Almost 2 500 threatened species in Norway
The most recent edition of the Norwegian Red List (2010) includes 4599 species, 2398 of which are considered to be threatened (critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable). These figures are for mainland Norway and Svalbard and the surrounding seas. The most seriously threatened species are classified as critically endangered, and include the Arctic fox, wolf and common guillemot.
The map shows red-listed species in Hvaler, in Østfold County which lies to the southeast of Oslo with the Oslo Fjord to the west and Sweden to the east. You may zoom to explore further.
The new edition of the Norwegian Red List contains many changes from the previous edition, which was published in 2006. The main reason for this is that the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre has compiled a great deal of new information on Norwegian species; real changes in populations only explain a small proportion of the changes. A number of species have been re-classified – for example, one of Norway’s orchids, the red helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra) is now considered to be endangered rather than critically endangered.
Changes in land use greatest threat today
Changes in land use are the greatest threat to biodiversity today, and therefore the most important reason why species are included on the Red List. In Norway, 85 per cent of all species on the Red List are considered to be threatened by land use changes. Construction activities are the most serious threat, but ditching and draining, dredging and dumping, and sand and gravel extraction can all pose a threat to different species.
Farmland and the cultural landscape have changed drastically in the past century, in Norway as in other parts of the world. Previously open landscapes are becoming overgrown by forest, making the habitat unsuitable for many species.
In forest habitats, the picture is rather different. The area of forest is expanding, and dead and dying trees are increasingly left in place. Dead wood is a vital habitat for many species. Owners are increasingly managing their forests in accordance with standards designed to maintain biodiversity. Even so, many forest species are under serious threat. This is probably because there is little old-growth forest and dead wood in the most nutrient-rich lowland forests, where the largest number of threatened species is to be found.
Six per cent of the species on the Red List are threatened by pollution and six per cent by climate change.
Protection, action plans, mapping and monitoring
Norway is a party to several international agreements that deal with the protection of threatened species. The most important of these are the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Bern Convention, the CITES Convention and the Ramsar Convention.
One important way of protecting species is to protect their habitats. Establishing protected areas can reduce habitat disturbance and human activities that are a threat to certain species.
Species can also be protected directly. In Norway, terrestrial vertebrates (mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles) are protected unless specifically defined as game species. Some freshwater species are also specifically protected, and there are regulations making it illegal to pick or harvest 70 species of plants and a few moss and invertebrate species.
Other ways of safeguarding threatened species
- The Norwegian Red List provides important information on many species and is a valuable tool in land use planning.
- The Norwegian Environment Agency draws up action plans for threatened species. The county governors’ offices are responsible for proposing action plans and putting them into practice.
- The Nature Diversity Act introduced the designations “priority species” and “selected habitat”, leaving it to the Government to decide which species and habitats are to be included. The first eight priority species and five selected habitats have been chosen, and regulations have been drawn up on habitat management, action plans and so on. The priority species include both animals and plants, ranging from the lesser white-fronted goose to the musk orchid and hermit beetle, and the selected habitats range from hay meadows of different kinds to hollow oak trees.
Mapping and monitoring
A number of animal populations, for example large carnivores, golden eagles and seabirds, have already been systematically monitored for several decades. If action plans are drawn up for threatened species, they also include plans for monitoring.
Mapping and monitoring provide important information on species and habitats that the authorities can use in species management and land use planning.