Spain launches national biodiversity strategy

Government stresses Spain's natural wealth, promises sectoral biodiversity plans

Spain's first national biodiversity plan was published by the Spanish environment ministry this week, following a six-year consultative process. Highlights of the paper include a commitment to prepare biodiversity plans for key economic sectors within three years, and publication of Spain's most thorough biodiversity assessment ever prepared.

Spain has a special responsibility to protect its biodiversity, the strategy concludes. With 8,000 plant species represented - 60% of the European total - and around 55,000 animal species, the country has more biodiversity than any other European state. It also contains the highest number of endangered European plant and animal species.

Several major threats to Spain's biodiversity are identified. Chief among them is habitat fragmentation caused by a rapidly expanding transport and water supply infrastructure. The survival of the last significant population of Iberian lynx, in the Doñana region, is being jeopardised by the construction of a motorway to Huelva, it warns. In the Pyrennean region of Navarra, a colony of griffin vultures is under threat from a new dam. Other threats to biodiversity identified are the absence of conservation criteria in planning processes, desertification, forest fires, and industrial pollution.

Under the strategy, sectoral biodiversity plans are to be drawn up within three years for activities with major environmental impacts. These include the mining and energy industries, agriculture, water supply, transport infrastructure and hunting. The plans will aim to ensure that future development of these activities integrates biodiversity conservation principles.

The final part of the document recognises the role of the environment ministry in increasing the number of areas designated as part of the EU's future Natura 2000 network of protected sites, and in strengthening the enforcement of environmental impact studies.

Spanish environmental groups have welcomed the strategy, but claim that it may not lead to enough action. "We would have liked to see [it] given some sort of legislative status," said Teo Oberhuber of NGO Ecologists in Action. "The commitments made up to now have only been good intentions."

The national government, regional authorities, industry groups, trades unions and environmental groups have all signed up to the document, which is intended to fulfil commitments made under the 1992 UN biodiversity convention.

Follow Up:
Spanish environment ministry, tel: +34 91 597 6030; Ecologists in Action, tel: +34 91 531 2739.

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