About 44 000 species have been registered as living in the wild in Norway, but the real figure is probably closer to 55 000, according to the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre. Our knowledge of their population status varies widely; for some species groups, reliable figures are available, whereas relatively little is known about others, for example various invertebrate groups.
The loss of biological diversity, including species extinction, is considered to be one of the most serious environmental problems facing the world. Biodiversity loss is a problem for Norway as well. The 2015 Norwegian Red List for Species lists 2355 species as threatened. Nevertheless, there are still serious gaps in our knowledge, and a great deal of uncertainty about the true number of species in Norway and about the status of many of these species.
On Environment.no, you will find information on various categories of species that are of particular concern to the authorities. Some need to be taken into account when planning or need active management to avoid population decline or loss, whereas invasive species must be controlled to avoid damage to the native flora and fauna.
The Environmental Directorate has compiled a list of about 4600 species that are considered to be of particular concern, and has divided them into a number of categories:
- Threatened and near-threatened species
- Species for which Norway has a special responsibility
- Species protected under special regulations
- Priority species
- Alien species
In addition, the list includes a small number of other important species and ecological variants that are not assessed as part of the work on the Red List. These are species that do not meet the criteria for any of the other species categories in the list, but that are nevertheless of particular concern to the authorities.
Threatened and near-threatened species
Threatened species are animals and plants that are at risk of global or regional extinction, often as a result of human activity. The Norwegian Red List is the official overview of threatened species in Norway. The IUCN Red List is the global equivalent.
In Norway, the Arctic fox, wolf and common guillemot are examples of critically threatened species. Species in this category that are considered to be at the greatest risk of extinction, either locally or globally.
Species that need special protection or active management to safeguard them can be designated as priority species under the Nature Diversity Act. So far, nine priority species have been designated, all of which are also classified as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable on the 2010 Red List.
Species protected under special regulations
There are various forms of species protection in Norway (the Wildlife Act protects all terrestrial mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians except those specifically defined as game species). This category of protected species includes only those (mainly plants and insects) that have been individually given permanent protection under separate regulations.
Species for which Norway has a special responsibility
For species with a large proportion of the population in Norway, overall population trends and ultimately the survival of the species can depend strongly on Norway's actions and species management. If 25 % or more of the European population of a species is found in Norway, it is defined as a species for which Norway has special responsibility. Not all species in this category are threatened or near-threatened – some of them have sizeable, healthy populations in Norway.
According to the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre, there are at least 965 species for which Norway has special responsibility, a good many of which are Arctic species found in and around the Svalbard archipelago. Of the species in this category, 159 are also classified as threatened species in the Red List. The species groups most frequently represented in this category are vascular plants (298 species) and Diptera (139 species).
Alien species are those that have been spread by human activity to areas where they are not native, either deliberately or unintentionally. Species that are native to part of Norway are also considered to be alien species if they are moved or spread to parts of the country where they are not found naturally.
Many alien species in Norway pose little or no threat to biodiversity. However, some can cause serious damage in areas where they do not belong and are considered to pose an ecological risk. They are known as invasive alien species. They often have few natural predators and spread easily, outcompeting native species, and therefore readily become established in Norway.