Euronatur Prize Awarded to Goran Gugic, member of the Ramsar Standing Committee and Director of the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park and Ramsar Site

Euronatur Prize Awarded to Goran Gugic, member of the Ramsar Standing Committee and Director of the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park and Ramsar Site

15 November 2011

When in 1989 the Iron Curtain fell, Western Europeans discovered pristine natural areas that remained largely intact inside the part of the continent formerly ruled by Communist Central Planning. One of the first organisations established shortly after the fall was the Foundation for the European Natural Heritage, or “Euronatur”, based in Radolfzell (Germany). Since then, Euronatur has developed and supported projects for nature conservation, restoration and management in the former Eastern Bloc region of Europe. They regularly support wetland projects, such as transboundary cooperation in the management of Ramsar Site Skadar Lake and Buna River (shared by Albania and Montenegro), in addition to others.

Since 1992, Euronatur awards an annual prize to a person with outstanding merits for nature conservation. The list of recipients includes Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev and HRH The Prince of Wales, as well as Ramsar Award winner Dr Luc Hoffmann. For 2011, the Board of Euronatur decided to bestow the honorary prize to Goran Gugic, member of the Ramsar Standing Committee and director of the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park and Ramsar Site in the Croatian part of the Sava river floodplain.

Euronatur President Christel Schroeder handing to Goran Gugic the Euronatur 2011 Prize in the White Hall of Mainau Castle of the Lennart-Bernadotte Foundation.

Hosted by Count Björn Bernadotte, about 150 invited guests gathered on 12 October 2011 for the award ceremony on the island of Mainau in the White Hall of the prestigious castle located in the centre of the popular botanical garden on Lake Constance.  The merits of the prize winner were summarized by Tobias Salathé from the Ramsar Secretariat. He praised Goran for his initiative and foresight to manage Lonjsko Polje with a catchment basin approach, for his ability to federate different stakeholders around common goals for sustainable floodplain management, and for his innovative approaches to manage sustainability in conditions of change and unpredictability that dominate in the cultural landscape of the Sava river floodplain, framed by regular floods and ingenious human adaptations developed over generations to make a living from the specific resources at the water’s edge.

In June 2011, during the UN Year of Forests, Goran organised a workshop on the “Conservation and management of freshwater, tree-dominated wetlands in Central and South-eastern Europe” to exchange management practices in relation to alluvial forests. Lonjsko Polje is used as a retention area and thus protects the capital of Zagreb from flooding by distributing flood waves in the alluvial floodplains. It demonstrates the possibilities of adaptation to such natural processes without the construction of defence mechanisms.

Goran Gugic explaining the characteristics and flood retention properties of Lonjsko Polje

During the workshop Goran demonstrated his ability of bringing different stakeholders together in order to create a mutual and holistic vision in line with the wise use concept of the Ramsar Convention. Goran emphasized Ramsar’s critical path approach as one underlying theme in his management approach: “Start anywhere, just get started”.

Goran Gugic explaining his concept of Cooperation between stakeholders

The workshop enabled participants to see the Park as an interrelated system which depends on many different factors and components and thus makes an inclusive and participatory stakeholder process essential for the management of the park. Pastures, for instance, would eventually grow over with bushes or forests without cattle grazing. In turn, the water in these areas would then, once flooded, be shaded by the forest and the important level of 18 degrees Celsius water temperature could not be reached anymore. As a consequence, the carp would not be able to spawn in this area any longer as it is dependent on areas of warmer water. 

Participants inspect the results of flooding on trees: The bend in the trees indicates the water level at the time of freezing.

Vast pastures of Lonjsko Polje Nature Park and Ramsar Site

Traditional practices : Forest pasturing using pigs

Goran also emphasized that attention must be paid to a careful development of tourist infrastructure so that the traditional agricultural and pastoral systems are not being lost due to higher income from the tourism sector. Ultimately, it is the traditional use that gives this park its unique characteristics besides the frequent flooding of this dynamic ecosystem. 

The workshop included a visit to the village of Cigoč, member of the European Stork Villages Network, as an example of sustainable tourism development within the Park.

Reported by:
Tobias Salathé, Ramsar Senior Advisor for Europe, and Kati Wenzel, Ramsar Regional Assistant for Europe.

For more details see Euronatur’s press release here: