This month our Q&A with the experts series is focused on Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our biodiversity expert from B&H is Adla Kahrić, a passionate researcher and a talented young biologist working in marine biology and biodiversity conservation. You can find her at Shark lab, helping to understand marine creatures and restore their habitats.
1.We’ve heard a lot about biodiversity loss over the last couple of decades, but little about the specific consequences for ecosystems, the economy, and the quality of life. Can you tell us the primary outcomes of biodiversity loss in B&H, and how it affects citizens?
The natural environment is under threat from human activities, leading to biodiversity loss caused by changing climate, illegal hunting, overexploitation, habitat destruction or increased competition with invasive species. All of the mentioned factors caused biodiversity loss in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As our country is recognized important area with high biological diversity, biodiversity loss is dangerous for all living organisms, including humans. However, most of them are result of human activities and from that point of view – human destroys themselves. Biodiversity loss affects me and everyone else around me because this means millions of people will face with food supplies are more vulnerable to disease and pest, or lack of food by reducing the pollinators – main animals responsible for pollination, which is a great example because of the importance in food plants and medicinal plants.
2.What are the most significant threats to biodiversity and the biggest obstacles to environmental conservation in your country?
As a post-conflict country, we are still fighting with our political system where the Law and other environmental legislation have to be improved. Besides this, we are also facing other challenges such as the low level of citizens awareness, and lack the capacity of institutions, experts, policy leaders for solving the environmental challenges and issues such as property management of protected areas, property protection of species, a high number of small hydro etc.
3.What is the current number of protected areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina? Is their number growing or decreasing? Does the legal protection function?
Currently, Bosnia and Herzegovina have around 37 protected areas, but still, we need more protected areas and better management and legislation. Protection management needs to be improved because there is a lack of monitoring, experts, appropriate authorities for management and many others. However, the main aim is to increase the number of protected areas, so as an expert for fauna I was working on two proposed protected areas – for which I guaranteed that we are working on issues to increase the number of protected areas. I am working on establishing the first marine protected area, and the second one is the areas around Zenica Babina-Tvrtkovac. We are working on progress to increase the number of protected areas, but still, the picture with great protected areas management is far from us.
4.How active is your country in international negotiations, i.e., the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and what is the current situation with national action plans and their implementation?
Our duties as one of the member countries that support the Convention on Biological Diversity are extremely demanding for a country such as Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a post-conflict country, we are still fighting with environmental structure and legislations where consequently Aichi Targets are not fully and successfully achieved. However, there is progress but not in the way that should be, because we need to be more focused on target problems and work in the way to solve them, but respecting the timeline – otherwise, we are just destroying biodiversity and their habitats.
5.Solving these serious problems requires awareness and action of the entire community, so how can citizens get involved and contribute to biodiversity conservation?
There are plenty of activities in which every citizen can take part. Firstly, we need to be focused to reduce pollution, because that is one of the crucial activities for citizens in biodiversity protection. We can use more bikes or trams instant our cars to reduce air pollution. Work on creating sustainable cities, including more green surfaces, solar panels etc. Also, avoid the plastic products (primary single-use plastic) that have a direct impact on biodiversity. For example, more than 1000 turtles die after getting entangled in plastic because they change jellyfish with plastic water – which is very similar in the water. There is a fact about microplastics (less than 5mm), where can be found everywhere (including the placenta of unborn babies!). Microplastics are pretty small, and handling small things that affect every living organism (including a human) is a big challenge.
6.Can you tell us about some projects, initiatives or discoveries in the previous decade that have moved biodiversity conservation forward in B&H?
Generally, Bosnia and Herzegovina have initiatives and projects based on environmental protection, such as two projects about protected areas that I mentioned previously. Furthermore, there are many other projects based on solving the effects of climate change, protected areas, waste management, biodiversity studies, but although we are trying to cover all aspects of environmental issues, it looks that we still have more problems each day. We have so many challenges and obstacles in natural environment that no matter how we tried to implement all those activities, everything looks like we do not have progress because we need more financial support, more experts and more enthusiasm, to achieve fast progress with a great organized timeline.