is regulated through the Development Planning Act which also establishes a Structure Plan and subdivides Malta into different development zones with also include “out of development zones” (ODZ). Development in areas within ODZ is limited in accordance with Structure Plan policy and related guidelines and is currently being strengthened through new legislation which is presently being discussed at Parliament.

Invasive Alien Species: Throughout the years alien species have been intentionally and unintentionally introduced into the Maltese Islands. The entry and spread of alien species has however increased in Malta along with trends in trade, travel and living standards, and also possibly climate and land use change. When considering alien plants, a number of these have become major invaders of Maltese ecosystems, for instance Castor Oil Plant (Ricinus communis) invading watercourses. When considering alien fauna, those of major concern include pests of commercially important species and crops. An invasive species that has caused considerable damage in the past months is Red Palm Weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus) [first recorded in Malta in July 2007]. Various actions were taken to inform the public and to control its spread (refer to Plant Health Department portal on published articles). A European Commission Decision (2007/365 EC) has also been adopted to address this species. Nationally, two studies have been commissioned by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) to set up lists of alien flora and fauna that are already found in the Islands. The study on alien flora, which addressed slightly less than 500 alien taxa recorded from the Maltese Islands, has revealed that the commonest mode of introduction has been through horticultural trade (Figure 11). About 3% of species are possibly native while about 1% are archaeophytes (i.e. species not native to the Maltese Islands but introduced before 1492). At least 2.7% of the alien flora species, identified so far, are known to be invasive.



Figure 11 – Mode of introduction of alien flora into the Maltese Islands (MEPA 2006)

These commissioned studies, which are still pending publication, have also put forward recommendations to deal with biological invasions. Such recommendations need to be integrated in a national strategy. There are ongoing eradication/control initiatives, albeit mainly targeting protected areas. A legal framework for addressing invasive species is also in place. A national strategy would not only strengthen implementation of legal frameworks, but would also contribute towards targeting priority areas for remedial action, strengthening preventive measures and addressing policy gaps, such as the control of alien introduction via marine vectors and pathways. Moreover, information extracted from the commissioned studies will be used to develop Malta’s National Database on Alien Species.



Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) do not currently pose threats to biodiversity in Malta. As an EU Member State, Malta regulates the contained use of Genetically Modified Micro-organisms (GMMs), the release of GMOs into the environment, and their placing on the market. MEPA has established a Biosafety Coordinating Committee (BCC), assigned with the role to review and assess applications sent by the EC for consultation with Member States, as well as any possible applications originating from Malta. The BCC is also requested to comment on draft documents, legislation and safeguard clauses. MEPA received no applications for the experimental release of GMOs in Malta that have not yet been tested in other countries. Further work has been done with respect to the obligations of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, ratified by Malta on 5 January 2007. In this respect, Malta has finalised the National Biosafety Framework for Malta and established the Biosafety Clearing House – an information exchange mechanism with the aim of facilitating sharing of information on, and experience with, living modified organisms.

Overexploitation of wildlife is a burgeoning concern as this engenders loss of biodiversity. Quantitative data on exploitation levels is however lacking, excluding data on commercially exploited fish, which is collected on a monthly and annual basis by the National Statistics Office based on fish that is landed [Such data is published online by NSO – e.g. Censuses of Fisheries; Data on Fish Landings] [See also Section 3.2 for data gathering activities by AFRD and MCFS]. Legislation is in place to regulate the exploitation of species. However, further monitoring is needed in order to assess whether the current rate of exploitation is negatively affecting the conservation status of some species. Species that are threatened and hence may become extinct if exploited are legally strictly protected in Malta. Such species include, amongst others, Painted Frog (Discoglossus pictus pictus); a number of Iris species such as Southern Dwarf Iris (Iris pseudopumila); Maltese Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis urvilleana) and other species of orchids; Date Mussel (Lithophaga lithophaga); Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta); and conspicuous marine invertebrate species such as sponges, corals, and molluscs. With regards to strictly protected marine species, bycatch can also undermine the conservation status of species such as turtles and other megafauna that play a vital ecological role in food webs. Other species are covered by provisions that are based on the principles of sustainable use. These include, amongst others Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis); French Daffodil (Narcissus tazetta); Mediterranean Heath (Erica multiflora); Rock Urchin (Paracentrotus lividus); European Lobster (Homarus gammarus) and other species of lobster; and Dusky Grouper (Epinephelus marginatus).

Hunting and Trapping: One can here also mention the practice of hunting and trapping across the Maltese Islands. Legislation is in place which regulates this practice for species that can be hunted. Although certain practices are legal during specified seasons and for certain birds as specified by national legislation (see for instance the ‘Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations, 2006’ [Legal Notice 79 of 2006, as amended] and ‘Conservation of Wild Birds (Declaration of the periods for Hunting and Taking for 2009) Regulations, 2009’[LN 239 of 2009)], illegal practices of hunting and trapping have posed threats to various species along the years. Bag statistics indicating the scale of exploitation of wild migratory birds is attained through the Carnet de Chasse declarations, which consist of booklets with details on the catches registered by individuals holding a licence for hunting and/or trapping. The total number of birds declared hunted or trapped over a five year span is shown in Figure 12. The most hunted/trapped bird species in later years have been Turtle Dove and Song Thrush.

Figure 12 – Declared hunted and trapped birds (2002-2006)

Climate Change: The effects of climate change are already being felt in Malta as in other parts of the world. Efforts to conserve local biodiversity can be significantly undermined by the effects of climate change. In its first communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Malta noted that the expected impacts of climate change will include, amongst others, the deterioration of potable water supplies and water quality, frequent extreme weather events, increased desertification and soil erosion, changes in sea water mass characteristics, and sea level rise. Certain impacts will act as direct or indirect drivers of biodiversity loss. Studies on the effect on climate change on biodiversity are also needed, although expert observations are noting the increase in drought-tolerant species in wetlands, and the arrival of new species to the Maltese Islands from northern Africa, possibly as natural extension (e.g. Persicaria lanigera; Persicaria senegalensis). However, the link of this with climate change has not been scientifically ascertained, as yet. Conservation efforts should aim at increasing the resilience of ecosystems to adapt to the changing climate and associated environmental changes.

Past and current endeavours, including envisaged measures, to curb such threats across sectors to the benefit of local biodiversity are reviewed in Chapters 2 and 3 of this report.



2.0 Current Status of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAP)

In view of the ongoing process of developing Malta’s NBSAP, this chapter provides an overview of the progress made in implementing the CBD’s Programme of Work (PoW) on Island Biodiversity and also reviews advancements made in putting into actual practice the recommendations of national strategic documents.

The Thisndate for the development of the nbsap also stems from... mandate for developing the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) for Malta stems from Article 6 of the CBD, the EU Council Decision 93/626/EEC, the European Community Biodiversity Strategy (ECBS – COM/1998/42) and the “EU Biodiversity Action Plan to 2010 and beyond”. The need to develop the NBSAP has also been recognised at a national level. Its development and adoption is in fact called for by the 'Convention on Biological Diversity (Incorporation) Regulations, 2002' (Legal Notice 160 of 2002), the ‘Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations, 2006' (LN 311 of 2006, as amended), Malta’s National Reform Programme (2005-2008) as well as Malta’s National Strategy on Sustainable Development.

The development of Malta’s NBSAP is still an ongoing process. Although an NBSAP is not yet in place, in the past years, national documents of a strategic nature have been developed. These include for instance, the State of the Environment Reports (SOERs), the Structure Plan for the Maltese Islands, the National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSSD) and the National Report on the Strategic Action Plan for the Conservation of Maltese Coastal and Marine Biodiversity (SAPBIO Report). These documents have put forward a number of recommendations for safeguarding, as well as for conserving and managing, biological resources in the Maltese Islands. In this respect these documents have served a similar purpose as the NBSAP, that is, that of recommending activities for mainstreaming biodiversity across sectors. In addition, conservation endeavours have been undertaken nationally; these positively bring forth the goals laid out by the Programmes of Work (PoW) under the framework of the CBD as well as the Convention’s three objectives.

In order to arrive at strategic directions for integrating the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into relevant sectoral or cross-sectoral plans, programmes and policies, an assessment has been undertaken via a literature-based review and also by consulting relevant stakeholders:


  • to identify those factors across sectors that impinge on biodiversity and, assess what measures are in place to address these;

  • to evaluate progress in following up recommendations of the CBD PoW on Island Biodiversity as well as those of national policy; and,

  • to identify gaps in implementation that would be addressed via the NBSAP so as to strengthen mainstreaming of biodiversity concerns.

To this end, this chapter is based on data gathered via the consultation exercises held to date to develop Malta’s NBSAP and also consultations that have been carried out to develop this national report. It reviews the state of progress in implementing the CBD PoW on Island Biodiversity, as well as, national recommendations.

2.1 Progress in implementing the CBD Programme of Work on Island Biodiversity

LEGEND:



Goal/target being successfully attained



Ongoing work but goal/target not yet attained as further measures are necessary



Goal/target not being attained

Goal - 1: Promote the conservation of the biological diversity of island ecosystems, habitats and biomes

Target 1.1: At least 10% of each of the island ecological regions effectively conserved

Assessment of Overall Progress at a National Level - [target 1.1]

Description of Progress

Major nature protection legislation has been set up since 1991, although some minor law was already in place as far back as 193211. The Environment Protection Act (EPA, Act V of 1991) was first enacted in 1991 and was subsequently repealed and replaced in 2001 by Act XX of 2001. The EPA (Act XX of 2001 as amended by Act II of 2006) is an environmental framework law with general mandatory provisions regarding various environmental issues. Under this Act, the Minister responsible for the environment is granted the power to issue subsidiary legislation specific to environmental issues related to, amongst others, the protection of biological diversity. Thenceforth, several pieces of subsidiary law have been published (either as legal notices [LN] or government notices [GN]) in conformance with relevant global and regional treaties to which Malta is a Party.

Legal notices include regulations on protected areas, protected species (covering flora and fauna, and in certain cases being specific to groups of taxa e.g. the protection of marine mammals, reptiles and birds) and their management. Provisions aimed at the strict protection of endangered species, endemic species and migratory species are integrated into domestic law such as prohibitions of capture, killing and trade. Habitats important for the survival of such species are also protected. Subsidiary legislation pertaining to the protection of species also includes provisions on permitting, that is, the requirement for the issuance of a permit prior to handling, possession, capture, trade, exchange and release of specimens of those species that are nationally protected. An up-to-date list of published legislation under the EPA is available on MEPA’s Legislation and Policy portal. Seminars on legislative instruments (e.g. the enactment of the ‘Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations’ and the repeal and replacement of the ‘Trees & Woodland Protection Regulations’) have been held. Participatory workshops have also been carried out to gain sectoral support for the Natura 2000 Network in Malta.

Malta has made considerable advancement in affording legal protection to threatened species. An assessment carried out in 2005 revealed that out of the 189 species of international importance which are found in Malta, 183 (97%) were protected through Maltese legislation (Figure 13, overleaf). This is noteworthy when considering that in 2002, 39% of the species of international importance12 were unprotected. The most marked improvement has been with respect to higher plants (29% protected in 2002 vs. 100% in 2005), fish (21% vs. 93% in 2005) and crustaceans (12% vs. 89% in 2005). Of the six species that remained unprotected, one is reported as threatened in Malta, while three species are non-native. 2009 updates, reveal that 100% of crustacean and insect species of international importance are now also protected. Two of the six unprotected taxa have since been protected through the ‘Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations, 2006’ (LN 311 of 2006, as amended), such that 2.1% remain unprotected. It should be noted that actually, these 4 remaining species are not protected by any Treaty/Legislation; they are instead included in IUCN Red list of threatened species (of 1996 and/or of 2000).



Figure 13 – Species of international importance covered by national legal protection

(Source: MEPA 2006 – SOER 2005; + 2009 Updates13)

Sensitive areas important for biodiversity have been identified and are essentially mapped, being either designated or scheduled areas under the EPA and the Development Planning Act (DPA), respectively [or under both Acts as in the case of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)] [see Appendix III (B) of this Report]. Habitat mapping has been carried out since 1995, leading to an inventory of areas of ecological importance (AEIs) and sites of scientific importance (SSIs) in connection with Article 46 of the DPA [see Section 3.6]. Habitat mapping has also been carried out since 2002 as part of the Emerald/Natura 2000 selection process of SACs and SPAs. Considering the sites submitted to the EC to form part of the Natura 2000 network under the Habitats Directive, Malta has reached a high percentage (92.64% as at June 2008) under the sufficiency index for the terrestrial sites (Source: Natura 2000 Barometer). The evaluation of sufficiency is based on the range of each habitat and species in the full territory of each member state and within the sites proposed by each member state. To reach 100% sufficiency, proposed sites must be enlarged or new sites proposed; work is underway to achieve such objective.

Identification and mapping of tree protected areas has been done since 1999 and finalised in 2009. An exercise was also recently carried out to survey the mediolittoral algal communities, along the coastline of the Maltese archipelago in order to confirm the water quality and also aid in the nomination of marine protected areas (MPAs). Furthermore, through a number of environment impact assessments other mapping exercises were also carried out for particular marine areas. A wetlands inventory is also available; this includes extant wetlands and the major tributaries.



The protection of biodiversity is fundamentally important in view of its pivotal role in ensuring the continuity of ecosystem services. This is mainly achieved via statutory protection of sites under the EPA and DPA. Although the protection of sites was initiated a number of years ago, the extent of coverage has greatly increased in the past five to six years. Those areas designated under the EPA normally come along with the direct aim to protect habitats and species of importance; those scheduled under the DPA are aimed towards restricting development. Management of selected sites protected under the EPA is also being considered. Areas designated under the DPA and EPA cover about 20% of the land area of the Maltese Islands, with some of the sites being afforded protection under more than one piece of legislation. Marine areas are still limited, although a considerable amount of work has been carried out in 2008 to select further marine protected areas. A complete and updated list of the designated sites in Malta is available here.

Sites submitted to the EC for inclusion in the Natura 2000 Network under both the Habitats (SACs) and Birds (SPAs) Directives have increased from 2004 to date as shown in Table 8 (a) and (b). Some areas under one Directive overlap with those under the other Directive.

Number of Sites

Date of submission

SACs - terrestrial

SACs - marine

SPAs - terrestrial

2004

23

0

6

2006

26

1

12

2008

27

1

13







Area (sq km)

Date of submission

SACs - terrestrial

SACs - marine

SPAs - terrestrial

2004

39.35

0

7.63

2006

39.72

8.49

14.34

2008

41.12

8.49

16.34

Table 8 (a) & (b) – Number of sites (and area covered) as submitted to the EC for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network

The development and implementation of management plans (and other conservation measures) targeting protected areas (PAs) is an ongoing practice which, where possible, is supported by stakeholder involvement. In the case of terrestrial sites, there are currently in the region of six protected sites that are covered by management plans which are implemented under a signed management agreements. Management plans are being drafted for another two PAs. In the case of small islets, no management plan is actually required, since management measures and a strict protection regime are afforded through legislation; access is restricted to these sites. An Action Plan is also currently being implemented for il-Qawra/Dwejra Heritage Park and a management framework has been developed for Il-Majjistral Park. To date, site managers of protected areas primarily include non-governmental organisations (NGOs). However, there is the scope for moving on from this to include other types of site managers. In some protected areas, farmers constitute the great majority of land-owners or land-users of the area, thereby being extremely relevant site managers in these areas. Furthermore, private owners are also envisaged to potentially play a key role in the management of protected areas.

A management framework and an action plan for two marine protected areas (MPAs) have been approved. These include measures on how to:


  • protect the areas from threats,

  • enhance the marine environment,

  • promote stakeholder involvement and

  • propose different zones within the marine environment.

Work on the establishment of the first management plan for a MPA has continued, along with discussions with relevant governmental and non-governmental stakeholders.

Notice to Mariners 67/2004 and 5/2008 provide for the creation of Conservation Areas around Wrecks and Artificial Reefs, for the protection of species and habitats in these areas, through restrictions of use of fishing gears in these areas. The Agriculture and Fisheries Regulation Division (AFRD) and the Malta Maritime Authority (MMA) are the competent authorities for the implementation of these regulations.

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) is legally obliged to follow a

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