Albania is distinguished by its rich biological and landscape diversity in two main bio-geographical regions: the Mediterranean and the Alpine regions. The mountainous terrain combined with steep cliffs creates ideal conditions for maintaining and protecting a large number of ancient species, some of which are endemic or sub-endemic as the names albanica, albanicum, scipetarum and shqipericus suggests. Moreover there are still found species which are new to nature like the freshly discovered Albanin tulip (Tulipa Albanica) and two recently described freshwater fish known solely from Albania the Osum Riffle Minnow (Alburnoides fangfangae) and the Devoll Riffle Minnow (Alburnoides devolli).
The high diversity of ecosystems and habitats – marine and coastal ecosystems, wetlands, river deltas, sand dunes, lakes, rivers, mediterranean shrubs, broadleaf, conifers and mixed forests, alpine and sub-alpine pastures and meadows, and high mountain ecosystems – provides rich habitats for a variety of plants and animals. There are around 760 vertebrate species found so far in Albania. Among these there are over 350 bird species, 330 freshwater and marine fish and 80 mammal species. There are some 91 globally threatened species found within the country.
Interestingly in Albania one can find large number of mammal species, most of which have extinct long time ago in the rest of Europe. Species like the brown bear, wolf, red fox, wildcat, roe deer, red deer, chamois, wild boar and otter, are found. The Balkan lynx is one of the most threatened wildlife species living in Albania and is classified as Critically Endangered. Due to the current conservation status there is a need for greater and immediate efforts towards their conservation and the preservation of the habitats that thise species live in.
Albania is home to an impressive number of bird species that vary from residents, that stay all year around, to breeding birds that spend a good part of the growing season in Albania to raise their young, migrants who pass through with the seasons, to wintering birds who like to spend a good part of the winter in Albania to escape colder conditions up north. While many species of birds are relatively common as they are part of the ecosystems of the country, it is always a thrill to stumble upon a rare bird or vagrant. Among most spetacular birds but allso among most globally threatened species are found in Albania. Thise are Dalmatian pelican, Pygmy Cormorant and Sturgeon, for which Albania is a country of particularly critical importance.
Although only a small number of species have become extinct in Albania during the past century, the rate of loss of the country’s biodiversity during the past 50-60 years is high and increasing. Two plant species and four mammal species have become extinct, and 17 bird species no longer nest in the country’s territory. Over the past 25 years, approximately 122 species of vertebrates –27 mammals, 89 birds, and 6 fish – and four species of plants are estimated to have lost more than 50 % of their populations. The number of rare and endangered plant and animal species of high and expected to increase if appropriate conservation measures are not taken.