From October 10 to 12, the 17th annual meet-up of experts from public institutions responsible for taking care of natural areas and ecological networks was held. It well organized by the Environmental Protection and Nature Conservation Institute under the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development.
In a beautiful setting, the hosts and co-organizers, the Public Institution Brijuni National Park and the Public Institution Natura Histrica, welcomed over 150 participants from nearly all public institutions responsible for managing protected natural areas. Over the course of the three-day meeting, 22 presentations were held, covering the work of the relevant ministry, as well as presentations from various county and local public institutions, national parks, and nature parks.
On the first day of the meeting, alongside topics on Nature Restoration and the challenges of European Polic;, examples of projects in preparation or already underway, related to habitat restoration, were presented. In the lecture titled “Experience of Restoring Grasslands through the Implementation of the Dinara back to LIFE Project” Tomislav Hudina, the project leader from the Biom Association, presented the three-year work of project partners in the restoration and preservation of Dinaric grasslands and the results achieved. Also, since the project is coming to an end, the publication of the Guidelines for the Restoration and Sustainable Management of Dry Grasslands has been announced. These guidelines are expected to be valuable for many public institutions that participated in the meeting, especially considering that we are entering a period where a lot of attention will be given to habitat restoration.”
With numerous presentations and a rich program, participants concluded this year’s gathering by visiting the protected area of the Mirna Valley and the Special Reserve of Forest Vegetation – Motovun Forest.
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!
Do you understand the topic of lawn restoration better after the theory classes?
Do you understand the requirements of restoration better with respect to physical work?
Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?
Tiana Friganović, Zaton, 5th year of eco-agriculture and agro-turism
• I expected to learn to work in a team, to meet new colleagues from similar fields, to get theoretical and practical knowledge about lawn restoration, to improve knowledge about biodiversity conservation and rural conservation in this area.
• I am very satisfied, especially with the educational part – lectures, and especially with the lectures of LAG Cetinska krajina, Croatian Forestry and from the Public Institution of Šibenik-Knin County. Other lectures were also helpful as I learned new things in managing sensitive habitats. I hope that this project will become sustainable even after 2023, which means that the residents here, who are the most important factor, would recognize it and participate in the preservation of these valuable pastures.
• This is my first time participating in the restoration and I am satisfied. Looking at the leaders and others, I learned what is important, and what to pay attention to when making decisions. I have learned that more factors in nature need to be taken into account so as not to damage one part of the ecosystem and to keep them all undamaged.
• In physical work the motivation was at a high level and we tried to do our best. It is not easy, especially at the sun at the beginning of field-work while it is hot.
• I see myself running my own production or production for someone else, as an agronomy engineer, on organic food production projects. I am also interested in participating in projects that promote organic and regenerative agriculture so that other members of the system have a healthy environment. I also see myself as a researcher of new methods in organic farming, as a partner in other rural development projects. The most important thing is that as a resident of rural area, I can convey the real problems that come from the villagers themselves to higher instances. You need to work smart and not hard!!! – that is my life motto.
Paula Šašić, Zagreb, 4th year of biology
• When the invitation to the camp was published, I saw all the announced lectures – the topics were great because I am interested in the field of biology, so I hoped to learn a lot in the theoretical part, and I started writing a final thesis on the importance of habitat within landscape. I was at the camp on Učka, so I knew roughly what it was about and the background of the story behind the overgrowth of pastures. I expected to work a lot, to meet people from different fields who are interested in different fields of science, to share knowledge and that the approach to the camp and the topic will be interdisciplinary. My desire was to learn a lot, meet people and hang out.
• I am thrilled! You made an effort in regard to the organization and activities on the side, to learn as much as possible about the widest possible area, what can be done here, and that there is enough time left to rest. Concrete things could be learned in lectures. It motivated me to think about how to work in this area from a realistic point of view. Every day I think “this was my best day this summer” and then a new day comes and that one becomes the best day of this summer!!!
• As we went deeper and deeper with lectures every day from multiple sides I had the opportunity to see why pastures are important to people and to nature and how they are managed. We could learn concrete things, while in college the lessons are too general.
• I knew it was going to be hard, but I forgot how demanding it is when working for a long time. The first day is easy, when working for a long time it becomes demanding, but the work will pay off in the long run. Of the tools, scissors are the easiest, with the sickle I hit 10 times and I don’t achieve much. You need to acquire a technique and physical strength.
• I have multiple backup plans. Ideally, if I stay in Croatia, I can work in a national park or nature park as a ranger. If I manage to raise money and get some property, I will have a farm with organic products, procure cows, bees, make a living from it, and along the way explore for myself. Working on a farm is hard physically, but it’s a very fulfilling job, I love being on my feet and doing a lot of things, the worst thing would be just sitting around.
Šime Vukman (Trogir), 5th year of geography
• I didn’t think much in advance, because wherever I go and try something, It’s great! I never participated in an EU project so I wanted to come. I expected less from education, and got more. That’s how I imagined the field part. As a geographer, I thought we weren’t going to be connected to others, and in fact everything is connected. All the lecturers managed to arouse my interest.
• I am most sincerely extra-satisfied with everyone, especially the team, and what I like most is that we are from different fields of science. We’ve seen how we all think a little differently. We are driving in cars and Ana from geology looks at rocks, geographers elsewhere, biologists look at the vegetation – we all have different ways of thinking, and now we have managed to connect them. That’s how we learned from each other. I am satisfied with the education, especially the LAG was my tip-top, as well as the lecturers from the Public Institution of Šibenik-Knin County, to whom we asked a million questions. Everyone is open and communicative, it is super organized, informative posters on the walls help a lot, we can’t help but manage. The division into teams at the camp is great. I am glad that not everything is served to us, but we serve breakfast ourselves and learn about life as well this way. We talked about how we live in paradise – everything is paid for us, we learn useful things for both professional and life things, we are all smart. Thanks to the European Union – they pay us to cut juniper, to eat, we have everything and it is so for two weeks!
• I was familiar with restoration, but I always had a strange ethic of it – why not let nature go? When we came to the field the first day and when I cut the first bush I thought – three mantises had come out – that It was a little weird. But through talking with the volunteers and lecturers, it was clearer to me the issue of biodiversity and what the purpose of it all is. Throughout history, there have been lawns, and large cattle have lived and maintained those lawns there. There was confusion in my head – why wouldn’t it be like this, nature decided so and now after this terrain it is clearer to me.
• I saw how hard and arduous it is and how hard life is in this area. I appreciate people who put so much effort into it, I can’t imagine doing it my whole life.
• I would like to do something like this, on EU projects because I see that there is great dynamics, things happen, you get a job on projects, it is not a monotonous job. I wouldn’t want to work in a way that makes my day the same. I want to work in a company or organization that deals with various projects related to geography, or regional development.
Lucija Gajić (Zagreb), 3rd year of forestry
I expected from the camp to learn a lot of new things, given that it was related to a topic I knew almost nothing about, and I was interested. I was glad that the topic is largely related to forestry that I study, and I know that so far I have lacked a lot of practical application of knowledge and field work. I was also looking forward to meeting people from other colleges and making some new friendships.
I am very pleased with what I got. I especially liked that during the whole camp and education we were treated as adults and we were asked how we would solve certain problems related to lawn restoration. I like that the lectures were interactive each time, and everyone had the opportunity to express their opinion, as well as the organization of the camp itself in which each of us could actively participate and contribute something. For two weeks I lived with really wonderful, smart and creative people full of ideas from whom I could learn something new every day.
I think I understand the topic of lawn restoration much better, because I honestly didn’t even know what lawn restoration was before this camp. I knew what the succession of forests was, I also knew in theory that in Croatia there are problems with laws, obtaining permits for many things, that it is not easy for cattle breeders. But now I realize how connected it all actually is and that a lot of people have to communicate in order to solve a problem.
It is important to gather a good team on the field. The work was not very easy, we all ended up with some injuries. Some tools are much harder to work with than others. But when there is a good team spirit, everything is easier to endure. After all, it doesn’t even matter how much we cleaned up, but how much we learned throughout the camp.
I’m still not sure where I see myself, I still feel kind of lost. But I know I would love to do something related to nature conservation, maybe work in some kind of association like Biom, and work on projects. I wish a lot of my field work was in some nice remote places.
Mihaela Mladar (Split), 5th year of geography
• I expected it to be a completely different experience, I was ready for something new. I’ve been on terrains and hiking before, but I’ve never signed up for a project like this organized by people I don’t know.
• I got six times more than expected – the best value for money ratio since Alaska!!! I am very pleased with the information and experience I received. I feel like I am on the perfect border of experts and the local community and getting all the information, which gives me a realistic picture. I am impressed with how much lectures cover professions and directions. It seems to me that there was something for everyone. On the private level there is always someone to turn to. This camp was among my TOP 3, if not the TOP decision this year! I will remember it!
• I knew before what vegetation removal meant, I understood the concept, but it was not clear to me in practice what it meant. Croatian Forestry were of great help in this matter and in general I did not want to miss the lectures, which were very interesting. I am interested in environmental protection, I would love to find myself in some of the things I found here.
• Working in the field is tiring, mentally boring, although physically it is not too difficult because you have a goal, and as soon as you have a goal it is immediately easier. I was doing what I expected and it wasn’t a problem for me. I believe the stone-curlew will return!
• I don’t have a concrete plan for the future – I have a “what way”, but I have no “where to”. I have a direction, but I have no goal. Direction is what I think of when I talk about progress – to progress in GIS, to learn a language, to strengthen self-confidence. Especially since I’m studying geography, in which case you have no idea what you’re going to be because you have no idea what you’re going to be doing.
Lana Zubčić (Bribir), 2nd year of graduate study of ecological agriculture and agrotourism
• I expected to meet a lot of students from different faculties, with similar interests, and to learn a lot of new things, and I was especially attracted by this field work.
• Great! Especially the terrain was great and fun and it wasn’t that hard work. It was good company – we joked and we worked. It’s a nice feeling to get to the end of the day and see the results. All the lectures were interesting and useful, the days passed quickly and were filled. The most beautiful thing is that we connected with each other and made new friends and that we learned from each other – I heard something new every day. We talk about how we will connect and join associations.
• The difference is that I did not understand the background issues related to administration and laws – what needs to be collected and which institutions need to be communicated with in order to approach such a project. I learned a lot about the importance of lawns and the species that inhabit them and why it is important to preserve them. I realized the importance of communication between different stakeholders and the importance of communication with the local population, public administrations and ministries – no participant can be left out for something like this to work!
• Leaders are needed who will know how to motivate participants, lift their spirits, instill a lot of will and desire to achieve something. It was also important that we all work together, so when you look back you see that everyone is immersed in the work.
• I’m still looking, a hundred things I’m interested in, and nothing interests me enough. Nothing has completely attracted me yet, although I like protected areas and nature conservation. The camp increased my interest in these areas and the possibilities of project and research in them. I have enrolled in courses on the management of ecologically sensitive areas, and I am also interested in land rehabilitation, regenerative agriculture, the topic of habitat and soil restoration – that is the future.
Srećko Kajić, Đeletovci near Vinkovci, 5th year of geography
• I expected us to mow the grass! To my great surprise, we were greeted by bushes instead of tall grass, so instead of the art of handling a trimmer, I was expected to use an ax, to my great regret! As for the educational part, I expected a couple of dry and a couple of good lectures on biology and ecology, but I was pleasantly surprised that the lectures, which covered the entire science, were more than excellent. Exceeded expectations!
• What is most valuable to me is looking at the different layers of legislation and the people who enforce those laws. We met people who pass the law and those who enforce the laws and those who implement the projects. We cannot get different public, civil and private aspects through education. We got a view of the real world – how the state and everyday work function in our domains.
• I had a solid background considering that I dealt with the topic of lawns and succession through education and my work on the influence of sociodemographic factors, but this was a good opportunity to experience through our own work how restoration works, what are the consequences, what are the goals, what is the impact of restoration on society and the surrounding area, which is what geography deals with.
• I certainly understand better. Through about 10 days of restoration, about 40 hours of work, I think that we have managed to get to know the requirements of manual lawn restoration through sweat and blisters, and I think that a good lesson is why we should try not to have lawn succession. Although, the more cattle breeders – the less money from the EU for cutting bushes!
• I would like to pursue science, either through the academic sector, or through certain organizations or associations on a project such as Biom’s, that can serve as an archetype for what we might do in the future. Five years as far and so close as it is, because I plan to stay on for my doctorate.
Sara Stermšek (Split), 2nd year of graduate study of biology and 1st year of graduate study of museology and heritage management
• When I applied for camp, I hoped to learn something about lawns and fulfill the end of my summer, but from applying to camp itself, I didn’t think much about expectations. Maybe I was just hoping the company would be good.
• I am immensely pleased with what I have received. I got more from the camp than I could have ever imagined. I’ve learned things I don’t know where else I could learn. So much has happened – sleeping in the same room, sharing meals and working on a team restoration, I met people a lot more than I normally have the opportunity and I think I made very good friends.
• We had the opportunity to learn how some things work directly from experts working in LAGs, public institutions and ministries. The trainings were well designed and in the end they nicely rounded as a whole that helped us understand what it takes to implement a project like this.
• We learned to handle different tools and gradually became very skilled. However, after two weeks of work we felt that we were really tired, but also that we did a very good job.
• In five years I want to be a curator at a natural history museum. I hope that I will be able to apply everything I learned at the camp in that position – to implement projects, cooperate with public institutions and educate the public on the now very current topic of nature protection. I wish I could balance what I do with hobbies and hanging out with friends and family.
Zrinka Šola (Đakovo), 5th year of forestry – growing and arranging forests, hunting management
• I expected to hear things I didn’t know, to meet new people, make new friendships, and have fun. I managed all and everything – a very good experience.
• I am very pleased because there were a lot of activities, because it is very nicely organized, and I got the knowledge I came for. It’s great that I went with Tomislav Hudina and Luka Škunca to field-work on the Dinara because I’m interested in phytoceonology – the science of plant communities. They mapped the plants and did phytoceonological analyzes on some plots – I have never heard of some genera on those plots! They must have been wondering “What kind of students are we taking to the field!?” :-).
• I now have a better understanding of lawn restoration from a theoretical point of view. The LAG was something that was totally unknown to me, and actually a good problem-solving mechanism that people in rural areas face. The GIS workshop was great because, even though I worked in GIS, it bothered me where I could get the background, now I know…
• It was clear to me how it would work, but the experience is different when you see how long it takes, how much time and human resources it takes, so you realize that it is not at all simple, but it can be done. People are pessimistic in Croatia, so it was motivating to achieve this result.
• I plan to enroll in a professional study for a project manager, although I am studying a field that is more related to forest exploitation. I am interested in nature conservation and ecology, and I would love to do a job that is a combination of office work and field-work.
Ana Ercegovac (Kijevo near Knin), 5th year of geology
• I expected quality lectures and workshops, but also fun and to get to know each other. I was hoping to make the restoration work as fun as possible and that we would do a good job in the field.
• I am pleased with the efforts we all make individually as well as the student community, and I am pleased with the efforts of our leaders to have it all. I am very pleased with the fact that we are seen as equivalent colleagues, but we are also allowed to be children at heart and to laugh! In addition to educating yourself about environmental protection, you are also educating yourself and communicating with other people, and you get to know the mentality of the area where the camp is located.
• I am definitely much more familiar with the concept of lawn restoration and with the whole lawn and forest management plan. The lecture by the representatives of Croatian Forestry was important to me because of the media pressure on CF. It is very important to educate yourself on this topic first hand. The lectures were fun and educational and covered the topics that appear in Croatia in great detail.
• I learned through physical work that it is slow, but it is great that in the field you see how something can be improved for further work and what are the challenges of handling tools and staying a few hours in the field where there are wild animals. When everything is taken into account – challenges and results – the work brings great happiness because after one day you see a big change in the field. It is best to come the next day and clean the new area and see the cattle-herder using that pasture field.
• In 5 years I want to work in the Dinara Nature Park! My second option is to learn how to write projects for the EU and deal with it for the purpose of education and environmental protection. I want to combine speleology, which I do as a hobby, with geology for the purpose of researching the geochemistry of the underground in terms of possible sources of environmental pollution. I want to investigate what amount of calcium ion is associated with an increase in temperature in the atmosphere.
Marin Bogdanić (Strahoninec near Čakovec), 5th year of geography
• I did not have high expectations from the camp, which seemed good because I left room for positive surprises as I have never been a participant in anything like this in science. I’ve seen a slightly different approach to growth work on a completely different side, where the focus is on our progress and bringing us together, both academically and on a personal level. Excitement and curiosity grew as the camp was nearing – I was counting down the weeks when we got the agenda. Expectations were rising, and of course they were justified.
• I am very satisfied because everyone was approached individually, unlike the faculty where we are just a number. We could be heard what each of us as an expert in our field thought, in cooperation with all we could say what we thought and we listened to others what they know. The interdisciplinarity of the camp was etched in me, as well as good company and new acquaintances that will be remembered. We did things in the breadth that I would need at work, we saw how widely things work and saw a lot of these processes, from the local community, through the ministries – the whole spectrum of relationships and hierarchies. A very good way to gain another level of experience that will certainly be needed, to see in situ how to act, how the space behaves, how the local population behaves. It was a particularly interesting day with the foresters because we are deforesting, and they are reforesting – somewhere there is room for reforestation, somewhere there is a pasture for grazing, and everything is related to birds.
• Since I did not even think about restoration, this was different and new to me, and now it is clear to me that habitat restoration is totally necessary and it is understandable why it is done and how it works. I feel like I’ve been doing this for a few years now because we’ve been through a lot and we know how which plant works, how which animal behaves because we merged with nature and because we became part of the landscape we’re in, we fit in. I know a lot more about restoration now.
• I understand and comprehend it as a long and arduous process because it is a physical work that requires readiness and skill in handling tools and endurance for hours. You also need to be mentally strong to be able to do and grasp everything. After this I appreciate more the seasonal manual workers who pick, cut or restore. It is also good to see that manual removal is not the only way to restore, but there is also the possibility of controlled ignition. Each side has its negativities and positivities, we need to find the middle ground, the most optimal one considering the local community and finances.
• The camp was my professional internship at graduate school. I liked that I saw more clearly that with my experience and knowledge I can get involved in improving an environment, hear people and recognize what they need, we could see what is bothering them, what their problems are. In my undergraduate internship at the Međimurje County Regional Agency, I saw theoretical sides. In 5 years, I would like to work in a development agency where I could incorporate all this – dealing with writing tenders, conducting tenders and environment development.
Sara Medak (Split), 1st year of graduate study of ecological agriculture and agrotourism
• I expected physical knowledge and that through this practice we will learn how to work in the field – to use tools and learn to select what is good and what is not good, as well as to navigate in the space in the countryside. I wanted to learn about the village-pasture-road relationship in the environment.
• I am very satisfied – I was thrilled because I did not come with the expectation that we would get so much theoretical background. The structure of the whole camp was extraordinary – two introductory lectures on who we are and what we do, then a workshop where we were divided into local and state administrations and we discussed who has what role, and only after that we met with people from ministries and LAG. At a lecture by Aljoša Duplić from the Institute for Environmental and Nature Protection, I concluded that we cannot act much at the local level, except by pushing the law. I really like the selection of people, there are geographers and we geophysicists who have no contact with physical work. Although we are of different generations and different professions, we are open to new knowledge, we exchange it, we talk a lot. I am thrilled with the ideas my colleagues are giving. Thanks to the knowledge I have gained here, I will be able to work on some levels that agronomists and biologists will not be able to, and I will be able to focus my scientific work on microclimates.
• I understood why it is important to go to the field, why it is important to mechanically remove vegetation and not burn it – what kind of activity will have what kind effect on flora and fauna.
• Working in the field is great – learning in the morning and working in the afternoon was great. It’s great because I get the impression that at 4 hoursa day I managed to remove vegetation like a stronger woman. Watching the team on the field as we spontaneously self-organized, I realized how the people in the group could organize themselves to do each other’s cleanings quickly and efficiently. It is good that two workers go together, it goes much faster when one cleans with scissors while the other cuts with a saw. The thickest gloves are needed because stabs often happen so they slow down the job. It should be cut and sawed at first and the branches collected at the end as it takes too much time.
• In 5 years I would start working on my small estate, starting as soon as possible with one hen and one goat. I would like to return to my village – Katuni near Šestanovac – in 10 years I want to have 10 hives and at least one herd. I would work in agriculture, but I would also like to work from home in science – garden during the day, science in the evening.
Antonia Čubelić (Zagreb), graduate student of landscape architecture, Zagreb
• I expected the application of what I learned in college in practice, meeting other people and other professions, broadening perspectives, completing the view of the landscape and networking.
• I got to know people and some knowledge that I didn’t think I would get – I got to know Croatian Forestry, their area of work and what exactly they do. I was not familiar with LAG as such and how they work. I made good friends who I think we will continue to hang out with. I also got an inflammation of the joints, and I also learned to sew – knowledge I didn’t think I would get 🙂
• We covered a wide area with theoretical classes. The lecture of the representatives of the Public Institution of Šibenik-Knin County was very interesting because they showed what real problems they face, which will welcome us as experts. Representatives of Croatian Forestry also gave an overview of how this would be in practice, as did the LAG. I know more now than I knew before. I realized that some public institutions were doing things that lead to the need for restoration because there is no renovation. We learned that restoration is a comprehensive process because the project is not just habitat restoration but everything else – procurement, community and livestock involvement, livestock activation …
• I now understand better how difficult it is to do, how much effort it takes to mechanically remove vegetation. About 20 of us cleaned about 20 hectares in 2 weeks, two of them will continue to do the work. I learned how it is implemented and what all affects the problem, as well as understanding the problem. We looked like we were being scratched by cats!
• I would like to use my work to promote landscape architecture, either by participating in projects or writing articles and researching rural areas of continental Croatia, which I believe are not sufficiently researched. I think of a doctorate as a tool to get to know the subject better, maybe even stay in college.
Ivona Milaković (Požega), 3rd year of organic agriculture
• I expected to experience things I had never experienced before at the camp – something new, unusual, foreign to me, and to learn something from it. I also expected to work hard and meet new people who would inspire and motivate me. I wanted a new experience in a new, different space, and people and knowledge.
• Expectations from the camp were exceeded, I am satisfied with everything – organization, education in particular, additional content, we have created mutual relations. The games we played helped us relax and connect. Education, work and the human part were fulfilled.
• I have never seen restoration in this way before, observing from Slavonia where there is no karst, I have not experienced restoration like this. Karst led me to better understand nature, which means restoration and preservation through sustainable use. Now I look differently at how to act in my environment, while preserving nature, enriched for all the knowledge I did not have. I learned how to take care of all stakeholders in the area, thus contributing to greater biodiversity, increasing plant and animal species.
• It takes a lot of people’s effort and will to preserve something in a sustainable way – not to take aggressive measures, no matter how long it takes. Manual removal is a slow, arduous job, but it’s nice to see those results at the end of the day. There are small steps, but there are some steps. I want the local population to see that and to unite and continue their work.
• I would like to have my own small family farm, live in a rural area and have an impact in those areas through organic food production. I want to preserve a part of the country and the space where I will live, to contribute to that community and nature. The eastern areas of Croatia do not have a lot of population, similar to this area, so I will certainly use some of the things learned at the camp.
Domagoj Bogić (Kaštela), 3rd year of biology
• I wanted to meet more people in my own and close professions. This project is similar to the idea of what I would like to do in life so I thought the camp would help me with that.
• We got acquainted with the work of many organizations – associations, Croatian Forestry, LAGs, public institutions. I didn’t hate physical work in the field, and the team was good.
• Although I was familiar with the problem before, the theoretical classes helped us see which tools were most needed and what would be easiest for most to do.
• I expected more trees and more shrubs. In the long run, two workers will not clean large areas. As for the tools, if I get scissors then it is as I expected, if I get another tool – then it is different!
• It would be most ideal for me to go to endangered species conservation projects in Croatia and Africa. Mammals are the most attractive, but other species can also pass. In anti-poaching actions, I would go through the fields with bird lures with a club in my hand! I also like the deratization of Lastovo.
Kristina Komšo (Ivanić Grad), graduate student of landscape architecture
• When we got the list of lectures and read the names of the lecturers, I thought “great” because they are of different professions and different stakeholders, on different topics, so I expected to hear more about it. I thought it would certainly be good when I participate in something big.
• In college we hear something in theory, and now we have people who do things like that in practice and some stakeholders who talk about their field experiences. The lectures are useful and interesting, especially the lecture of Croatian Forestry because I had no idea what they were doing. In general, the project partners made an effort to convey the information.
• We learned that a donkey eats a snipe, not a sheep, as well as about lawn restoration and that lawns are valuable because they are part of the heritage. Now I also have an idea of how complex the issue is – there are many aspects to think about, such as legal frameworks, ownership, licensing and incentives. There is a great complexity of the system that affects the design of the space.
• After this kind of physical work you appreciate a lot more and realize how complex everything is. The first day I was disappointed – it goes really slowly, and as the days go by you can see that everything is going very slowly. After a few days when we realized what the pace is and what the job is, we are more rational in our expectations. The question is – so much is being invested now, and in what condition will the field be in 20 years? Will the effort return? I look forward to following!
I would like to deal mostly with mapping, spatial landscape analysis in GIS, spatial planning and protection. The camp fortified and motivated me in that direction. Camping was a wonderful experience, I didn’t expect us to make so many friends. Plus the organizers, plus the people from Biom, the relationship is relaxed, and we all have a common love for nature and the environment. We can also learn a lot through informal conversations because we are surrounded by a lot of experience and knowledge. I hope that the camp will be a motivation to talk more about the project, especially when young people and professions are involved. I wanted to go abroad after college to work temporarily – this further motivated me and reminded me that here too we have people who are similar in their knowledge, young people, and how much we have preserved natural values. The camp encouraged me to return and contribute to preservation.
Petra Pilepić, Zagreb, 5th year of geography
• I expected that the camp would be educational, that we would be in the field a lot, learn how to restore lawns, get to know the local population, get closer to each other.
• Expectations were met, if not exceeded. The lectures were educational, I learned a lot, I have a clearer picture of what exactly is being done in the field of nature protection and what I want to do in the future. I like the concept of the lecture where we started from higher instances and then lowered it to lokal level. We have heard about people who have problems, and the law prevents them from solving them because there are more authorities in the same area.
• I understand why they are being restored, why it is necessary, I understand the relationship between livestock and local population and nature protection, I understand the interdependence of natural elements and local population.
• From the first day until the end of the camp, we worked out and thought about strategies on how best to clear the forest. We saw which tool is most useful given the type of vegetation and how best to arrange people into groups to make logging most effective. I also got acquainted with the tool, I never restored on this scale and in these conditions.
• I find that I better understand the need to listen to other professions, that it is not a shame to ask colleagues about things in which they are experts. Professions, especially around nature conservation, should cooperate better. I would like to work in a public institution or association similar to Biom. I would also like to develop projects because it is an interesting and dynamic job and I love organization, and I also love field work – it would be ideal to be a ranger and write projects. I think that I will not live anywhere in Zagreb, but somewhere in smaller communities where I will be able to contribute more due to the deficit of highly educated people. I will be able to do concrete things for the community.
Ela Pahor (Buzet), 4th year of biology
• I applied, first of all, for staying a lot of in nature, which I got. I also expected to learn a lot of new things, which was a good enough reason for me to apply. And I’ve never been to Dinara.
• I am quite satisfied because I gained a lot of practical knowledge, which is missing in biology, in terms of how to deal with the project and the jobs that await me, such as agricultural measures, financial assistance, etc. I am also satisfied with work because it is not too strenuous. It’s great to „blow yourself out“ during the day and “don’t think”. I am pleased that all the parties involved were included – Croatian Forestry, the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of sustainable development – everything came together, this was the only opportunity to hear something like that. The team is great, the leaders are great, the communication is good, we do everything easily.
• The restoration is clearer to me, I have a broader picture in economic terms of what the lawns mean. I got a broader picture of the condition of lawns and agriculture in Croatia. I knew something before because I was on Učka and there I learned why grasslands are important as a habitat, now I understand more why they are important in terms of economy. Biologists are very exclusive because they don’t think so much about humans. I like the project for trying to find a compromise, involving all parties.
• I realized it was more complex than I thought – where you can work and where you can’t. It is not easy to keep track of how much you have made, you need to have knowledge and, preferably, a drone. I became aware of the complexity of organizing work.
• I would like to work with marine mammals. I would also like to work on communication between human needs and nature protection and seek a compromise. What I have learned here is useful and important to me.
Students from the camp, volunteers and coordinators spent two weeks of the camp cleaning Ježevičko Suhopolje from juniper and other woody vegetation. Take a look at the photos below to see how the business has progressed by the day.
One could argue that controlled burning as a management technique releases CO2 in the atmosphere, as well as other gases which are produced by burning of the biomass. However, controlled burning has positive effects that can reduce the damage and negative effects of wildfires, which are uncontrolled, can spread in unreachable terrain, and usually occur in spring and summer season. Such wildfires are dangerous because they burn deep layers of humus that store large amounts of carbon, and can harm a number of wild animals which are unable to escape the fire and secure their young.
Therefore, controlled burning is a recognized and worldwide used method for grassland management, and is becoming a standard practice in legal documents as a recommended method for habitat management.
In the Mediterranean and Submediterranean region, climate and environment factors are bound to produce wildfires, and their occurrence is highly anticipated in the summer period. Active management of mosaic habitats, such as agricultural land, vineyards, olive groves, and woodlands are beneficial for reducing the potential spread and speed of wildfires. Additionally, those habitats are helping the fire prevention because a large portion of area is accessible for firefighters and firefighting equipment and machinery.
Unfortunately, the public is unaware of the importance of open habitats and related benefits. The public is concerned about the wildfire damages, which is positive, but there are a number of organized volunteer activities, which are supposed to mitigate wildfire damages, but their effects are questionable. Such activities are organized to plant a large number of pines, which will sooner or later be caught in a wildfire, and will pose a damage for nature, people and their property. Rethinking such activities and changing them into management of mosaic habitats with grassland is a much more effective alternative and would bring multiple benefits for wildlife protection.
Grazing is an additional nature-friendly solution which reduces wildfire damages. In overgrown terrain grazing is used in combination with other techniques such as manual removal of unwanted vegetation and controlled burning. The proximity of active shepherds is taken in consideration for selecting areas for controlled burning,which are a part of the project. The combination of grazing and controlled burning produces long term positive effects for grasslands, which stops and in some cases even reverse the succession of unwanted vegetation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
The first meetings of the Cooperation Council were held in Vrlika and Sinj last week, at which representatives of cattle breeders, hunters, beekeepers, tourist workers, representatives of local self-government and mountaineering associations received basic information about the Dinara back to LIFE project and enriched it with ideas. As part of the meetings, a thematic exhibition ‘Return to nature – Dinara back to LIFE’ was held, which featured 15 photographs and thoughts of the population living near the area about what Dinara means to them.
At the first meeting, on June 14, with hospitable hosts from the restaurant Ero in Vrlika, there were about 20 participants, cattle breeders from the wider area of Ježević, representatives of the tourist boards from Knin and Vrlika, beekeepers from the Vrlika area, representatives of mountaineering associations and small tourist renters.
30,000 euros for livestock and equipment are waiting for cattle breeders
The coordinator of the implementation of the Dinara back to LIFE project, Zdravko Budimir, presented the project from its beginnings in 2017, when the writing of the project text, the elements of the project and its goals began. Expert associate for nature protection Ivana Selanec focused on project activities that could benefit stakeholders, such as habitat restoration, dry stone walls and lawns.
By working in small groups at the Council, the guests presented their proposals, and a large group of cattle breeders, mostly from the Vrlika area, expressed interest in cleaning dry stone walls and renovating watering places and wells, as envisaged by the Dinara back to LIFE project. Cattle breeders stressed that today it is difficult to go high on the mountain because there is a lack of roads, so cattle breeders will choose the paths that they believe should be restored, and project partners will participate in the organization of restoration actions. The project envisages a cost of 30,000 euros to support and encourage the purchase of livestock and other equipment to be carried out in the coming months, and cattle breeders are particularly interested in the purchase of donkeys, but it is stated that it is difficult to procure one young monkey, let alone more.
An educational habitat trail is looking for its place
As part of the Dinara back to LIFE project, an educational trail for observing habitats, plants and birds will be established in the project area, which was discussed at the workshop on tourism at the meeting of the Cooperation Council, where the inclusion of “wildwatching” and “birdwatching” was discussed. BIOM will offer education to tourist guides related to the identification of birds, different habitat types, recognition of plant species, grassland habitats and the like. As the biggest obstacle, the representatives of the Tourist Boards of Knin and Vrlika stated the lack of capacity of tourist and mountaineering guides in the area of Dinara. This educational trail will be equipped with QR codes through which hikers and mountaineers will receive additional information about grasslands that are protected by this project, about interesting plants that inhabit the area and about the birds that nest there – garden bunting, cuckoo and short-toed woodpecker. The restoration of their habitats is also the intended goal of the project. The trail will also be digitized and as such will be available online.
One of the workshop participants mentioned the abandoned village of Čubrice east of Ježević, where the remains of houses are still visible. The representative of HPD Zolj from Kiev also mentioned the location of the Illyrian hillfort on Kosorska Glavica above the Dubin spring. The problem of a bad road towards Bračev Dolac was also mentioned, which as a location is important for beekeepers and mountaineers, and could become an interesting tourist location. These unused tourist facilities have the potential to expand the tourist offer and interesting content for the tourist community to develop.
How does climate impact Dinara?
The meeting was also attended by a young German filmmaker Manuel Inicker who is shooting a documentary on the impact of climate change on nature in general, which he will present with a film that he will begin shooting on the Dinara from which he will descend to the source of the Krka and all the way to the seaside, documenting changes that occur due to climate disturbances.
At the training workshop, experienced beekeepers offered their help and knowledge to potential colleagues in developing their business. The need for a tourist tour that would include the locations of beekeepers and livestock, and an example of a good burst from Slovenia was mentioned where a specific segment of health tourism – inhalation rooms where the treatment of beeswax smoke is used to treat respiratory diseases. It was also suggested that hobby beekeepers should be encouraged to associate to avoid the problem of disease and uncontrolled bee grazing.
Winter controlled ignition for greater biodiversity
At the Collaborative Council at the Alkar Hotel in Sinj, about 30 participants began the conversation about the sensitive issue of fire and controlled ignition. Expert advisor for nature Ivan Budinski explained that winter controlled burning actually promotes biodiversity, and the forest is not endangered because it is humid and does not burn at this time of year, while summer fires are mostly unnatural, ie most often caused by human hands and leave immeasurably greater damage. It is exactly winter ignition that prevents the spreading of summer fires.
The representative of LU Hrvaca suggested the use of water from Peruča to extinguish wildfire and to break through the fire roads on the Dinara, which is a proposal that the local community should consider. When asked about pine afforestation, the representative of Hrvatske šume explained that it is afforested with this species because it is autochthonous, but added that the intensity of afforestation will be greatly reduced. The problem of the mined area northwest of Vučipolje was also mentioned.
Hunters and mountaineers are already working, Biom will help
At the workshop on restoration, mountaineers and hunters stated the need to restore the dry stone walls, which was envisaged by the project, emphasizing that the dry stone walls are being restored. Hikers and hunters described their trail maintenance activities so far, garbage cleaning, including pit cleaning, and well cleaning. Biom offered its help in these activities with manpower and tools, and an appeal was made that activists consult with Biom experts on the timing of cleaning the pits so as not to disturb the birds while they are nesting there. The problem of pollution of puddles with carcasses is mentioned, which will be solved by setting photo-traps, in which the project partners will also help.
At the workshop on trainings, the incentive for the establishment of family farms was presented, about which trainings for those interested can be organized as part of the project. Since this area has recently been declared a nature park, increased arrivals of hikers and mountaineers are expected, and since family farm owners do not have information on the number of tourists coming, they will be informed about the numbers of people visiting the area and the interest of visitors will be determined. .
We will have trails – guides are required
The workshop on tourism was focused on the grassland watching trail and its potentials, as well as possible locations, and on education related to this new tourist content. Namely, as part of the Dinara back to LIFE project, educational workshops on grasslands, plants and birds will be organized for tourist and mountaineering guides, and the tourist community will communicate with those interested in participating in this training in the coming months. Possible locations for this trail are listed. One possibility is the trail across Vrdove plain from its eastern to western edge, which is a habitat for project species and this area is easily accessible by vehicles, and, given that it is a plateau, the trail would be minimally demanding in terms of fitness. Another possibility is the existing hiking trail from Vučipolje to the mountain house of St. Jakov, and another one is the area between the Gornja Korita and Donja Korita areas on Kamešnica. As part of the project, one trail will be formed, and this experience will lay the foundations for tourist boards to set up similar trails in other locations.
The meeting of the Council in the beautiful ambience of Hotel Alkar ended with a review of the exhibition ‘Return of Nature’ and informal socializing of those present who expressed satisfaction with the audience and support plans, in which they will participate, to which all others are invited.
The first meetings of the Dinara back to LIFE Collaborative Council will be held in Vrlika and Sinj at the beginning of next week, to which we invite all interested citizens, as well as representatives of associations, societies and institutions who want to get acquainted with the project and who wish to take part in it. The meeting in Vrlika will be held on Monday, June 14, at the Ero restaurant from 6 to 8 pm, while the meeting in Sinj is a day later, on Tuesday, June 15, at the Alkar Hotel (6 to 8 pm).
By establishing Collaborative Councils and holding meetings, our objective is to gather associates and others interested in the topic of the project and provide them with the opportunity to get involved in the project, monitor its implementation, and enrich and add value to project activities.
“Dinara back to LIFE” is a project aimed at the restoration of Dinaric grasslands due to their importance for nature and overall biodiversity, and all interested in the area and topics of the project are invited to the Collaborative Council – representatives of hunters, beekeepers, ranchers, mountaineering associations tourist workers, family farm owners, as well as all other interested public. Council meetings are open to all!
At the meetings, we will also present a traveling thematic exhibition of photographs “Return to nature – Dinara back to LIFE”, inspired by people from the project area and their words. Namely, in May and June 2020, the representatives of the Dinara back to LIFE project collected public attitudes and opinions about the Dinara mountain and its values that are important to people. Through the selection of 15 comments and suitable photos, the common values that Dinara provides to everyone are summarized, and each of the selected comments is related to an individual photo. The aim of the exhibition is to emphasize how important the Dinara is for nature and for people, and to point out the role of all of us in preserving its natural wealth.
Applications have been opened for the educational-volunteer camp Dinara back to LIFE, which will be held from 5 to 19 September 2021 in Vrlika near Knin. All students of natural sciences are invited to apply, who want to acquire theoretical and practical knowledge about lawn restoration and sustainable nature management. One place in the camp is reserved for participants from Croatian emigration.
The costs of accommodation and food will be borne by the organizer, as well as the cost of transport for participants (arrival and departure). For participants from the emigration, travel costs will be co-financed in the amount of up to 200 euros. The number of participants is limited to 20.
Applications are open until June 5, and students admitted to the camp will be notified after June 15.
The camp is intended for students, future experts in the field of nature protection, motivated to volunteer at the camp and to use the acquired experience and knowledge for further study, scientific work or work. In addition to the practical experience of restoration, the emphasis of the camp will be on the educational component, presenting topics important for planning management in nature protection. Lecturers at the camp will be experts from the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, LAG Cetinska krajina, as well as Biom experts.
Lawn restoration will be carried out in the Dinara area, close to the accommodation. The organizers will also provide students with transportation in the field, the necessary tools and equipment for work, as well as guidance on fieldwork. Accommodation of volunteers is in the Ecological Station Vrlika (renovated in 2009) located in the village Ježević, Vučemilovići.
It is to be expected from the volunteers to be ready to participate in the camp for two weeks, be motivated to work on the restoration of lawns and nature conservation, to participate actively in planned activities within the camp, to be willing to work with hand tools to remove woody vegetation on lawns and additional activities, to participate in the educational part of the program and to be motivated to further disseminate and use the acquired experience and knowledge.
The wider Dinara project back to LIFE (https://dinarabacktolife.eu/), which revitalizes natural habitats in the wider Dinara area, is implemented by the Faculty of Agriculture, the University of Zagreb, Croatian Forests, Local Action Group “Cetinska Krajina” and the Biom Association as a leading partner.
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