A predominantly mountainous country sitting between the continental and Mediterranean climate zones, Albania is very narrow compared to the length of its coastline, so that the Adriatic and Ionian Seas have a great impact on the climate, flora and fauna of most of the country. With the mountains rising quickly to a maximum of 2700 m, 41 % of the 3.2 million population lives on the extensive coastal plain. The mountainous terrain, combined with its position at the meeting place of major climatic zones, creates ideal conditions for the development and survival of a large number of endemic and sub-endemic species.
Albania is very rich in biological and landscape diversity due to its geographical position, geological factors, hydrology, climate, and soil conditions. There is a high diversity of ecosystems and habitats from marine and coastal ecosystems, wetlands and river deltas, Mediterranean shrubs and forests to alpine and subalpine pastures and meadows.
In Albania, there are around 3,200 species of vascular plants of which 27 are endemic and 160 are sub-endemic species as well as 756 vertebrate species. Approximately 30% of the European flora occurs in Albania.
The country is characterised by two main bio-geographical regions: the Mediterranean and the Alpine regions.
There are currently about 802 protected areas (including 750 Nature Monuments) in Albania, covering around 365000 ha or 12.57 % of the total land surface of the country.
The alignment of the national legislation with Natura 2000 Directives started in 2008. The future Natura 2000 network will be based on the network of Emerald sites of which there are already 25 identified.
Other designated areas
IBAs. Albania is a globally important country for bird preservation. Migrating birds follow the Adriatic Flyway across the East Adriatic Coast where Albania offers several valuable resting and feedings sites, the majority of which are designated as Important Bird Areas.
There are 10 IBAs in Albania ranging from 800 ha to 14000 ha. The largest IBAs are the inland lakes – lake Shkodra, lake Ohrid and lake Prespa. All the rest are located on the Adriatic Coast.
IPAs. Overall, there are 45 Important Plant Areas in Albania of which 15 are trans-boundary sites.
Agriculture and Farming
Fig.1. Land use map of Albania
With 58% of the total labour force and 19 % of GDP, the agricultural sector continues to be one of the most important sectors of the Albanian economy. About 56 % of the population live in rural areas, where agriculture is the main activity.
Animal production accounts for about 53% of total agricultural output, field crops for 32% and permanent crops for 16%. Agricultural production increased at an average of 3% between 2002 and 2006, which is a lower rate of growth than the economy as a whole. The increase in yields has been substantial for grapes, potatoes, milk from cattle and goats, eggs, fruits and fodder. Fruit production (including grapes) increased by 70% between 2000 and 2008, animal production by 21% and arable crops by 10%. Vegetables production has increased notably, particularly in greenhouses. The area under wheat has decreased markedly.
Only 73% of farms are mechanised; 24% use animal traction and 3% manual labour only. The main issues facing agriculture are: migration from rural areas; very limited size of holdings (average of 1.1 ha divided up into 3.9 parcels, compared to an EU25 average of 23 ha); poor marketing of products; under-developed irrigation and drainage systems; a low technological level; weak organisation of farmers; and a low level of development of the processing industry. In general, there is little interest in investing in agricultural activities (NSSED, 2003; Zdruli, 2000).
Albania is a potential candidate country - its application for EU membership was submitted in April 2009.
Albania adopted a National Strategy for Rural development (2007-2013) and a draft IPARD Programme. Both documents focus on the modernization of the agricultural sector by supporting investments. The role of the extensive type of farming for biodiversity and nature conservation is not yet recognized by the existing policy documents.
Common and communal pasture
Common pastures are a significant element in HNV farming in Albania. More information can be found in this document.