In 2018, the Convention on Biological Diversity will celebrate 25 years since its entry into force. On 5 June1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was adopted and opened for signature. On 29 December 1993, the Convention entered into force. The 25th anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the Convention, to communicate to the world the importance of biodiversity, and also to urge strengthened efforts to achieve the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and related commitments including the Sustainable Development Goals. The Secretariat invites the Parties to the Convention to participate in the 25th anniversary by organizing and hosting local celebrations on 22 May 2018, the International Day for Biodiversity.
Since the ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity in the Republic of Belarus, effective mechanisms have been established to achieve the global goals relating to biological diversity. Conservation of biological diversity is one of the priority directions of the state policy in the environmental sphere. At the Head of State and Government level, strategic and policy documents have been adopted and budget financing is allocated to bring them into effect. The Interdepartmental Council for the Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity functions as a platform for a debate on biodiversity-related issues and elaborating of decisions at the state level with the involvement of representatives of various state bodies, academia and civil society. Biodiversity is tracked by keeping the Inventory of Flora and Fauna and assessing the status of biodiversity through monitoring of ecosystems, flora and fauna. The system has been tuned up to detect and suppress breaches of environmental legislation.
The Republic of Belarus has adopted a strategy for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, a national strategy for the development of the system of specially protected natural areas until 1 January 2030, a scheme for rational allocation of specially protected natural areas of national significance until 1 January 2025, a conservation strategy and a rational (sustainable) use of peatlands and other policy documents.
In-situ conservation of biodiversity
The system of specially protected natural areas is functioning effectively in the Republic of Belarus. By 2018, the area of specially protected natural areas reached 1 811.6 thousand hectares, which is 8.72% of the total country’s territory (in 2000 ‒ 7.6%). Further development of the system of specially protected natural areas will be carried out, taking into account the formation of a national ecological network, the layout of which has been approved by the President of the Republic of Belarus.
Conservation and sustainable biodiversity in specially protected natural areas is ensured through the development and implementation of management plans for specially protected natural areas, which include restricted land and water use, restricted logging and construction of industrial enterprises and other hazardous facilities, as well as active protection measures ‒ reed mowing, controlled livestock grazing, and etc.
Typical and rare natural landscapes and biotopes, as well as habitats of wild animals and wild plants belonging to the species listed in the Red Book of the Republic of Belarus, are identified and transferred under the protection of land and (or) water objects’ users and a special protection regime is set up. The protection was provided to 1 453 habitats of wild animals and to
1 758 of wild plants, including 136 biotopes. For the species of wild animals and plants threatened with global extinction, action plans are developed, including a set of measures for their protection, which ensures an increase in the number of these species. In particular, the number of bisons in 2000 comprised 468 individuals, and in 2018 – 1 779 individuals. The work on restoring the aquatic warbler populations in its natural habitat using the translocation method has begun.
Ex-situ conservation of biodiversity
The country ensures that its genetic resources are preserved. In total, there are several dozen collections and banks of genetic resources (plant collections, strains of microorganisms, and etc.) in the country and 10 of them are recognized as a national treasure, including the Republican DNA Bank of a human, animals, plants and microorganisms.
Environmental translocations of critical populations of rare plant species are carried out using a set of ex-situ and in-situ conservation techniques. The systems of germplasm reservation and biotechnological development of organisms from it are involved. In 2017, a program was elaborated and implemented to develop an artificial population of Potentilla rupestris and in 2018, work is underway to reproduce 5 species of plants under threat of global extinction in the artificial environment.
Invasive alien species
The problem of the spread of invasive alien species is receiving close attention. Based on scientific research, a list of invasive alien species of wild animals and plants has been identified, which includes 13 species of wild animals and 9 species of wild plants. In 2016, the “Black Book of Invasive Species of Animals” was published, and in 2017 ‒ “Plants-Aggressors. Invasive Species in the Territory of Belarus”. Activities to regulate the spread and the number of the most abundant harmful invasive species that cause the greatest economic damage (Sosnowsky’s hogweed, Canadian goldenrod) are included in the National Action Plan for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity for 2016-2020 and are relating to systematically conducted mandatory measures carried out in the country’s regions and aimed to improve settlement areas.
Restoration of disturbed ecosystems
The marshes (863 thousand hectares) preserved in the Republic of Belarus in the natural state have an exceptionally important role in regulating and maintaining of a favorable regional hydrological regime. Over the past 10 years, 51 thousand hectares of the disturbed peatlands have been restored, representing 5.9% of all Belarus’s marshes and 17% of the disturbed marshes.
The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Utilization
The Republic of Belarus is the only country-Party to the Nagoya Protocol with the National Coordination Center on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit-sharing established in 2014 and state financing since then. In 2017, the Republic of Belarus transferred for the first time genetic resources pursuant to the Nagoya Protocol’s requirements. Legal and administrative mechanisms are being developed to provide access to genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge and benefit-sharing.
With a view of implementing the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the National Coordination Biosafety Center was established in Belarus and the Law “On Safety in Genetic Engineering Activity” was adopted. The Council of Experts on Safety of Genetically Engineered Organisms of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus is functioning and it examines the issues, with the involvement of scientific organizations and representatives of civil society, relating to GMO release into the environment. Since 2014, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus has issued 3 permits for release of non-pathogenic genetically engineered organisms into the environment for testing in the specially equipped experimental field that meets biosafety requirements. In the country, a network of 17 accredited GMO Detection Laboratories was set up complying with the national standards.