Located in South-Eastern Europe, Serbia covers an area of 88,407 km2 with moderate continental climate. The dominant position of river valleys from the south towards the hilly areas in the north of the country allows the deep penetration of polar air masses in southern regions.
The northern part of Serbia, Vojvodina, located in the Pannonian Plain, is predominately flat. 55% of Serbia’s land is arable, the large part of which is located in Vojvodina, the country’s main agricultural region. The central part of Serbia and the hilly Šumadija region are located south of the Sava and Danube rivers. Further south, the hills gradually give way to mountains.
The mountain landscape of Serbia is rich in canyons, gorges and caves, as well as preserved forests, home to a multitude of endemic species. Serbia’s mountains form part of the Rhodopes range, the Carpathians and Balkan Mountains, and the Dinaric karst, the large mountain chain rich in natural and cultural heritage of the Western Balkans. 15 peaks reach an altitude of over 2,000 m, of which the highest is Đeravica in the Prokletije, with a height of 2,656 m.
Serbia’s rivers belong to the drainage basins of the Black, Adriatic and Aegean seas. Three rivers are fully navigable in Serbia: the Danube, the Sava and the Tisa. The longest river to flow through Serbia is the Danube, 588 km of its total 2,783 km-long course. The largest lake in Serbia is the artificial Đerdap lake on the Danube which covers an area of 253 km2.
Serbia is a country of rich ecosystem and species diversity – covering only 1,9% of the whole European territory it is home to 39% of European vascular flora, 51% of European fish fauna, 40% of European reptile and amphibian fauna, 74% of European bird fauna, 67% European mammal fauna. The diversity of ecosystems in Serbia is primarily evident in the diversity and specific character of its vegetation.
462 natural areas in Serbia are protected, out of which 5 are national parks, 16 landscape of exceptional features, 67 nature reserves, 16 nature parks, 316 natural monuments and 42 areas of cultural and historical importance. The total protected area is 5.91% of the Serbian territory (522,120 ha). The spatial plan of the Republic of Serbia states that the total protected area should be increased to 10% by 2015 and to 12% by 2021.
Ecological networks and internationally important areas represent generally accepted examples of nature conservation assuring the development of international cooperation, aimed at the conservation of wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats. The national ecological network is currently being developed in Serbia. This ecological network currently consists of 101 ecologically important areas, about 20.9% of the Serbian territory. The Law on Nature Conservation states that the ecological network in Serbia should be determined and become part of the Natura 2000 Network, by the date of Serbia`s accession to the European Union.
61 areas have been selected for Emerald Network in Serbia. These areas are considered as particularly important for the protection and conservation of wild plant and animal species and their habitats. Their total surface is 1,019,269.31 ha, that is 11.54% of the Serbian territory. 11 Serbian areas are located on the route of the European Green Belt. There are 9 areas in Serbia protected according to Ramsar Convention criteria. Within Nature park “Golija“ the Biosphere Reserve Golija-Studenica is so far the only reserve of this type in Serbia. 42 areas of international importance for the conservation of bird diversity in Serbia have been selected by applying the IBA (Important Bird Area) criteria. Using internationally standardized criteria – the presence of endangered species and endangered habitats and species diversity, 61 IPAs (Important Plant Area) have been identified in Serbia, on 8% of the territory. On the territory of Serbia 40 PBAs (Prime Butterfly Areas) have been selected. Prime butterfly areas occupy 903,643 ha, that is 10.23% of Serbian territory.
In order to preserve and raise awareness of the value of biological and landscape diversity, administrative protection is being implemented through the protection of species, habitats, areas, or through the creation of different ecological networks. In the past few years, significant progress in the adoption and implementation of legislation on nature protection has constantly been recorded in Serbia. A large number of global, European and regional conventions associated with environmental protection and biodiversity conservation, were adopted. Laws of key importance and a number of regulations related to environmental and nature protection, and sustainable development, were also adopted and harmonized with relevant EU directives.