Sixth National Report
Section I. Information on the targets being pursued at the national level
1. Norwegian ecosystems will achieve good status and deliver ecosystem services ()
The Government’s main approach in its biodiversity strategy is to ensure that the nature management regime is sustainable, so that the overall pressure resulting from human activities and use of nature allows Norwegian ecosystems to maintain good ecological status over time as far as possible.
Many of the Aichi targets are essentially concerned with maintaining well-functioning ecosystems or improving ecological status, particularly numbers 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14 and 15. The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity calls for action to ensure that ‘ecosystems are resilient and continue to provide essential services’ and that ‘biological resources are sustainably used’. Also, its targets include action to restore degraded ecosystems and maintain the integrity and functioning of ecosystems. These aims are reflected in one of Norway’s national environmental targets for biodiversity, which is that ‘Norwegian ecosystems will achieve good status and deliver ecosystem services’
The target of achieving good ecological status is based on the fundamental idea that well-functioning ecosystems benefit society as a whole, and that we have an obligation to pass on healthy ecosystems to future generations.
In connection with administrative decisions, it is necessary to find a balance between costs and benefits. In many cases, other public interests are considered so important that activities or developments that will disturb the natural environment are permitted. Sometimes the weight given to other public interests may mean that it is accepted that parts of an ecosystem will not achieve good ecological status. In addition, pressures that are not under national control, such as climate change, ocean acidification and long-range transport of pollutants, may make it impossible to achieve good ecological status in all parts of ecosystems.
THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION APPLIES TO ALL NATIONAL TARGETS
Norway’s national biodiversity action plan – Nature for life
The white paper "Nature for life – Norway's national biodiversity action plan" describes the Government’s policy for safeguarding biodiversity in Norway, which is designed to play a part in achieving biodiversity targets at both national and international level. The white paper describes biodiversity-related challenges and threats, and the policy instruments the Government will use to deal with them. The Government will take steps to ensure sustainable use of Norwegian nature and prevent the loss of species and ecosystems. It will also continue work to secure the conservation of a representative selection of Norwegian nature. The Government will ensure that the instruments and measures used are effective and clearly targeted. As part of this action plan, The Norwegian government has defined paths for achieving the three national targets. The three national targets for safeguarding the Norwegian biodiversity are: (1) Norwegian ecosystems will achieve good status and deliver ecosystem services, (2) No species or habitat types will become extinct or be lost, and the status of threatened and near-threatened species and habitat types will be improved, (3) A representative selection of Norwegian nature will be maintained for future generations.
The three targets are set at a national level, but all levels of government have to take into account national biodiversity targets 1 and 2. National target 2 has for instance been included in the recently published national pollinator strategy. This strategy has been developed in collaboration with the main sectors with responsibility for land management including agriculture, transport and municipalities.
2. No species or habitat types will become extinct or be lost, and the status of threatened and near-threatened species and habitat types will be improved ()
Norway’s national target is that ‘no species or habitat types will become extinct or be lost, and the status of threatened and near-threatened species and habitat types will be improved’. The target refers to species extinction as a consequence of human activity, which does not exclude the possibility that species may be lost as a result of natural processes. Moreover, it follows from the management objectives for species and habitat types in the Norwegian Nature Diversity Act that habitat and species and their genetic diversity are to be maintained within their natural ranges. All these goals are particularly relevant to threatened species and habitats, in other words species and habitats that Norway risks losing altogether. Neither the national target nor the management objective for species applies to alien organisms.
See information on target 1 as regards the political process of adopting the national targets.
3. A representative selection of Norwegian nature will be maintained for future generations ()
Norway’s national target is that ‘a representative selection of Norwegian nature will be maintained for future generations’. Promoting the conservation of ‘the full range of variation of habitats and landscape types’ is specifically mentioned in section 33 of the Norwegian Nature Diversity Act in a list of the objectives of establishing protected areas. Others include the conservation of endangered natural environments and major intact ecosystems. Long-term conservation measures can play a part in achieving several of the Aichi targets at the same time. The Government will seek to achieve both national and international targets for long-term conservation through a combination of protection of areas under the Nature Diversity Act and relevant sectoral measures. In this context, relevant measures are long-term in nature and give effective protection against relevant pressures on geographically defined areas of biodiversity importance. Examples of sectoral measures are prohibiting the use of certain types of fishing gear under the Norwegian Marine Resources Act in areas with coral reefs, and protecting – by decision of Parliament – river systems or parts of them against hydropower developments. Areas where management measures are implemented for biodiversity purposes under the Norwegian Nature Diversity Act or sectorial Acts, must be managed in a way that maintains their conservation value in practice in order to fulfil their purpose.
See information on target 1 as regards the political process of adopting the national targets.
Section II. Implementation measures, their effectiveness, and associated obstacles and scientific and technical needs to achieve national targets
The Nature Diversity Act
The Nature Diversity Act is one of the most important instruments that was adopted as a result of Norway’s first national strategy for the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (Report No. 42 to the Storting (2000–2001)). The Act applies to Norwegian land territory, including river systems, and to Norwegian territorial waters. The Act's provisions on access to genetic material also apply to Svalbard and Jan Mayen. Certain provisions of the Act also apply on the continental shelf and in the areas of jurisdiction established under the Act relating to the economic zone of Norway to the extent they are appropriate. According to the objects clause, the purpose of the Act is ‘to protect biological, geological and landscape diversity and ecological processes through conservation and sustainable use, and in such a way that the environment provides a basis for human activity, culture, health and well-being, now and in the future, including a basis for Sami culture’.
The Act has been in force since 2009. It is difficult to relate possible effects of the Act directly to the ecological status of ecosystems, which can only be assessed over a longer time period. In addition, the Act is only one in a number of policy instruments, and the state of the environment in the long term will depend on the combined effects of all policy instruments that are applied in relation to the whole range of pressures and impacts on ecosystems.
However, the Act is being implemented on all levels of government and a start has been made in using the Act's new instruments.
The provision of the Nature Diversity Act on quality norms for biological, geological and landscape diversity has been used once, to establish quality norms for wild salmon stocks. Parliament has asked the Ministry of Climate and Environment to develop a quality norm for reindeer. Quality norms can be useful tools if there is agreement that a species or habitat type requires special safeguards, for example because a population is declining, but it is not clear what needs to be done and several sectors are involved in management. In these cases, establishing a quality norm can encourage the development of a joint knowledge base and joint targets for the management of the species or habitat type.
The new clauses on priority species and selected habitat types have been used on 13 species and 6 habitat types. See also "MEASURE: Measure to safeguard threatened species".
Protected areas are still an important tool, now regulated in the Nature Diversity Act.
Provisions on alien organisms in the Nature Diversity Act, together with new Regulations relating to alien organisms, entered into force as recently as 1 January 2016. These new rules are important for preventing the import and release of invasive alien organisms. However, they do not provide a solution to all the problems associated with invasive alien organisms. Eradicating, containing and controlling all invasive alien organisms is time and resource consuming and complete eradication is not realistic.
An independent evaluation report on the application of the principles of environmental law in the Act and its provisions on priority species, selected habitat types and exemptions from protection decisions, was published September 30th 2014.
The report recommended steps to clarify the scope of the principles of environmental law and to provide better guidance on how they should be applied in practice. These recommendations have been followed up by revising the guidelines on the application of the principles for official decision-making. In addition, the report makes recommendations on the application of the provisions on priority species and selected habitat types, and on improvements of the knowledge base and steps to build up expertise at local and regional level.
As to the application of the provisions on priority species and selected habitat types, the national action plan outlines principles for use of these provisions.
See elsewhere in this report on use of the instruments of designation of priority species and selected habitat types.
Continuous updating of scientific knowledge and spatial information is important for implementation of the Nature Diversity Act.
Mapping biodiversity and establishing maps of ecological information for Norway
An important measure is the increased effort to provide spatial data on biodiversity. Land conversion and land-use change resulting in habitat degradation and fragmentation is the most serious threat to biodiversity today. It is essential to have spatial data on species, habitats and landscapes so that biodiversity can be taken properly into account in planning and decision-making. Spatial data can be obtained by field surveys of biodiversity and by remote sensing. A number of geographical information systems (GIS) are available that can capture such data.
In recent years, Norway has given priority to building up knowledge about the distribution of species and habitats, but there are still major knowledge gaps to be filled. The Government considers it necessary to continue mapping of species, habitats and ecosystems, landscapes and ecosystem services. In the context of land-use management, mapping to obtain biodiversity data that is needed in day-to-day decisions on land use and other issues that influence environmental pressures is particularly important. On this basis, the Government will give highest priority to mapping of habitats that are threatened, important for many different species, provide key ecosystem services, or are particularly poorly mapped. Priority will also be given to geographical areas where mapping will provide most benefits for society, including areas both land areas and sea areas where the level of human activity is high and that are under great pressure and areas where climate change is expected to result in rapid change. The new Norwegian system for classifying habitats, ecosystems and landscapes is to be used as the basis for public-sector mapping of Norwegian nature.
The Naturbase portal (www.naturbase.no) run by the Norwegian Environment Agency is currently an important source of spatial data on habitats, and the Species Map Service run by the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre provides spatial data on species. Map layers for ecological data are currently available through various institutions in publicly available national datasets. Some of these are modelled, while others are based on field surveys. Some map layers can be used directly as nationwide datasets showing environmental variation. Others will need to be further developed or updated before they can be used in this way.
The Government will ensure that over time, a good basis for the analysis and modelling of Norwegian nature is built up through cooperation and the development of datasets. A larger-scale initiative to map nature and biodiversity in Norway, the ecological base-map, has started. This is a cooperation between a number of key bodies involved in the production of relevant map layers. The mapping results will be used to create a collection of map layers showing ecological data, including where in Norway species and habitats are found. There will be other map layers for specific environmental variables, which will provide information on where in Norway conditions are suitable for particular habitats or species. Some ecological spatial data are already available from various databases. The Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre is responsible for the mobilizing of baseline biological data through its access to capacity and data from relevant Norwegian institutes and experts. This work is being organised and led by the Norwegian Environment Agency.
See text above.
Due to implementation of the new Norwegian system for classifying habitats, ecosystems and landscapes, development of new mapping methods and guidance materials have been required.
The natural environment changes constantly, in some cases as a consequence of human activity. We need to understand environmental trends over time and the causes of change. This knowledge can be acquired through monitoring data obtained by field observations or from remote sensing, and through research based on such data. Monitoring programmes provide long time series of data. They generally need to be followed up by research to build up knowledge about ecological relationships and the causes of change. Building up knowledge about ecological status and trends in ecosystems requires monitoring programmes for a representative selection of key indicators for different ecosystems, in addition to data from reference areas. Developing an understanding of environmental pressures and relationships between pressures and ecological status requires monitoring of important pressures such as land conversion and land-use change in addition.
A number of monitoring programmes have already been established and are providing information on trends in Norwegian ecosystems. Some are run by the environmental authorities and some by other sectors. Biodiversity is now being monitored to some extent in all Norway’s major ecosystems.
However, the current monitoring system is still inadequate for a number of environmental pressures and species groups, certain ecosystems are less well covered, and the system does not provide sufficiently representative or complete geographical coverage. The Norwegian environmental monitoring system has recently been reviewed to identify changes needed to obtain a sound knowledge base and complete geographical coverage. Even though most of the existing monitoring still is adequate, there are important gaps to fill to meet the requirements. It is important to have an overview of trends for those species groups and habitats we know little about at present, or that are expected to be under growing pressure in future. More knowledge is also needed about environmental pressures and impacts. A better knowledge base, including knowledge about the impacts of various types of projects and measures, will make it possible to assess changes in biodiversity more accurately. It is vital to be able to do this so that action to safeguard biodiversity can be more clearly targeted and developments that affect valuable and threatened species and habitats can be avoided. Monitoring programmes for coastal waters, cultural landscapes and wetlands are particularly incomplete.
Sound knowledge about status and trends for the ocean climate and biodiversity is a vital basis for managing marine ecosystems. A coordinated system has been established under the integrated marine management plans for monitoring environmental conditions in Norwegian sea areas. The monitoring system uses a selected set of indicators and parameters to assess status and trends for physical and biological conditions.
In the Government’s view, it is also important to monitor environmental pressures, including land-use change and climate change. New model-based tools for land-use management are needed to make it possible to model the cumulative effects of all proposed projects and developments, and to include the projected responses of ecosystems to climate change. This is of crucial importance for assessing the impacts of different pressures on the environment and the cumulative effects in specific areas. Surveillance monitoring of ecological status in coastal waters needs to be improved. Long time series are needed to understand the causes of change in ecosystems. The Ministry of Climate and Environment appointed in 2016 an expert committee of researchers from Norwegian universities and national institutes that in 2017 proposed a comprehensive technical system for the determination of good ecological condition (status) in marine and terrestrial master habitats. The committee considered existing monitoring systems to be insufficient for an adequate system in the long term. The Norwegian Environment Agency has now started further development and implementation of this system to be operative from 2020. The EU water framework directive and the Norwegian Water Management Regulations will continue to follow up on similar classifications for coastal waters and freshwater habitats to meet the requirements of the regulations.
New technology based on remote sensing shows promising results for making it possible to improve environmental monitoring and make it more effective. The Copernicus programme is the EU Earth observation and monitoring programme, and includes resource management, environmental and climate monitoring and emergency management and security. The Government will continue Norway’s active role in the Copernicus programme, and will assess when and how the environmental authorities can benefit by using satellite data from the programme. Monitoring of biodiversity and of the impacts of land-use change and climate change will be of particular interest in cases where the satellite data provide sufficient management-relevant information. Norway also participate and support the international network GEO (Group on Earth Observations).
The quality of satellite data and other remote sensing data (e.g. laser, radar, drones and aerial photos) are improving and access to the data is becoming easier, providing a better basis for developing new management tools based on models used in landscape ecology. These can make it possible to model and analyse the effects of land conversion and habitat fragmentation, and barrier effects resulting from existing and planned developments. They will also make it possible to take into account the projected responses of biodiversity to climate change in planning processes. These tools and models will also be useful in planning transport and energy infrastructure projects and smaller-scale projects, and will provide a better basis for assessing the cumulative effects of developments across sectors. Another promising tool for environmental assessments used in Norway is Environmental DNA (eDNA). This is a relatively new and cost-efficient method for research, monitoring and mapping of nature with high relevance for all countries.
See text above.
GEO (Group on Earth Observations) is a partnership of more than 100 national governments and in excess of 100 Participating Organizations that envisions a future where decisions and actions for the benefit of humankind are informed by coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observations.
Research and development and education
One of the principles of Norway’s environmental policy is that management must be knowledge-based. This means that the environmental authorities must have information on the state of the environment, drivers of change, pressures and impacts, and appropriate tools and policy instruments. In November 2017, "The Ministry of Climate and Environment's Knowledge Strategy 2017-2020" was published as a guideline for knowledge-based management.
The document "Priority research needs of the Ministry of Climate and Environment (2016-2021)" describes priority knowledge needs for the period 2016–2021. The document includes complex and interdisciplinary issues.
Research on resources, pressures and environmental change is needed to develop knowledge-based solutions for social and industrial development. This means that research needs to be better integrated and more interdisciplinary, with closer links between research in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.
Both research and monitoring initiatives are needed to strengthen the knowledge base on the most important pressures affecting biodiversity and ecosystem services, including land-use conversion and land-use change, climate change and ocean acidification.
The Government expects the Research Council's environmental research programmes to fund research that will help to meet the knowledge needs relating to biodiversity. In the Government’s view, there is also a need for the Research Council of Norway and the ministries that fund research to strengthen their cooperation and scale up co-funding across sectors. A good framework should also be provided for stronger cooperation between environmental and industry-oriented research programmes.
In 2017, the Research Council of Norway published a Strategy for sustainability 2017-2020 based on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Internationalisation, and European research cooperation in particular, has helped to improve research results. Horizon 2020 is the world’s largest research and innovation programme, with funding of EUR 80 billion available over a seven-year period (2014–2020). Research groups, the public sector and companies in Norway can take part in the same way as colleagues and competitors in other European countries. In June 2014, the Government presented a strategy for research and innovation cooperation with the EU. One of its goals is greater Norwegian participation in Horizon 2020. Norway's "Strategy for cooperation on higher education and research with Brazil, China, India, Japan, Russia and South Africa (2016–2020)" is the platform for cooperation with other countries that will come to play a more important role for the further development of the Norwegian knowledge society. The strategy includes cooperation related to climate and environmental issues and sustainable development.
International knowledge generation processes such as the work being carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been very important for Norwegian climate research. The Government values this work and will work to ensure that the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), established in 2012, achieves an equivalent legitimacy in respect of biodiversity as the IPCC enjoys with respect to climate science. IPBES focuses on the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services for human well-being. It takes an interdisciplinary approach and has delivered knowledge analyses and policy recommendations in areas such as pollination and food production, land degradation and restoration and regional assessments of status and trends, in addition to a methodological assessment on models and scenarios. In the coming years IPBES will produce assessments on sustainable use of biodiversity (wild species)invasive alien species, a global assessments of status and trends and a methodological assessment on values and valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
The IPBES has a Technical Support Unit on Capacity Building in Trondheim in Norway, which is to assist IPBES with the capacity building part of the work programme. The unit is located in the premises of the Norwegian Environment Agency, which is also Norway’s national focal point for the IPBES. The Government will continue Norway’s involvement in the work of the IPBES and will encourage Norwegian experts to play an active part in this international cooperation and in formulating mandates, methodology and tools for its work.
The establishment of Norwegian research centres such as the Fram Centre in Tromsø, the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research in Bergen and the Oslo Centre for Interdisciplinary Environmental and Social Research (CIENS) strengthens research groups and promotes broader-based interdisciplinary cooperation. However, in the field of the conservation and use of biodiversity and ecosystem services, there has been no centre responsible for cross-disciplinary applied research and for communicating results. Given the requirements for knowledge-based management that follow from the Nature Diversity Act, implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the establishment of IPBES and the growing priority being given to ecosystem services (for example in Official Norwegian Report NOU 2013:10 on the value of ecosystem services), the Research Council of Norway has supported a review of the case for establishing such a centre by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, NTNU (the Norwegian University of Science and Technology) and the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre. As a follow up to the review, the Centre for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (CeBES) was established through formalised cooperation between NTNU, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, the Norwegian Institute of Bio economy Research (NIBIO) and SINTEF. The aim is for the Centre to become a national hub for innovative, interdisciplinary research and development and dissemination, and thus contribute to national and global efforts for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
Species and habitats have lost ground as a research field and study area at Norwegian universities and colleges in recent years. Parliament has also called attention to this. The Ministry of Education and Research (via funding for the Research Council of Norway) and the Ministry of Climate and Environment (via funding for the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative run by the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre) have together strengthened researcher recruitment to the field by providing strategic funding for the national Research School in Biosystematics. The school was established with co-funding from the Research Council, and is a good platform for cooperation with other Nordic countries. The research school cooperates with similar initiatives at Nordic and European level.
The foundation for future expertise in and research on biodiversity and the environment is laid during primary and secondary education. Curricula, teachers’ qualifications and the content of teaching plans all play a vital part in giving pupils an insight into and understanding of the world’s major environmental problems. Knowledge about biodiversity, important drivers of biodiversity loss and possible solutions to the problems must all be included in the teaching programmes. It is also important that these subjects are taught in a way that encourages the recruitment of students and researchers, both to the subject itself and to more interdisciplinary research into complex environmental problems and solutions. The Sustainable Backpack programme will be continued. This is a nationwide initiative by the Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Climate and Environment to support Norwegian schools in implementing Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). From the school year 2016/2017, the Government is introducing one extra lesson a week in the natural sciences, which schools may teach in year 5, 6 or 7. This will mean that pupils receive an extra 40 hours’ teaching in the natural sciences.
In 2017, the Norwegian government decided on a new broader part of the curriculum. This broader part elaborates The object clause and defines important values and principles for Norwegian schools. Respect for nature and sustainability are key values included in the new broader part of the curriculum. The Norwegian government is seeking renewal of the subjects taught in schools to enable pupils to achieve more in-depth learning and better understanding. The new curricula will be implemented from 2019. The government recommends giving priority to three interdisciplinary topics when renewing the school subjects: democracy and citizenship, sustainable development and public health and wellbeing. Sustainable development is to encompass both environmental challenges and technological change.
The Government’s revised long-term plan for research and higher education (2019-2028) emphasises the need for more knowledge about the most serious environmental threats, including the loss of biodiversity. It also identifies the need to learn more about interactions between climate change and other environmental pressures and how different environmental and climate-related measures can support each other. The Government will address these knowledge needs as part of the work of implementing the long-term plan. Research to meet the Sustainable Development Goals is highlighted in the revised plan. Seas and oceans, and Climate, environment and clean energy are two out of five thematic priorities in the long-term plan.
Outline of a common framework for mapping ecosystems and their services, in EU Technical Report 2014 – 080, Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services. The figure shows that an assessment of ecosystem services should be based on both mapping and monitoring data and a synthesis of information provided by indicators that give a picture of the overall condition of an ecosystem. In addition, research and analysis are needed to understand more about how the condition of ecosystems is related to their capacity to provide ecosystem services.
The EU has developed a common assessment framework for mapping ecosystems and their services in the EU countries. This involves assessing ecosystem condition on the basis of data from mapping, monitoring and databases and using relevant indicators, and assessing ecosystem services provided by different types of ecosystems on the basis of selected indicators, data and models. Norway has done a great deal to improve the knowledge base on biodiversity in recent years, by scaling up funding for mapping programmes, through the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative and monitoring programmes, and by producing knowledge syntheses. Thus, good progress has already been made in Norway in synthesising information from indicators so that overall ecosystem condition or ecological status can be assessed. However, Norway has not yet identified relevant indicators and data for assessing ecosystem services, and there are no reviews of the overall relationship between ecological status and the provision of ecosystem services. Norway will continue to support the work of the IPBES as a global knowledge analysis mechanism that considers the relationship between biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services. In connection with this, the Ministry of Climate and Environment will initiate a review of selected ecosystem services in consultation with relevant sectors. The work will be based on existing knowledge.
See text above.
No obstacles have been encountered regarding education. The document "Priority research needs of the Ministry of Climate and Environment (2016-2021)" describes priority knowledge needs for the period 2016–2021. The document includes complex and interdisciplinary issues. See also text above.
Traditional knowledge about sustainable management of the natural environment has been a key element throughout Norway’s history. Traditional knowledge has been kept alive by coastal fishermen who also graze livestock on coastal heaths and islands, through traditional Sami reindeer husbandry, and by farmers who have supplemented conventional arable land with hay fens, transhumance and summer farms, and wild reindeer hunting. People have used natural resources for food, medicine and as raw materials (for example for clothing and building materials), and there are many customs, rituals and a large body of traditional lore linked to different species. Most of the land area of Norway is or has been used in some way by people. Coastal waters have also been actively used in a variety of ways. Traditionally, people harvested a much wider range of resources than they do today. In many areas, this has resulted in the development of characteristic biotopes, each with its specific fauna and flora. Traditional knowledge can explain a great deal about today’s landscapes, and is important for people’s sense of pride in their local history and culture and for maintaining its integrity. Traditional knowledge is often not written down, but consists of experience and knowledge that is passed down through the generations in oral form and through its practical application.
Section 8 of the Nature Diversity Act requires the authorities to attach importance to any traditional knowledge that is available when making official decisions that will affect Norwegian nature. Traditional knowledge is often valuable for the public authorities in decision-making processes. Such knowledge is vital when semi-natural habitats and landscapes are being restored and managed. The provisions of the Nature Diversity Act are based on similar provisions in the Convention on Biological Diversity (Article 8 j)). Regulations on traditional knowledge associated with genetic material under the Nature Diversity Act entered into force 1 January 2017. They implement Norway’s obligations under the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing regarding traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources. The regulations are intended to ensure that the interests of indigenous peoples and local communities are safeguarded and respected when others make use of their traditional knowledge on genetic material.
In recent generations, there has been a steep decline in traditional knowledge of nature in Norway, and more and more of our cultural and natural heritage is being lost. This means that local communities’ traditional knowledge of species and landscapes, and not least, our awareness of our own place in nature, is gradually disappearing. Museums and archives in Norway have collected and systematized information about traditional uses of nature, particularly traditional agriculture, but also use of uncultivated areas. Information has also been collected in connection with research on topics such as the cultural landscape. A great deal can be done to improve contact between people working in the scientific and cultural heritage field. Little use has been made of this source material by the environmental authorities, and there is a potential to make empirical knowledge available to people working in other fields and to the general public. Public access to traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples is subject to consultations between the Sami Parliament and the Government in line with the Convention on Biological Diversity article 8 j and relevant guidelines.
In Sami areas of Norway, traditional knowledge is being retained because nature is still being used in the traditional ways. This means that there is a large body of knowledge unique to the Sami culture that it is important to safeguard for both current and future generations. Little has been done to synthesize knowledge relating to Sami traditions and other traditional knowledge in Norway and make it accessible.
Access to information
Environmental data and statistics are available in public databases. State of the Environment Norway (www.environment.no) is the main public website for environment information in Norway. The Norwegian Environment Agency is responsible for the database.
The service provides the public with high quality and easily accessible updated information on the state and development of the environment and factors having an impact upon it. The service presents environmental topics, provides access to scientific presentations, presents further information about legislation and international agreements, environmental targets and relevant links, and allows the user to download updated data sets.
The website http://www.npolar.no provides information on the environment, climate, flora and fauna in the Arctic and Antarctica.
Statistics Norway also collects and distributes statistics about climate and the environment.
The Norwegian Constitution (Section 112) and the Norwegian Environmental Information Act of 2003 gives the public the right of access to environmental information. The Act implements Norway's obligations on access to information pursuant to the UNECE Aarhus Convention. It provides everyone with a legal right to obtain environmental information, both from the public authorities and from public and private enterprises. Public authorities are obligated to hold general environmental information relevant to their areas of responsibility and functions, and make it accessible to the public. This obligation is implemented through the websites mentioned above. Rejection of individual requests for access to environmental information from public authorities may be appealed to the authority immediately superior to the one rejecting the request, and a complaint may also be submitted to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Public and private enterprises are obliged to hold information about factors relating to their operations that may have an appreciable effect on the environment and to provide such information to citizens on request. An appeals board has been established to consider complaints related to the follow-up of this Act by public and private enterprises. A study undertaken by SKUP – Foundation for critical and investigative journalism in 2013 shows limited knowledge and usage of both the more general Freedom of information Act of 2006 and the Environmental information Act. The amount of requests and complaints regarding access to environmental information implies that there is some knowledge of and willingness to use the Act. The Ministry of the Environment’s statistics for 2017 show that it received 1126 requests for information concerning 3372 documents and rejected 460 of the requests (13,64 %) . Rejections may be based on i.a. the need for internal discussions in the Government. The statistics do not separate between requests for information pursuant to the Freedom of information Act and the Environmental information Act and consequently does not provide information on the distribution of information requests between the two categories.
See text above.
Norway has made good progress in developing tools and services to provide information on Norwegian nature. This is partly because there is national consensus on data sharing: that institutions holding environmental data should have agreements to share this with others, within a common framework and using common standards. Nevertheless, information is still somewhat fragmented. Applications and databases should be further developed and improved to take advantage of technological developments. This will make it easier for municipalities to make use of the information in their day-to-day work, and also help other users and the general public.
Knowledge of the Environmental Information Act could be improved and internal and external courses have been held in addition to information about the act on the websites of the Ministry of Environment and the Electronic Public Records. The need for and type of further measures to increase knowledge and use of the Environmental Information Act is regularly considered.
Syntheses, risk assessments and analyses
Examples of various types of syntheses and risk assessments, and projections and scenarios for future trends in Norway include the Red List of Species and the Norwegian Red List for Ecosystems and Habitat Types, published by The Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre. These are both based on risk assessments – of the risk that species will become extinct in Norway and that habitats will be lost, respectively.
The Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre is also responsible for providing an overview of invasive alien species in the country, and for assessing the ecological impact of alien species on Norwegian nature. The Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre has provided risk assessments of all invasive alien species already established in Norway. The Alien Species List, with ecological impact assessments, was updated in June 2018. The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment (VKM) has since 2015, conducted risk assessments of alien species. VKM undertakes risk assessments from the Norwegian Food Safety Authority and Norwegian Environment Agency. In many cases both the possible implications for biodiversity and animal-, and human health are assessed.
The Norwegian Nature Index shows the state and development of biodiversity in main ecosystems in Norway. The index comprises aggregated sets of indicators for each main ecological system. In addition, analyses have been carried out on the relationship between the ecological condition of the open lowland ecosystem and change factors in relation to species rich meadows and coastal heaths. Projections and scenarios of future pressures on biodiversity are important because they allow predictions of change and make it possible to adapt the management regime accordingly. We need knowledge of this kind about climate change and ocean acidification, as well as other important pressures such as habitat fragmentation. Knowledge about future impacts of climate change is based on climate models. The IPCC is responsible for assessing and summarizing knowledge about global- and regional-scale climate change in its reports, and the IPBES for producing reports of the same type on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Similar reports are also published at national level; for example, Norway published a report on the impacts of climate change in the Norwegian Arctic in 2010. A national assessment of wetland ecosystems and their services according to IPBES methodology, has been published in 2018. There is also a regional cooperation on syntheses and assessments of biodiversity, for example within the framework of the Arctic Council and the Nordic cooperation on biodiversity through the Nordic Council of Ministers. As a contribution to The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, prepared by the FAO's Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Norway submitted its country report in 2015 presenting information on the status and trends of animals, plants and micro-organisms with a direct or indirect role in agriculture, forestry and/or fisheries.
The Government will continue to develop knowledge syntheses such as those mentioned above. They represent useful information for the policy making process, and is also of value for the general public.
In 2014, Norway adopted new, comprehensive regulations on environmental impact assessment for plans under the Planning and Building Act and for projects under sectoral legislation. These include provisions intended to ensure that impact assessments maintain high scientific standards and that data collected in connection with an impact assessment can be re-used. Guidelines on recognized methodology and the databases to be used for uploading data have been published. The regulations on impact assessment were revised in 2017 due to a new EIA directive.
The knowledge base has been improved through better synthesis, analyses and risk assessment. The increased use of risk analysis is positive in establishing longer term strategies for example in the case of the national action plan for invasive alien species. Even though improvement still will be important, the work done so far has been effective.
The nature index is presented in the report Norwegian Nature Index 2015. The state and trends of biological diversity. The results and background information are also available online at www.naturindeks.no.
The results are used for international reporting on biodiversity. It also represents updated knowledge for evaluating possible targets for nature conservation.
The risk assessment process is time-consuming and limited to major threats.
There are still knowledge gaps and the need to develop better understanding of future scenarios for biodiversity in relation to combinations of drivers such as climate change and land use change.
Land-use planning as an instrument for biodiversity management
The Norwegian Planning and Building Act provides the municipalities with a very important instrument in their efforts to safeguard Norwegian nature. Together, all the individual decisions made under the Act strongly influence the development of Norwegian society and how successfully biodiversity is safeguarded in both the long term and the short term. Large, robust municipalities with good nature management capacity and expertise can play an effective role in achieving national and international targets relating to biodiversity.
The Planning and Building Act requires municipal plans to:
- establish goals for the physical, environmental, economic, social and cultural development of municipalities and regions, identify social needs and tasks, and indicate how these tasks can be carried out,
- safeguard land resources and landscape qualities and ensure the conservation of valuable landscapes and cultural environments,
- protect the natural resource base for the Sami culture, economic activity and way of life,
- facilitate value creation and industrial and commercial development,
- facilitate good design of the built environment, a good residential environment, a child-friendly environment and good living standards in all parts of the country,
- promote public health and counteract social inequalities in health, and help to prevent crime,
- incorporate climate change considerations, for example in energy supply, land-use and transport solutions,
- strengthen civil protection by reducing the risks of loss of life, injury to health and damage to the environment and important infrastructure, material assets, etc.
A healthy natural environment is essential for achieving most of these purposes, but the degree to which nature and environmental considerations are incorporated into municipal plans varies considerably from one municipality to another. Municipal plans often make it clear which areas should be used for development and commercial activities, but are less specific about areas that should be safeguarded.
In order to contribute to more coherent management practices and increased predictability for municipal areal planning, the Ministry of Climate and the Environment has issued a circular to clarify what are national and significant regional interests in the climate and environmental area. This will enable municipalities to better integrate these interests into their planning decisions.
The national authorities develop guidance material for municipalities on how to integrate biodiversity conservation into their activities. This guidance material is given out in many ways. The main channel for guidance material to the municipalities is a website called www.miljøkommune.no. The ecological base-map will also be an important tool for the municipalities work on biodiversity conservation. See more under General measure mapping biodiversity.
Regional plans are drawn up by the county authorities. They are particularly important for habitats and species whose distribution extends across municipal and county boundaries. The regional approach has for example been used in drawing up plans for the seven national conservation areas for wild reindeer in the mountains in the southern half of Norway. Such plans can contain binding regional planning provisions on land use.
Regional master plans and municipal master plans that include guidelines or set a framework for future developments, and zoning plans that could have substantial effects on the environment and society, must include a description and assessment of the effects of the plan on the environment and society, including its effects on biodiversity. This is required by the regulations on environmental impact assessment. The purpose is to ensure that the possible impacts of developments are taken into account, and to ensure an open process in which all stakeholders can make their opinions heard. Guidelines have been published on recognized methodology, the databases to be used for uploading data, and on how to assess whether a project will have significant effects on the environment or society.
Some sectors have drawn up further guidance on environmental impact assessment within their areas of responsibility, as the transport sector has done.
Municipal sub-plans for biodiversity
The government has initiated a pilot project on municipal sub-plans as a biodiversity conservation tool. The pilot project is carried out in ten selected municipalities in 2016 – 2018 to which the government has provided financial assistance for the preparation of biodiversity sub-plans since it will incur costs for the municipalities. These costs may be partly offset by efficiency gains in the subsequent planning process. Work on municipal biodiversity sub-plans will also supplement the work being done at central government level on valuing and safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystem services. It will also boost biodiversity expertise in the municipalities. By the end of 2018, the project will be evaluated before the government concludes whether it will continue the financial assistance.
Norway has lacked a methodology for identifying and mapping green infrastructure. However, in 2017, the environmental authorities produced a report with criteria for identifying important ecological contexts in all major ecosystems.
See text above.
The Planning and Building Act is currently being evaluated. Conclusions have been published in November 2018. The Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation will have responsibility for the follow up of the evaluation.
Obstacles consist of knowledge gaps, capacity gaps in local and regional authorities and the need to prioritize other local goals.
Measures related to Invasive Alien Species
The legal framework to combat invasive alien species consists of The Nature Diversity Act (2009), Regulations relating to alien organisms (2016), Regulations relation to the spread of alien organisms in ballast water (2010) and regulations on the importation and planting of foreign tree species (2012). In addition, plant sanitary regulations are an important contribution to prevent the introduction of species with negative effect on biodiversity.
There is cooperation throughout the sectors to combat invasive alien species, including national customs authorities. The Ministry of Climate and the Environment, in cooperation with other relevant ministries, will develop a comprehensive action plan for the management of invasive alien species. This is a revision of a similar plan from 2007, and will be finalized in 2019.
The Norwegian Environment Agency provides also funding to combat invasive alien species and reduce their negative effects on Norwegian biodiversity. Funding has been increased over the last three years.
The Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre (NBIC) has provided risk assessments of all invasive alien species already established in Norway. It has also provided risk assessment for several species known as "door knockers". All information is found using NBIC’s alien species search online. The assessment is revised every five years, and the last revision was in June 2018.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications will continue its efforts relating to alien organisms by integrating this work into relevant construction, operation and maintenance projects for transport infrastructure. The aim is to prevent alien organisms from becoming a threat to valuable biodiversity.
The initial action plan against invasive species was completed in 2007. The revised plan is underway and will be published in 2019. Invasive species are identified, risk assessed and categorized in the national alien species list by the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre. Measures have been implemented to prevent introduction and limit establishment of invasive species including both regulatory and funding measures. These measures have been effective. However, eradicating, containing and controlling invasive alien organisms requires a great deal of time and resources, and complete eradication is not realistic.
The national action plan on invasive alien species is under revision and due to be published in 2019 with cross-sectoral measures and actions.
There are continuous developments with new invasive species and drivers such as climate change that expand the scope of the challenge.
Defining "good ecological status"
The Ministry of Climate and Environment appointed an Expert Committee of researchers in 2016 with a mandate to develop recommendations for a comprehensive technical system for the determination of good ecological condition. A report was presented in 2017 containing the Expert Committee’s recommendations.
The Norwegian Environment Agency has started further development and implementation of this system to be operationalized from 2020.
Defining good ecological status and assessing the main ecosystems is a first step towards setting more concrete objectives and deciding om management actions.
The scientific definition of good ecological status is a key element in facilitating knowledge based decisions on concrete targets and measures to reach these targets. The measure of establishing the Expert group was effective given that they delivered their recommendations as required. However, further development of the scientific framework is still in progress.
The Expert Committee recommended dividing further work into two parts, 1, priorities for achieving an operative system by 2020, and 2, what is needed for an adequate system in the long term. The Expert Committee has laid weight on using existing data, but it is a fact that relevant monitoring data are partly lacking. The committee considers, therefore, that additional monitoring is required. The committee also recommended testing and further development of the technical system within the period to 2020. Testing and further development is in progress.
Management policy for each of Norway’s major ecosystems - Marine and coastal waters
Norway’s system of management plans for sea areas is a tool for integrated, ecosystem-based management, in other words a management system that promotes conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems. Management plans are established for all three of Norway’s sea areas: the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea and the sea areas off the Lofoten Islands, the Norwegian Sea, and the Norwegian part of the North Sea and Skagerrak. The management plans are white papers submitted to Parliament.
The purpose of the management plans is to provide a framework for value creation through the sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystem services in the sea areas and at the same time maintain the structure, functioning, productivity and diversity of the ecosystems. The management plans are thus a tool both for facilitating value creation and food security, and for maintaining the high environmental value of the sea areas.
The management plans clarify the overall framework and encourage closer coordination and clear priorities for management of Norway’s sea areas. Activities in each area are regulated on the basis of existing legislation governing different sectors.
The Government’s initiative to develop clearer management objectives for ‘good ecological status’ in ecosystems (see specific measure on this issue) will make it possible to target action and policy instruments to maintain and achieve good ecological status in marine ecosystems more precisely.
Ensuring that maritime space is used in a way that takes proper account of biodiversity is just as important as land-use planning elsewhere. In waters out to one nautical mile outside the baseline, the main instrument for spatial planning is the Planning and Building Act. The Government is updating its advice on municipal spatial planning for areas in coastal waters. The aim is to ensure as much consistency as possible from one municipality to another, and to give clear guidelines for how biodiversity considerations should be incorporated into the planning process. The Government will also assess how marine spatial planning and land-use planning in the coastal zone can best be coordinated. This is important for species, habitats and ecosystems in the transitional zone between sea and land and how they are affected by local developments and pollution. The marine management plans for the sea areas include spatial management measures as tools for ecosystem-based management. Measures set out in the marine management plans are implemented in the usual way under the appropriate legislation and following normal administrative procedures.
Harvesting living marine resources
The Marine Resources Act provides a framework for sustainable harvesting of living marine resources. It requires management based on the precautionary approach in accordance with international agreements and guidelines, and using an ecosystem approach that takes into account both habitats and biodiversity. Management is also based on the best available scientific information. Harvesting methods must take into account the need to reduce possible adverse impacts on living marine resources.
Mapping of the seabed, for example through the MAREANO programme, has documented that fisheries activities are having a considerable impact on benthic ecosystems in certain areas, and trawling has the strongest impacts. Trawls have been in use for more than a hundred years, and trawling has largely been concentrated in the same areas. In recent years, there has been a substantial reduction in trawl hours, and pressure on benthic habitats has therefore been reduced. The area trawled has also been smaller than in previous years. Technological developments are improving efficiency and resulting in trawling gear that has less environmental impact. The Government will continue to promote the development and use of trawling gear that has as little impact as possible on the seabed, and of devices in trawls that minimize unwanted bycatches.
The Regulations relating to sea-water fisheries contain a general requirement to show special care during fishing operations near known coral reefs. Many new coral reefs have been registered in Norwegian waters through the MAREANO programme and other projects.
Some fish species, including sand eels, herring and capelin, are defined as key species, as they are essential to the structure, functioning and productivity of ecosystems. They are important prey for a variety of marine mammals, other fish and seabirds, and their stock size has a major influence on populations of other species. Norway has chosen to introduce a new management model for the sand eel fishery in the North Sea. The aim is to build up viable spawning stocks throughout the part of the sand eel range that is within Norway’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
The Government will continue to use a number of measures to build up the Norwegian stock of European lobster. Strict regulation of lobster catches will continue. There are still frequent breaches of the rules on lobster harvesting, and control and enforcement at sea will therefore continue. The closure of certain areas to lobster trapping is a suitable conservation measure for a relatively stationary species like the lobster, and has been shown to boost lobster numbers locally.
Food production affects the environment and aquaculture can have negative environmental impacts. In order to play a part in biodiversity conservation, the authorities will take into account all pressures and impacts associated with aquaculture activities, and not only direct impacts at each aquaculture site.
The aquaculture legislation includes a number of important tools designed to safeguard the environment, including requirements for monitoring the ecological status of the seabed below and near aquaculture facilities, criteria for authorizing the use of areas for aquaculture and rules on the maximum permitted biomass of fish at each locality. There are also general operating rules, including requirements for fallowing for disease control, technical requirements to prevent fish escapes and rules on combating salmon lice and the removal of escaped farmed fish from rivers. The rules are constantly being further developed, and regulations were recently adopted making the industry responsible for funding measures to reduce the proportion of escaped farmed fish in rivers. The Government is also taking steps to strengthen the knowledge base in these areas.
The Government considers environmental sustainability to be the most important criterion for regulating further growth of the aquaculture industry, and will continue its work in line with Parliament’s decisions during its consideration of the white paper on predictable and environmentally sustainable growth of Norwegian salmon and trout farming (Meld. St. 16 (2014–2015)).
Environmental considerations are an integral part of Norwegian petroleum activities.
To protect marine ecosystems from pressures and impacts associated with the oil and gas industry, impact assessments under the Petroleum Activities Act are required both before new areas are opened for petroleum activity, and before specific field development projects. Impact assessments are also required when fields cease production, and in connection with the disposal of installations. Further conditions apply in certain areas, for example restrictions on when drilling and seismic surveys are permitted in order to protect biodiversity and safeguard the interests of other industries.
An operator must obtain a permit under the Pollution Control Act before starting petroleum activities. Permits include conditions relating to releases to air and sea and preparedness and response to acute pollution, which depend on the vulnerability of the area in question and the available technology. For example, special requirements may be included to avoid adverse impacts on corals and other vulnerable benthic fauna, seabird populations, and fish stocks during the spawning season.