Switzerland is one of the most environmentally diverse countries in the world. It is home to over 50,000 species of plants and animals. Of these are 83 mammals, most of which are bats and small rodents. Switzerland is made up of three different regions, the Jura, Plateau, and the Alps. These regions can be very different from one another in terms of climate. Depending on the time of year there are areas that are around freezing while others are near-tropical. The Jura is a limestone range known primarily for its dinosaur tracks. The mountain region is the main region where the climate is a concern in terms of biodiversity. Changing climates create all sorts of problems such as flooding and landslides. This can affect humans, animals, and plant life. The central plateau is the most densely populated of the areas and this is where most of the pollution and environmental concerns are.
The work to be done
In a report submitted to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), Switzerland concluded that the target set for 2010 to achieve a significant loss in the rate of biodiversity has not been met. It states however that initial efforts to conserve biodiversity in forests and other agricultural areas were successful. Since Switzerland is a member of the UNCBD, it has agreed to report regularly on the current state of its biodiversity and what it is currently doing to address the situation. Its last report claims that the main goals are conserving ecosystems and habitats and promoting a reasonable consumption of biodiversity. Although the report states that Switzerland has not met its target mark, it is still one of the top countries in terms of promoting biodiversity and being environmentally friendly. On top of that, the International community has come to a general consensus that the vast majority of countries have not met their target mark.
Switzerland aims to improve its biodiversity in every area of the country. These different areas include agricultural areas, forests, rivers and lakes, drylands, and mountain areas.
11.4% of Switzerland’s agricultural areas have been set aside for ecological compensation. This has helped to slow the destruction of natural habitats. Efforts are continuously being done to improve these areas but 72% still fall below the target mark for quality.
3% of the forest area has been set aside in the form of declared reserves and 18% has been untouched in terms of organized human intervention for about 50 years. The report claims that forests that are underexploited however are much less diverse than managed forests due to the high amount of recreational activity from humans that visit them. This is pretty interesting in that there is higher biodiversity in the forests that are not being protected. In aiming to achieve greater biodiversity, Switzerland should set aside forest areas and severely limit the number of human visitors. It said in the report that over 200,000 people might visit a forest on a given day.
54% of Switzerland’s lakes and rivers are considered to be in a natural state. However, in densely populated areas, 46% of watercourses are considered to be insufficient conditions. This shows a direct correlation between the quality of rivers and lakes and human intervention. In order to get the desired quality of water in populated areas actions must be taken on a government and individual level. Swiss Parliament came up with a plan to improve these conditions in 2009 by limiting inputs of pollutions to lakes such as phosphorus. Successes brought about by this may be limited by micropollutants in the water, water temperature rising due to climate change, and the increase in invasive species.
In Switzerland, there are over 3000 dryland sites protected. Recently there was an inventory of dry meadows and pastures established. Having these areas officially located and recorded should help ensure that they will remain as they are.
Economic and tourist expansion
Mountain areas in Switzerland have remained mostly preserved despite economic and tourist expansion. Biodiversity in these areas is much greater than that of low land areas. Switzerland takes special care in maintaining the Alps in terms of biodiversity since high altitudes create limited capacity for the dispersal of species. This puts animals at greater risk for extinction and therefore they need to be extensively protected and monitored.
Recycling and waste
Aside from maintaining a specific area, Switzerland is very big on controlling municipal waste throughout the entire country. All non-recyclable waste must be incinerated under recently formed laws. These incinerators have been improved in order to minimize air pollution. Not only do these incinerators safely remove waste but they also provide a source of energy. There are currently 28 facilities generating enough power for 250,000 houses. This means that less oil needs to be imported and consumed for energy purposes. This is one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly ways to control waste. Not only is residual waste destroyed in a fairly safe manner, but it is also turned into energy. This can help limit waste and pollution in the future because there is less need for alternative energy sources.
Switzerland encourages as much recycling as possible. In some areas, people are forced to pay a tax based on how much waste they put out for the garbage men. This is similar to people in the United States getting charged based on how much water or electricity they use. Charging a tax based on a person’s amount of garbage would not likely go over well in most countries. However, places that take recycling are free, so there is no excuse for throwing away things that could be recycled. Recycling is a great way to help the environment in terms of living conditions for humans and animal species alike. Humans and animals will not suffer as much from pollutants in water and landfills and humans will benefit from the reduced need for the consumption and importation of resources. Federal money and resources saved from recycling will help preserve the environment and promote biodiversity.
Transportation in Switzerland is the main culprit for greenhouse gas production
Drivers are encouraged to turn off their engines whenever they are not in immediate use. The legislation is also being proposed to lower taxes on fuels that produce harmful emissions. This could create a push for companies to come up with cleaner fuels as well as cleaner cars in order to keep up with depleting demand due to lower taxes of alternatives. Switzerland is also aiming at making all new diesel vehicles come equipped with filters.
In total, Switzerland has established 2501 protected areas which occupy 23% of its total land area. In order to achieve the target mark of biodiversity for 2010, Switzerland came up with the “Swiss Landscape Concept.” In this are objectives pertaining to the creation of habitats in the lowlands and the protection of endangered species. Recently farmers have started to use more environmentally friendly means for farming. Since 1990, pesticides use, phosphorus use, and ammonia emissions have all significantly gone down. Under the Swiss Landscape Concept, the conservation of biodiversity in forest areas has a very high priority. Federal funding to forest owners has aimed at reducing heavy metals in soil, reducing nitrates and phosphorus in water, and reducing nitrogen dioxide and ammonia in the air.
The only way to maximize the quality of the environment and biodiversity is for everyone involved to do their part
Overall Switzerland is one of the most proactive countries in the world when it comes to promoting biodiversity and maintaining the quality of the environment. Although reports indicate that Switzerland has failed to reach its target mark at least for now, one might conclude that the target mark should always be set higher than what is realistically possible in order to perpetuate the drive for improvement. Switzerland has laid out the blueprint for conserving the environment in all areas of the country. This includes agricultural areas, forests, water bodies, drylands, and mountain areas. Also, Switzerland is one of the most advanced countries in terms of waste management. Not only are strict guidelines set for what people can and cannot throw away, but the majority of people are more than willing to recycle in order to save the environment. All in all, Switzerland is above average in terms of maintaining biodiversity. There are some areas where it does very well and other areas where it is sufficiently lacking. All that can be done is to keep working on maintaining and improving living conditions for all aspects of life. This is not solely the responsibility of the government or of individual citizens but rather the country as a whole. The only way to maximize the quality of the environment and biodiversity is for everyone involved to do their part.