The Republic of Macedonia is situated in the South Western part of the Balkan Peninsula. It is a landlocked country with an area of 25 713 km² and population estimated at 2 million.
The country has a mountainous territory (79%) covered with deep basins and valleys (19%) and three large lakes (close to 2%), each of which is divided by a frontier line. Macedonia is bisected by the Vardar River.
Mountains in the east are part of the old Rodope mountains group. In the west, the mountains are part of the young Dinaric group where the highest peak in Macedonia -Golem Korab (2,764 m) is situated. The largest plain is the Pelagonia Plain, which covers an area of 4,000 km² in the southwest. Skopje Valley covers 1,840 km².
Macedonia has three overlapping climatic zones which also determine the main bio-geographic and agro-ecological zones: Mediterranean, Continental and mountainous (Alpine).
The natural conditions of the country defined by its geology, relief, climate, hydrography, soil, flora, and fauna determine its truly rich nature. The abundance of ecosystems, habitats, communities and species places Macedonia at the top of countries with impressive biodiversity in Europe. Key ecosystems represent dryland/grasslands, wetlands, forests and mountainous sites. The traditional and low intensity farming practices have contributed significantly to the creation and maintenance of this exceptional richness.
Nature protection is regulated by the Law on Nature Protection (OG 67/04, 14/06 and 84/07). It is harmonised with the EU legislation and incorporates the obligations from the ratified international agreements in the field of nature. It introduces six categories of protected areas, harmonized with the classification of the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The network of protected areas comprises has increased from 7.4% of the national territory in 1991 to 8.7% in 2008 and covers an area of 2220.5km².
|Map 1: Protected areas in Macedonia||Map 2: Emerald sites in Macedonia|
Emerald and Natura 2000
The Macedonian network of Emerald sites was established in the period 2002-2008. It comprises 35 sites with a total area of 756,890 ha. The identification and the set up of the Emerald network is an important enabling mechanism for the establishment of the Natura 2000 network in Macedonia.
Currently, there are a number of ongoing projects in Macedonia assessing species and habitats at local level. Farming dependant habitats such as 6120 Xeric calcareous grasslands, 6170 Alpine and sub-alpine calcareous grasslands, 6210 Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland on calcareous substrates (Festuco Brometalia), 6220 Pseudo-steppe with grasses and annuals of the Thero-Brachypodietea and 6230 Species-rich Nardus grasslands in mountain areas are found throughout the country.
The process of developing Natura 2000 network in Macedonia will also integrate other key biodiversity areas designated under international initiatives such as Important Birds Areas (IBAs), Important Plant Areas (IPAs) and Prime Butterfly Areas (PBAs).
IBAs. According to current estimations there are 33 bird species listed in Annex 1 of the Bird Directive which are found in Macedonia. Out of them, 16 species are considered in a critical status and 2 species are already extinct (Gypaetus barbatus, Tetrax tetrax).
The first designation in 1989 comprised 10 Important Bird Areas (IBA) with a total area of 2 709 km² (10% of country's territory). The new proposal by Birdlife International (2008) comprises 21 sites with a total area of 6 538 km² (25% of country's territory).
IPAs. There are 42 Important Plant Areas (IPAs) identified in Macedonia with a total area of 459 425 ha (17,9% of country's territory). Grasslands are found in 80% of the identified areas. Most common are dry pastures, found in 20 IPAs, and alpine and sub-alpine pastures found in 12 IPAs.
PBAs. There are 8 Primary Butterfly Areas (PBAs) which are proposed currently and 3 of them are already protected at national level.
European and Balkan Green Belt
The European Green Belt initiative is a partnership under the umbrella of the IUCN, with the vision to create the backbone of an ecological network that runs from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea, spanning some of the most important habitats for biodiversity and almost all distinct biogeographical regions in Europe. One can easily imagine that this initiative will be considered seriously in the future Green Infrastructure actions across Europe.
The Macedonian component of the Green Belt includes 11 protected areas: Ezerani Strict Natural Reserve on Prespa Lake, Mavrovo National Park, Galicica National Park, Pelister National Park; and Natural Monuments such as Ohrid Lake, Prespa Lake, Doyran Lake, Vevchani Springs, Majdan, Smolare Waterfall and Kolesino Waterfall.
The Green Belt also covers important non-protected areas such as Jablanica mountains, Nidze, Kozuf, Belasitsa, Maleshevski Mountains, Osogovo Mountains and some parts of Vardar river and its watershed.
Agriculture and Farming
Agriculture represents 13% of the GDP in Macedonia. It is very diverse due to the specific mixture of climate and relief, cultures and traditions. In the last decade, land use and land cover are changing continuously: forests increase by around 250,000 ha up to 1,159,600 ha while pastures decrease by 192,000 ha to 541,000ha. Agricultural land also decreases but at a slower pace from 570,000 ha in 2003 to 521,000 ha in 2008.
At the same time, the average farm size remains stable at around 2,5 ? 2,8 ha per farm. This is largely explained by the fact, that this figure presents only the private agricultural land on family holdings. The large cooperative and enterprises are considered separately. Additionally, pastures are treated as assets of public interests and are therefore managed by a Public Enterprise for Pasture Management. As a result, the pastures used by farmers are never presented in the (average) farm land figures.
|Map 3 Land cover in Macedonia||Figure 1 Land use changes in Macedonia, NSI|
EU Accession and Support to HNV farming
The Republic of Macedonia is a candidate country since December 2005.
The country has prepared a number of documents related to rural development:
National Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy 2007-2013; National Rural Development Programme; IPARD programme 2007-2013; National Strategy and an Action Plan for Organic Agriculture as well as a National Agri-Environmental Programme.
Common and communal pasture
Common pastures are a significant element in HNV farming in Macedonia. More information can be found in this document.