Dinara back to LIFE international conference

The international conference “Working together towards grassland sustainability (cross-sectoral approach)” brought together experts from various fields. 

From March 21 to 24, about a hundred participants had the opportunity to participate in a rich program and learn about the experiences of local and international experts in the sustainable use of grasslands and the management of Natura 2000 sites. Participants also participated in different workshop sessions and joined us in visiting the restoration sites of “Dinara back to LIFE” project.

The conference was opened by Tomislav Hudina, Dinara back to LIFE project manager, and introduced the activities and results of the project so far, which were realized in cooperation with the project partners Croatian forests ltd., the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Zagreb and Local action group “Cetinska krajina”.

First day of the conference: Common agricultural policy and rural development

During the first day, presentations were held on agriculture-related topics. Bojan Ivanetić spoke about the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy for the period 2023-2027 at the level of the European Union and about the EU Biodiversity Strategy until 2030. Through the presentation, a review was given of the Strategic Plan of the Agricultural Policy and Innovations of the Republic of Croatia until 2027. 

Assoc. Ph.D.Sc. Marin Čagalj spoke about Key steps in the establishment of a short supply chain in the area of Dinara. Čagalj explained what short supply chains are, and how they function, and also presented the results of a questionnaire conducted among farmers from the Dinara area. 

From the Administrative Department for the Economy, EU Funds and Agriculture of the Split-Dalmatia County, Katarina Šuta presented the currently announced measures to support the development of agriculture in the Split-Dalmatia County, and Ivana Žanko, manager of the Local Action Group “Cetinska krajina” spoke about connecting activities in the rural economy and about the rural development programs. 

In the session, Rural Development – field stories, local young farmers Frano Moro and Antonio Mravak presented themselves and told firsthand what it’s like to be a farmer-entrepreneur, what challenges they face, what helps them in developing their business and what their experiences are in the production and sale of domestic products from own production. Karla Škorjanc from the Agricultural Cooperative of the island of Krk shared her experience of running a co-operative and emphasized the importance and value of co-operatives in achieving good results, cooperation, and building trust with the community. 

The second day of the conference: Preservation of grasslands, forests and nature protection

The second day of the conference had varied content on the topic of grassland conservation and the relationship between forestry and Natura 2000 areas. Lectures were opened by guests from the Czech Institute for Nature Protection, leaders of the strategic LIFE project “One Nature”, which contributes to biodiversity and the promotion of ecosystem services in protected areas of the Natura 2000 network in the Czech Republic. 

Iris Beneš spoke about the role of common pastures in the preservation of grasslands and presented the Gajna area as an example of sustainable grazing as a prerequisite for nature protection and Ugo Toić from the Island development agency shared his experience of restoring grasslands as an important role for preserving the identity of the Cres island as well as the importance of the Cres sheep as part of the cultural landscape, island system, and nature conservation. 

Also, the participants had the opportunity to hear the inspiring story of Stefan Knopfer, a young herdsman from Austria who leads the organization Hirtenkultur, whose goal is to network the last shepherds in Austria with each other as well as with shepherds from other countries, support them in their work, and awake young people’s interest in the issue of nature conservation through conventional agriculture.

The session Forestry and nature protection was opened by Prof. Ph.D. Ivan Martinić from the Faculty of Forestry in Zagreb with the lecture “What does Natura 2000 mean for forests?”, and he continued the presentation by sharing his experience in managing Natura 2000 in the forest using examples of Slovenia. He pointed out that forestry is crucial in the role of nature conservation because almost 23% of European forests are included in Natura 2000, and in Croatia, 36% of Natural areas are made up of forests.

Mile Radočaj from Croatian forests ltd. presented the Ecomanager project the goal of which is to ensure sustainable management of biodiversity in the forest part of the Natura 2000 area. Blaž Štefanek from Hrvatske šume then presented three large projects implemented by Hrvatske šume, which are related to the management of Natura 2000 forest area. Naturavita, a project to clear mine-suspected areas and replace Euro-American poplars tree with autochthonous poplars; Fearless Velebit, which will rid PP Velebit and NP Paklenica completely of mines, and the Karlovac Kars project, in which 1,700 ha are de-mining, 216 ha of forest land is restored and fire protection roads are created. 

The third day of the conference: Controlled burning, wildfires in nature and livestock breeding and grazing

The prescribed burning and wildfires session began with the presentation Controlled burning of grasslands and its effects on vegetation by Vedran Šegota, Ph.D., Šegota presented the controlled burning experiment that took place n in 2015 in the Krka National Park, in which a small area of overgrown grassland was burned, after which the recovery of grassland vegetation continued to be regularly monitored. He also concluded that controlled burning is a good method of maintaining grasslands and that it increases biodiversity. 

Domina Delač from the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb, in her lecture Wildfire effects on soil and water, presented controlled burning as one of the methods of preventing the spread of summer fires, but it was also noted that there is no unequivocal conclusion about the impact of controlled burning on soil and water, because there is a number of factors that can affect this, for example, how soon after ignition it rains and how much rain falls, how intense was burning, etc. 

In his presentation, Ivan Budinski from the Biom Association showed a number of examples of controlled burning in Europe. He presented examples from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Portugal, and Greece, where habitats are maintained in this way, but summer wildfires and damage caused by them are also prevented. 

In the session on livestock breeding and grazing, Prof. Ph.D. Antun Kostelić from the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb spoke about sheep grazing, difficulties with various diseases, and predators on karst pastures. Prof. Ph.D. Sc. Ante Ivanković also from the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb presented recommendations on the use of autochthonous local breeds in recreation, gastronomy, etc. with the aim of encouraging their cultivation and their preservation. 

In the presentation, Istrian native cattle breed and sustainable land management, Gordan Šubara from the Agency for Rural Development of Istria presented the biggest problems of depopulation of rural areas that were historically the centers of traditional cattle breeding and gave examples of how breeders and processors can achieve economic sustainability through a multidisciplinary approach to solving problems and all this on the example of good practice such as the educational-gastronomic center in Istra. 

The last lecture in the session was about grazing as a method of grassland maintenance. Prof. Ph.D. Sc. Josip Leto from the Faculty of Agriculture from Zagreb spoke about mixed grazing and benefits for livestock, biodiversity, and livestock farmers, and Associate Professor Ph.D. Hrvoje Kutnjak spoke about data analysis as part of the Dinara back to LIFE project. His presentation was aimed at defining the optimal use of grasslands on Dinara for livestock grazing in order to achieve the maximum positive effect on animal growth and ensure the preservation of biodiversity. 

At the end of the conference, Ivana Selanec from Biom Association presented and opened the discussion on “Guidelines for the restoration and sustainable management of dry grasslands” which bring together the experience and lessons learned from the three-year implementation of the grassland restoration project on Dinara. 


During the conference, three workshops were held; Natura 2000 and the Restoration of Nature, Transhumance, and the Involvement of volunteers in the restoration of nature. On the last day was organized to the locations where restoration activities are carried out as part of the Dinara back to LIFE project. The joint trip rounded off the gathering of all those who, with their effort, dedication, and experience, want to preserve grasslands and use them wisely in the future. 


Controlled burning of overgrown grasslands on Dinara

At the beginning of February, we conducted controlled burning of overgrown grassland on Dinara and thus successfully continued the activity we started two years ago.

Controlled burning is one of the grassland restoration methods that has been used in livestock farming since ancient times and is used primarily to keep grassland areas free of unwanted wooden vegetation and to improve the quality of pastures. 


Our first step was to inform the local public and stakeholders with the implementation plan and present the benefits of controlled burning for biodiversity.

We hope that our guidelines will be used by other institutions in the future to facilitate the preparation and implementation of controlled burning. 


In 2021 our team implemented controlled burning as a pilot activity to test logistic and administrative requirements, which made implementation in 2023 much easier. Controlled burning activities were also supported by local fire fighting authorities, project partners and volunteers. 

Favorable weather conditions – dry weather without rainfall and wind – showed up already in the first week of February, which enabled us to start with controlled burning. 

Also, it is important to emphasize that this activity is carried out based on the Forest management program with the management plan for the area of Vrdovo (it is called Forest management program but also includes state owned grasslands within the area), where activities for the purpose of preserving biodiversity are prescribed. Controlled burning was introduced into the Management program based on the Ordinance on conservation objectives and conservation measures for target species and habitat types in the Natura 2000 areas, which prescribes controlled burning as a conservation measure for some habitat types and species, including ortolan bunting (Emberiza hortulana) and Eastern Sub-Mediterranean dry grasslands (Scorzoneretalia villosae) (Natura 62A0) on which we are working as part of the Dinara back to LIFE project. 

We carried out controlled burning at the area of Vrdovo with the aim of improving habitat conditions for various animal species dependent on open habitats, with a special emphasis on the ortolan bunting. Ortolan bunting (Emberiza hortulana) is a strictly protected bird species that loses its habitat due to the encroachment  of grasslands, and its presence has been recorded mainly in areas that were recently burned(either controlled or in many cases in summer wildfires). 

We restored 50 ha of overgrown grasslands and we hope that they will be sustainably managed by grazing in the future. Hopefully the number of nesting pairs of the ortolan bunting will increase, as well as the number of grazing animals. 

Controlled burning is recognized by the nature protection sector around the world and the method is used to restore areas that are overgrown or that are in different stages of succession, which need to be slowed down or stopped in order to preserve or maintain the desired habitat features.  

Controlled burning is not a wildfire

Restoration sites are chosen in a way that habitat types and surrounding vegetation are not damaged or endangered by burning. A great deal of attention is paid to minimizing the impact on the organisms, primarily animals.


Implementing controlled burning is the same as the risk posed by any wildfire: primarily, the spread of fire to plots that were not the target of controlled burning and deep burning of soil. Both of these risks are avoided by good preparation, careful selection of the plots, selection of favorable weather conditions during the controlled burning activity, and the presence of a sufficient number of prepared participants in coordination with the competent firefighting department. Controlled burning is carried out in the winter period when there is a significantly smaller amount of dry biomass and when the fire spreads more slowly which gives firefighters the opportunity to easily control the fire.

Unlike controlled burning, wildfires have numerous negative impacts on various organisms and their habitats. They usually occur in the warmer period of the year in drought conditions. In case of windy weather, the situation gets even worse. Fire often burns large areas, including those that we want to preserve, such as forests, olive groves, vineyards, but also houses and other infrastructure. Animals that are not fast enough or cannot fly are also burned in that case. Burnt areas are later exposed to much stronger soil erosion by wind and water, especially on sloping terrain. It should also be emphasized that wildfires leave a much larger carbon footprint, they release much larger amounts of stored carbon dioxide than in the case of controlled burning, because the amount of organic matter burned in wildfires is much bigger than with controlled burning. Even though the burnt areas sooner or later turn green again and vegetation begins to develop and animals arrive, this process takes much longer than after the controlled burning. In case of controlled burning, with the arrival of first rains, the regrowth of the vegetation begins, as the underground parts of the plants are mostly undamaged. 

Controlled burning in other countries

Controlled burning is a widespread method that is implemented in a large number of countries, from the Mediterranean and Baltic countries and the United Kingdom to the USA and Australia. In the United Kingdom, encroached grasslands are burned for the grassland management purpose while Norwegians use controlled burning on large areas for the purpose of maintaining pastures for sheep, preventing overgrowth of juniper and heather. In Spain controlled burning is widespread in different habitats for the purpose of maintaining them in a desired condition, and in the USA, burning prevents the overgrowth of prairies by shrubby vegetation  enabling large herbivores to graze and  maintain mosaic habitats like oak forests with glades. Controlled burning is also applied  in pine forests to maintain the grass cover in the forest and enable the restoration of pine trees. In many of these examples, the initial argument was not habitat maintenance, but the controlled burning of biomass (dry branches, leaves, dry grass, flammable plant species), because burning in the colder period of the year proved to be a successful and spatial limitation of catastrophic summer wildfires. For example, after catastrophic fires in Portugal, as a measure to prevent them in the future, they revived the tradition of controlled burning. 

In Croatia, controlled burning has recently only been carried out on relatively small and protected areas such as the Krka National Park or the Significant Landscape Kamenjak in Istria. However, primarily shepherds, but also farmers, still use burning in the winter months to maintain private grasslands and  agricultural land that is temporarily or permanently  not used for production, which means that such a tradition is still present. Unfortunately, nowadays large parts of these practices are carried out without control. Recent wildfires on large areas on Dinara have destroyed habitats that will take decades or centuries to restore and bring back the species that lived there. Such a “tradition” of uncontrolled burning shouldn’t  have a place in modern spatial management, but also in the general approach of man to. Controlled burning, on the other hand, as a method of grassland management, is a way where using fire respects all users of the space, habitats and species that live on it. In that case, those who carry out this activity are obliged to make sure that the fire does not spread to forest or other habitats. 

Have a look on how implementation of controlled burning of overgrown grasslands on Dinara looked like from our perspective. 

Dinara is part of the Natura 2000 network and species and habitats which are priorities for conservation are clearly defined. In order to ensure favorable conditions for priority species we need various types of grasslands, forests and transitional habitats. Maintenance of those habitats require different techniques and controlled burning is one of them. In addition, natural resources should be treated with great respect, because they need to be kept for future generations. 

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”Dinara back to LIFE” conference starting soon

We are delighted to present a program and open a call for participants of “Dinara back to LIFE” project conference “Working together towards grassland sustainability (cross-sectoral approach)”.

We aim to bring together stakeholders from different sectors such as nature conservation, forestry, agriculture, public authorities, local action groups, etc. and discuss opportunities and the importance of cross-sectoral cooperation in grassland management. The project team will also present “Guidelines for dry grassland restoration and sustainable management”, consisting of knowledge, advice, and lessons learned from the project grassland restoration experience of the last three years.

The conference will take 4 days in The multimedia hall of the Museum of the Alka of Sinj (location). The program includes a field visit to grassland restoration sites on the final day. We prepared an exciting and interactive program.

Register now to secure your place.

Participation in the project conference is free of charge, and the food and conference venue is covered by the “Dinara back to LIFE” project. Accommodation and travel costs are not covered by the project, but by participants individually.

For more information please download the conference program.

Please feel free to contact if you need any further information.

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Save the date! ”Dinara back to LIFE” project conference

Working Together Towards Grasslands Sustainability (Cross-sectoral Approach)

We are delighted to announce the “Dinara back to LIFE” project conference “Working together towards grassland sustainability (cross-sectoral approach)”.

Save the date! The conference will be held in Sinj, Croatia from 21 to 24 March 2023.

We aim to bring together stakeholders from different sectors such as nature conservation, forestry, agriculture, public authorities, local action groups, etc., and discuss opportunities and the importance of cross-sectoral cooperation in grassland management. 

The project team will also present “Guidelines for dry grassland restoration and sustainable management”. The Guidelines are based on the grassland restoration experience of the last three years, with the aim of being a knowledge resource for governing institutions. We are hopeful that our knowledge, advice, and lessons learned will prove to be useful for future sustainable grassland management.

We will continue planning the event and logistics, and keep you updated with the information. Conference invitation will be sent to your e-mail in January 2023, and until then please make sure to save the date!

You can also find new updates at

           Conference themes

  • Guidelines for dry grassland restoration and sustainable management

  • The role of nature conservation, forestry and agriculture sector in grassland conservation and sustainable use and management of Natura 2000 sites

  • Opportunities for cross-sectoral cooperation

  • Local communities leading rural development


Are you interested in attending the “Dinara back to LIFE” project conference? We’d love to have you! Although our registration isn’t open just yet, you can express your interest on the link.


Award from the City of Vrlika to the Dinara back to LIFE project!

In Vrlika at the beginning of October, the City council held a session with numerous guests for the celebration of the Day of the City of Vrlika. The most solemn moment of the session was the recognition and award ceremony for contributing to Vrlika’s area.

In the category Collective Award,  the award went to our project Dinara back to LIFE!

We are happy that the City of Vrlika recognized our work and are grateful for the support it gives us in the implementation of the project. For us, this award is a great honor and a confirmation that our efforts are going in the right direction, but it is also a motivation to be even better.

To all the citizens of Vrlika, sincere congratulations on the occasion of the Day of the City of Vrlika and the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary!


Watch our first project film ‘Open-type habitats – grasslands’

In just several hours of hiking you can go from Peruća Lake to Croatia’s highest peak and witness several habitats on the way as well as many plant and animal species, the basis of the natural wealth of Dinara – that’s the key message of our first project film ‘Open-type habitats – grasslands’ that you can now watch online.

Why are grasslands important for biodiversity, what threatens this key habitat, how we’re trying to preserve it, and the importance of cattle farmers in their preservation is what we tried to roughly explain in our short film.

‘Open-type habitats – grasslands’, watch it below

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New grassland restoration season has begun

After our spring/summer break, needed to leave the animals undisturbed during nesting and fledging season, we began a new season of overgrown grasslands restoration.

The upcoming season will take place from 1st of September 2022 until March 31st 2023. Overgrown grasslands will continue to be restored in the Ježević dry grassland, situated between the villages Koljane and Cetina. During the previous season 47,6 ha of dry grassland was already restored, an area we will increase in the upcoming season.

Map of the area restored in 2021/2022 season

Grasslands are being restored by manually removal of woody vegetation, especially juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus). Juniper bushes have been taking over grassland areas for decades, and as a plant species that is not normally eaten by grazing animals the only viable method of removal is manually removing the plants, as it used to be done in this area in the past when more people and animals lived here.

By restoring the overgrown areas, we are hoping to attract species whose habitat is dry grassland, and are currently declining in number due to habitat loss. The short-toed lark (Calandrella brachydactyla) and the stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) are examples of bird species that depend on this habitat and are therefore at risk, not only in Ježević dry grassland, the only such grassland left on Dinara, but at the very few remaining habitats of this kind left in Croatia overall. The last breeding pair of the stone-curlew was recorded here two years ago and the species has since disappeared from this area due to habitat loss. We are hoping to see it return after restoring almost 50 ha of open grassland last season and expanding that area further in the upcoming season.

We chose the Ježević dry grassland specifically as it is the last recorded site of nesting stone-curlews on Dinara as well as a current habitat of the short-toed lark. We want to continue restoring and expanding this area to reverse the negative habitat trends affecting the quality of this habitat that is needed for these and other species dependant on open habitats. Some sites have only become so overgrown recently so we will also try to restore those areas to attract breeding birds.

This season our goal is to restore at least an additional 53 ha of dry grassland, with the aim that these areas once cleared will be continually used and maintained, meaning they should be used for grazing. It is a natural and best way to maintain grasslands, therefore extensive cattle breeding significantly contributes to maintaining biodiversity. We are hopeful the cleared areas will therefore not only remain cleared but will also expand, increasing the number of farmers and cattle.

Potential restoration areas in 2022-2023 season (rounded in red)

In addition to grassland restoration, we will continue our work on restoration of ponds and wells, mountain trails and dry walls. All of which are important parts of our cultural heritage as well as helpful assets for the local farmers.

As last year, restoration work ends at the end of March for a very important reason. In the, spring nature wakes up and many animal species begin their mating season, which for birds means the beginning of their nesting season. At this time nature is at their most vulnerable, and especially ground-nesting birds such as the stone-curlew, short-toed and other larks. Even unintentional human disturbance, which may not seem harmful, are a danger for the nests and the young if they occur in areas where these rare species nest. If disturbances occur and result in nests being destroyed while they have eggs or before the fledglings learn how to fly, it can mean the breeding effort was unsuccessful and therefore the survival of the birds is less likely.

Due to its exceptional biodiversity and preservation of nature, Dinara was declared a Nature Park, thusly we invite all individuals and institutions to be considerate towards nature and respect its cycles. We suggest all institutions and individuals, before organising event and activities in nature, to consult the relevant expert institutions (public institutions for the management of protected areas and other protected natural values or, in case of Dinara, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development), as well as public land managers such as Croatian Forestry or local government units to acquire necessary permissions.


Estimation of forage value of dry grasslands on Dinara mountain based on the analysis of botanical composition

Our project team members from the University of Zagreb Faculty of Agriculture presented some results of field research done as a part of the Dinara back to LIFE project at the 57th Croatian and 17th International Symposium on Agriculture in Vodice.

Data collected during botanical field studies conducted by the employees of BIOM Association on grasslands in Validžići, Ježević, and Vrdovo were used to estimate the forage value of these grasslands using the „Complex method“ for evaluation of the quality and total value of grasslands and leys.

The „Complex method“ takes into account the botanical composition of grassland, the weight share of plants, and many other factors that can affect the forage quality of a plant such as poisonousness, digestibility, plants’ morphology, chemical composition, etc. Based on its characteristics, a plant is sorted into one of categories (from „very noxious“ to „excellent“). Coefficients corresponding to each category are used in calculating the total value of grasslands. Quality index is a summary of multiples of coefficients and plants’ weight shares.

Prof. Kutnjak and associates

The forage value of a grassland tells us whether it’s appropriate for pasture and forage production and if amelioration methods should be used to improve its quality.

Our results have shown that grasslands in Validžići and Ježević had significantly higher quality than those in Vrdovo which is probably connected to the high weight share of species of the genus Sesleria on Vrdovo grasslands. On average, grasslands in Validžići had the highest quality indices.

The complete article by Kutnjak et al. can be found on the following link –

Link to the poster presented on the Symposium –

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‘How are we Preserving Dinara’ – come to our lecture at the Alka of Sinj Museum

We are organizing a lecture ‘How are we Preserving Dinara’ in the multimedia hall of the Alka of Sinj Museum on Friday, August 12, 2022 (at 6 p.m.) where we will present our nature conservation projects and our efforts in promoting sustainable use of Dinara.

We invite all interested parties – and especially guests from the city of Sinj and the Cetinska Krajina region who will visit us during these celebratory days – to come, meet us and listen to what we are doing to preserve Dinara.

The lecture about our efforts to preserve our favorite mountain will be given by Ivana Selanec, master of ecology and nature protection, director of the regional office of Biom Association in Sinj.

In addition to lectures, visitors of Sinj will have the opportunity to visit the exhibition “Back to nature” of the Dinara back to LIFE project on two occasions – on Sunday, August 7 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., as well as on Friday, August 12 from 9 a.m. to noon, at Matića ulica 12, Sinj.

Biom is the largest organization for the protection of birds in Croatia, and we are one of the leading member and volunteer organizations for the protection and research of nature in our country. Our main task is to preserve nature for the benefit of current and future generations.

With activities on the ground, we are present in almost all parts of Croatia, and in our 16 years of existence, we have implemented more than 300 different projects for the preservation of biodiversity. Today, we are a professional organization that successfully implements numerous domestic and international projects for the preservation of nature and biodiversity.

With the lecture in Sinj, we want to present our work in the area of ​​Dinara, point out the threats that nature faces on Dinara, and what is our role in its preservation. We will also present the values ​​that nature provides to people and thus ensures the coexistence of people and nature on the highest Croatian mountain, which has always had a special place in the hearts of our citizens.

Check how you can get involved and support the work of the Biom Association at the following link –

The lecture is supported by the Ferata portal.

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Monitoring of the burnt area on Vrdovo – a year later everything is greener

We conducted a research on Vrdovo plateau where we used controlled burning in winter 2021 in order to determine differences between the burnt area and the control area.

In February 2021 our first restoration action of its kind, controlled burning was conducted on an area of 7 ha. Our recent research conducted over a year after the restoration activity shows that regarding the flora, the areas are no different. However, visually the difference is significant. The burnt area is visibly greener as it does not contain any old last-year leaves, which also enable uncontrolled burning as they are the dry material that burns.

It was established that younger shoots of woody vegetation dried out. However, the thicker branches ‘survived’ the burning, therefore small shrubs were successfully removed while the larger bushes and trees do not seem to be negatively affected by the burning.

Based on this, we can conclude that controlled burning during the winter months does not negatively impact the grassland or the more mature vegetation that is present, while at the same time it removes the dry biomass, which if not removed regularly, can facilitate devastating summer wildfires.