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Monitoring the effects of controlled burning – positive for grasslands, plants, and bees

Finally, the time has come to monitor the effects of controlled burning on the selected surface on Vrdovo plateau. We pre-determined our check points, in order to avoid bias in our research, and we proceeded to check the condition of the burned area as well as the difference between that and the adjacent area that we did not burn in a prescribed burn. The important elements of this research were what impact the fire had on woody plants, ie whether there was any impact at all.

Vegetation on the plot where controlled burn was conducted

We recorded data on the species and number of woody plants and whether, for example, only the bark was partially burner, or the trunk was partially damaged, or the trunk was dead but the plant continued to regenerate from the root or stump, or the trunk was dead and the plant was not regenerating. For herbaceous plants, the process was similar, also listing all species and numbers and determining whether the plant is dead due to controlled burning, partially dead and partially regenerating, or fully regenerating normally. The last element checked was the effect the controlled burning had on the soil, ie whether organic matter was partially or completely burned due to prescribed burn, whether humus also burned, and whether bare soil remained.

Sample surface with burnt shrub of Rhamnus intermedius regenerating from root

For woody species, we found that the effect on shrubby plants such as Rhamnus intermedius and Prunus mahaleb was significant and that the most of the aboveground stems burned, but we also noticed that a large number continued to regenerate from the stump or root. The impact on low woody flowering plants important for bees and other insects, such as various species of Satureja, Genista and Teucrium, was very small and even those that were significantly damaged, had been recovering normally. Also, as space was opened for them to grow due to the burned bushes, they spread more than on the unburned plot we used as a control plot.

Monitoring on the control plot, on which there was no prescribed burn

Herbaceous plants such as various species of Carex, Sesleria, Stipa or Koeleria are mostly regenerating normally even if a part of the sod has burned. Numerous flowering species such as Globularia, Eryngium, Dorycnium or Helianthemum were not affected by controlled burning, it had rather opened up space for them to spread.

The effect of winter-time fire to the soil was that the parts and sometimes most of the non-decomposed organic matter on the soil surface had burned. We did not however notice that the fire penetrated deeper into the soil and destroyed humus, as is regularly the case during summer-time fires.

Limestone remains gray because burning in winter-time does not create high temperatures that would destroy lichens on the stone

This research proves that if we conduct controlled burn in the colder part of the year in strictly controlled conditions, it has a positive impact on the preservation of grassland habitats and the spread of plant species important for feeding the livestock and wild animals, as well as on flowering plants important for bees.

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Conclusions of the Collaborative Council meetings – restoration, education and tourism

About 50 participants of the Collaborative Council held in June in Vrlika and Sinj presented a series of proposals for possible restoration, educational and tourist activities that could be implemented within the Dinara back to LIFE project, but also in parallel with it. There are many wells, ponds and watering places waiting to be cleaned, collapsed dry stone walls and roads that need to be rebuilt, hiking trails that can be enriched with additional content, great potential of beekeeping in this area – from food and trails to treatment, tourist educational trails about lawns, other plants and birds in this area, as well as many other content that this area hides.

Wells and dry stone walls near Vrlika are awaiting reconstruction

Stakeholders pointed out the need to clean the lawn of juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus) in Ježevičko suhopolje and Kijevsko suhopolje, while in Koljani there are several goat trails that were once be used by machines, but they collapsed and need restoration. At Koljani there are also dry stone walls waiting to be rebuilt, while at Budiše in Garjak there are goat roads that need to be cleaned. The walls also need to be repaired in the Kijevo area near the Ćulum Cave.

In the area of ​​Vrlika and Kijevo, there are four interesting wells / ponds, of which Krivodol near Ćulum’s Cave is on the state land and should be restored. There are also Čatrnja, Romića lokva – which was once the largest, and Mašeluša.

The potential of beekeeping

Beekeepers from the Vrlika area who are hobby beekeepers and are not dedicated to this work pose a problem to the beekeepers’ association because such a hobby approach increases the risk of disease occurrence and spread, as pointed out at the training workshop at the Cooperation Council in Vrlika. Beekeepers from the area of ​​Vrlika and Kijevo participated, including the Beekeeping Society of Dinara Vrlika, which has 43 members and 2,200 hives. The beekeepers’ association has the biggest problem in honey production, while there are no difficulties with distribution.

Emphasis was placed on the project of mating queens and the construction of a station for mating queens in the naturally isolated site of Bračev dolac, which existed as a project 40 years ago. The need for product diversification was also emphasized – pollen, honey with additives, packaging and boxes, syrups and liqueurs, as well as an example of an innovative method of treatment in Skradin as well as in Slovenia – inhalation chambers with air from the hives. A proposal was made to connect local beekeepers with tourist guides, so that tourists could visit producers, for which it would be necessary to educate the tourism sector about bee products, producers and sales locations. On the Red Beams area (Crvene grede), there is a need for restoration that would be beneficial to beekeepers because juniper has taken over most of the lawn and prevents the development of sage, which reduces grazing for bees.

Beekeepers point out the great pressure on the existing water sources in the area, especially in the Crvene grede area. According to them, the area has exceptional potential due to indigenous medicinal plants such as white sage, honeysuckle and flour. As an idea for the further development of local beekeeping, they point out the honey road following the example of Slovenian colleagues. Various agricultural potentials of this area were also presented, such as the exploitation of the medicinal plant „štir“ and mushroom picking.

Ilirska gradina and Čubrice as possible tourist attractions

A major problem of the project area is the lack of capacity of tourist and mountaineering guides in the Dinara area, as pointed out at the workshop on tourism in Vrlika. However, the area has a huge tourist potential – the peak zone of the Dinara, Troglav and Kamešnica mountains is an exceptional mountaineering and tourist potential as the highest mountain range in Croatia and the preserved nature of karst and mountain meadows. For these needs, there are currently hiking trails and mountain houses and shelters. The lower zone of these mountains also abounds in possibilities – the abandoned village of Čubrice east of Ježević hides the remains of abandoned houses. Even further in the past, an Illyrian hillfort hid on Kosorska Glavica above the Dubin spring. An interesting tourist location is the isolated Bračev Dolac, which is currently reached by a bad road.

Sinj aqua

The wells on Vrdovo have been renovated, but in the Sinj area there are a number of locations where there is a possibility to retain water. One of them is the Goveđa kosa well above Baćev dolac, which is in the recent plan of the GSS, mountaineers and firefighters for cleaning and landscaping. The long-known Marin well (Marin bunar) above Crvene grede, to which the hiking trail leads, also needs to be cleaned, as well as Marun well, a pond in Vučipolje used by local cattle breeders. There are wells, of course, elsewhere, and one of them is Čatrnja on Kamešnica between Gljevo and Glavaš, next to which also passes an attractive circular hiking trail. From the trails and dry stone walls, from Rakanovac in Vučipolje to Vrdovo, there are two goat trails that need to be cleaned, and in cooperation with mountaineers they could be cleaned and marked. Dry stone wall towards the mountain house st. Jakov has been recognized as a potential for reconstruction, while in Domjanovići there are dry stone walls along the goat paths that have collapsed and need to be restored to their original condition.

The people of Sinj want to know more

The workshop on educational potentials recognized the need to educate the general population about the natural values ​​of the local area because apart from mountaineering schools there are not many opportunities for the local population to get acquainted with the values ​​of nature and thus motivate and make them more committed to its preservation.

The possibility of implementing educational content among the adult population from this area was especially emphasized, especially education on medicinal herbs and their use, and on the use of plants in cosmetics. The need for education to focus on the local environment has been recognized, ie to present to the public what is important or what is protected in the local area. The importance of educating children of the kindergarten age, as the most desirable age for the adoption of awareness of nature conservation, was recognized. As an example of good practice, a kindergarten in the forest is mentioned, ie a program for kindergartens in which children are either taken out into nature or content found in nature, such as plants, fruits, etc., is brought and presented to them.

In the field of livestock, beekeeping and rural development, the participants in the discussion agree that local producers do not use the full potential, and that they are not aware of the interest that exists in the local area and products. It was therefore suggested that through trainings local producers be presented with the overall content that motivates people to come, data on the number of these visitors, and examples of good practice in how in other family farms producers place their products to visitors. On the other hand, even visitors do not have the clearest idea of ​​the offer that exists, because they have nowhere to find information. It was also assumed that it would be useful for local producers to organize education on what the Dinara Nature Park brings for them.

School of nature

The educational grassland trail, which would teach about project species of grasslands and birds, as well as other flora and fauna of the Dinara, was the main topic of discussion of the workshop on tourism at the Collaborative Council. As the greatest potential, a path “emerged” that would go through Vrdovo, from the east side, below Kodžoman’s umac from the end of the asphalt road to Vrdovo to the mountain house of St. Jakov in the northwest of Vrdovo and then back, but with another variant over Vrdovo to visit several points, therefore – a circular path. The trail is suitable for hikers because it is easy since there are no climbs, and the habitat is of project types, and controlled ignition was also carried out in the area. An addition to this trail would be the trail Vučipolje – St. Jakov mountian house, which is more of a trail for hikers because it is an ascent with a height difference of 600 meters. Another possibility is a trail that would include Donja Korita and Gornja Korita on Kamešnica. The third proposal of the trail is the west of the Dinara, from Marko’s grave to Brezovac, interesting as a grassland habitat. It is necessary to determine the target group for this content in advance so that the trail would not be without visitors. Travel agencies will express their interest in the trail, while tourist and mountain guides will express their interest in coming to Biom’s educational workshop.

Check out the map including all the above mentioned sites below:


We are launching Dinara back to LIFE newsletter

In order for our supporters to be even better informed about the Dinara back to LIFE project, we are launching a project newsletter.

Through it, we will disseminate information about past project activities, as well as announce upcoming activities. In addition to activities in the Dinaric field, we will also inform about content that is available exclusively on the Internet.

The newsletter about the most important project activities will be available to our Croatian readers each month.

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Renovation of six wells on Vrdovo completed – the importance of water on the karst

The reconstruction of six selected wells on the Vrdovo plateau has been completed, one of the project activities of the Dinara back to LIFE project, which aims to reverse the natural trend of succession and extinction in the direction of biodiversity and self-sustainability. These wells are 100-200 years old, but half a century ago, due to mass emigration in several waves, they were used scarcely or not at all, so they became dangerous and a mockery. With their restoration, this masterpiece of construction by hardworking people from Podinarje will again be a source of life for animals and people.

Out of hundreds of wells in the project area, 20 were shortlisted for reconstruction, selected with the help of Damir Jukić Bračulj, an employee of Hrvatske šume whose family lives in this area and knows the locations of the wells. Out of the 20 shortlisted the final six were selected, located on the state land, distributed over a large area of ​​Vrdovo and at its foot, and which fit into the financial construction of the project. Reconstruction work, ie restoring the well to its original condition with minor modifications, began in late April in difficult weather conditions because temperatures at 900 meters above sea level at Vrdovo dropped to zero, and rain in the area prevented earthworks.

Lovrića well, the first one to be renovated

By the end of the work, which lasted until the end of June, this area became extremely hot due to the karst and lack of shade. 2 to 6 workers were hired for the jobs at the time, depending on the needs of the job, and machinery was used for the most physically difficult jobs. The last restored well Venišica was also the most special – it is the largest, the only one not on Vrdovo, but at its foot, above Rumin. The works on Venišica were the most complex and it is the only well that has a vein from which water constantly springs, ie it is a “living” well that fills up very quickly. A ramp was made for easier access to this well.

Venišica before…
…and after

However, there were big jobs with other wells as well – Lovrić’s well was buried with dirt and stones up to 1.5 meters, and it was deepened to a depth of seven meters. Bulović’s well was completely collapsed and buried, and it was also deepened and reconstructed with elements weighing several hundred kilograms, in the lowering of which the machinery helped, during which we could remember the skilled and ingenious builders from a century or two ago who built these wells first, without having today’s machines. The monetary value of the renovation of these wells – because their benefit for life as such is immeasurable – is 167.000 kuna, made by the skilled hands of Antonio Jurić and his masters.

Restoration of Bulovića well

After a short rainy period, the wells were full, but as the drought approaches, the wells will be emptied – except probably Venišica which has a constant inflow of water – by the first rains after Assumption, but the process was reversed, water was “caught” and life on this dry area got its basic element. “Karst water means everything” – says Zoran Šunjić from Hrvatske vode, the client and partner in the project. In this karst area, explains the forestry expert at Dinara back to LIFE, water falls through the soil into deeper layers, which is why wells were built that were neglected over time and now need to be restored because their restoration means a return to life. The specificity of this karst terrain is that at certain depths of the soil – 5 to 10 meters – there is loam, clay soil, “gnjila” as people call it in this area. The rain that falls through the karst in the upper soil layers slides horizontally on this loam, until it reaches the well into which it flows and remains in them.

Todića well
Two of three Todića wells have been restored, the third is waiting for restoration

The first ones we remember when we think about the purpose of rebuilding wells are cattle breeders, or their “treasure” of which there are hundreds in this area. However, wells are at least equally important for bees that would collapse on the Vrdova karst from drought and heat, and they are the key – as we have heard many times in recent years – for pollen distribution, ie for pollination, ie for biodiversity. With this renovation, Vrdovo has become a small paradise for them!

Džudželića well

The days of extensive livestock production are over and we will not see the return of that number of cattle from about 100 years ago, but new needs are emerging. Hiking and adventure tourism are becoming increasingly popular and renovated wells can be a (reserve) source of water, as well as a tourist attraction, and can also serve hunters for their needs. Water can also be a gathering place – in Kaoci, on the northern slopes of the Biokovo Nature Park, where three wells have also been renovated and three improvised summer houses have been set up, actor Vedran Mlikota holds performances every summer. It is no wonder that Hrvatske šume (Croatian Forests company), after the restoration on Vrdovo, receives daily inquiries about the renovation of other wells, of which there are hundreds in the project area, and thousands throughout Dalmatia. The possibility of life, therefore, is here, it just needs a helping hand to return!

Representatives of Hrvatske šume and the reconstruction company at the Todića well
Lovrića well
Rašeljka bush covering a well
Džudželića well
Todića well