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.