The Dinaric Arc is a mountain region in SE Europe stretching from the Julian Alps in Slovenia southwards along the Adriatic Sea through Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo (UNSCR 1244/99) and Montenegro to Albania, Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Most of its geology is made up of karst limestone, rich in underground water flows and aquifers. The Dinaric Arc thus harbours many wetlands that have been specifically recognised by the Ramsar Convention through Resolution VII.13, establishing guidelines for identifying and designating karst and other subterranean hydrological systems as Ramsar Sites.
|An autumn impression on the way to Banja Luka - the Sava river inside the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park and Ramsar Site in Croatia|
Since 2004, several international organisations (including UNESCO, UNDP, Council of Europe, IUCN, WWF and others) are focusing on this ecoregion within a broad framework of collaboration, the “Dinaric Arc Initiative”. WWF International is working on sustainable hydropower in the Dinaric Arc (see http://bit.ly/KXr1fn ) and has most recently started a project, “Dinaric Arc Parks”, to create and support a network of protected areas in the region, with financial support by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the MAVA Foundation.
|Goran Gugić, director of Lonjkso Polje Ramsar Site, explains the functioning of the annual floods in the Sava floodplain to an international group of experts (summer 2009)|
To this end, a first international Dinaric Arc Parks conference took place on 19-23 November 2012 in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina. This provided an opportunity for nearly 200 protected area specialists and managers from the Dinaric Arc region and beyond to learn about state-of-the-art protected area management and promotion methods, to exchange experiences and know-how, and to present their own approaches to their peers from neighbouring countries (see report here, PDF). The ultimate aim of the project is to develop a Dinaric Ark Parks brand, based on core values such as “life, passion and pride” about a “world undiscovered”. Different keynotes, including one on the benefits of Ramsar Site designation, were presented (available at www.discoverdinarides.com/en/downloads). The speakers and participants agreed that water is the essence in this karst (potentially drought-prone) part of Europe. Lučka Kajfež Bogataj, of the International Panel on Climate Change, stated that ongoing climate change is leaving us essentially with three options: 1) to mitigate its effects, 2) to adapt to its consequences, or 3) to remain idle, wait and see, eventually ending up suffering its impacts.
|Leon Kebe, the Dinaric Arc Parks project manager, and Gordana Beltram, director of Škocjan Caves Nature Park and Ramsar Site, visiting Cerknica karst lake Ramsar Site in Slovenia on World Wetlands Day 2006|
Beside the helpful plenary presentations, the conference provided also opportunities for smaller, interactive gatherings, including a round table discussion among twenty or so Ramsar Site managers from the Dinaric Arc countries (representing also floodplain wetland ecosystems) to exchange their major concerns, needs and wishes for improved cooperation. The participants in the discussion concluded that a specific workshop should be developed for 2013. This meeting should be based on a consolidated analysis of major threats and challenges for the management of water and wetland ecosystem resources under a changing climate in the Dinaric Arc. It should address training needs for on-the-ground use of Ramsar tools on site management and CEPA, and also specify their linkages with European Union instruments. This seems to be the most efficient way forward to increase the capacities of Ramsar Site managers that are more and more exposed to local and national socio-economic constraints and pressures. Fortunately, Duška Dimovič of WWF, and two former Ramsar Standing Committee members Gordana Beltram and Goran Gugić, promised to help with the preparation of such a workshop within the framework of the Dinaric Arc Parks project in 2013. Watch this space for further news.
Report and photos by Tobias Salathé, Senior Regional Advisor for Europe