In the week from 21 to 29 May 2016, the redesigned leaflet Hiking Trails of Plitvička Jezera National Park will be presented to visitors. The leaflet is primarily focusing on the importance of forests – the largest ecosystem of the National Park.
In its capacity of the Croatian project partner, the Croatian Agency for Environment and Nature organized a workshop on alien freshwater species, held from 25 to 27 November 2015. The aim of the project was to prepare lists of alien species and data on their distribution in the area covered by ESENIAS, i.e. covered by project partners that are members of this network.
Workshop participants were experts for alien freshwater species from Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Italy and Croatia. In addition to the two-day meeting held in Zagreb (25-26 November), a visit to the Plitvice Lakes National Park was organized on 27 November as well, with the aim of presenting and discussing the opportunities, challenges and problems in connection with alien freshwater species management in protected areas. Alien species are species that were not originally present in a given ecosystem of a given area, and that appear in that system due to deliberate or accidental introduction.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is facing the problem of alien species such as the common chub (Leuciscus cephalus), common rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and pike (Esox lucius), with eutrophication processes aiding the spread of these species. Conservation of the autochthonous trout (Salmo trutta) and elimination of alien fish species is one of the major problems and challenges in Park management.
Exchange of experiences with experts on freshwater species was mutually beneficial, representing an incentive for continued cooperation. In general terms, cooperation and awareness raising on the issue of invasive freshwater species, early discovery of introduction routes of potentially invasive alien species and of their presence in the ecosystem are frequently the only effective measures of fighting the spread of alien species, coupled with urgent measures aimed at the control of their spreading and elimination.
The workshop program was focused on otter – the characteristics and ecology of the species; getting acquainted with the methodology of otter monitoring, including practical examples and field work (presentation of otter monitoring methodology, training on how to recognize traces of otter, data recording methodology). Dr.sc. Mišel Jelić (from the Faculty of Science in Zagreb), author of the manual entitled Otter – Inventarisation and Monitoring, held the presentations and managed the field work part of the training.
The workshop brought together a number of participants from various organizations: Croatian Agency for Environment and Nature; Faculty of Science in Zagreb; representatives of various services (ranger service and expert services) from the Krka National Park, Plitvice Lakes National Park and Velebit Nature Park; NATURA VIVA Public Institution for the management of protected areas in the area of Karlovačka County; Public Institution for the management of protected areas in the area of Dubrovačko-neretvanska County; Public Institution Priroda of Šibensko-kninska County; Public Institution Zeleni prsten of Zagrebačka County; representatives of the association Lička ekološka akcija (Lika Ecological Action).
According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN) criteria, otter is a near threatened (NT) species, and its status in Croatia is that of a data deficient (DD) and probably threatened species. According to the Ordinance on Strictly Protected Species (Official Gazette 144/2013), otter is a strictly protected species in Croatia.
Otter is a semiaquatic animal from the family of Mustelidae, recognizable for its long, slender body, short legs and long, conical tail. Otter is an elegant swimmer, leaving a wave in the shape of the letter U behind. Otter habitats are primarily freshwater areas, but otters also live along sea coast and in estuaries. This species can be found in almost all types of terrestrial surface waters and wetland habitats.
Otters predominantly eat fish, but crabs and amphibians also play an important role in their diet. They are predominantly active at night, living in solitude, with exception of the mating period that can take place at any time of year. Females typically have 1 to 5 pups per mating season (most frequently 2). Key threats facing otters include the following: water pollution; fragmentation and loss of habitats due to river channeling; removal of bank vegetation; construction of dams; draining of wetland habitats; mortality caused by fishing tools and road traffic; illegal hunting.
The purpose of the workshop was to provide the participants with needed knowledge and experience, so that they can get actively involved in the monitoring of this threatened species in areas covered by institutions where they work.
After that, distances were changing, but also the number of participants that grew year by year. Already the second marathon attracted a certain number of foreign runners, and the marathon thus got an international character, to the satisfaction of organizers, but also domestic participants who had the chance to compete with runners from neighboring countries at a very demanding but magnificent route at Plitvice. The full marathon race (42,195 meters) was introduced at the third Plitvice Marathon.
The Plitvice Marathon is held on the first weekend (Sunday) in June. In recent years, it has had over 2000 competitors. The length of the marathon route is 42,195 meters, half marathon is 21,097 meters long, and participants can also take part in the 5000-meter race. One special feature of the Plitvice Marathon is the so-called family marathon – a traditional family contest involving three runners per family, where each family member has to compete in a different race, with three members covering all three races (marathon, half marathon, 5-kilometer race). The ranking of families is determined by summing up the time for all three competitors running for their family team.
Plitvice Marathon – a "sport, recreation and healthy lifestyle event", as the National Park refers to it – is celebrating its third decade. The participants of this magnificent race have long ago named the route "the most beautiful and the most difficult track in the world." In addition, they all agree on one thing: runners who have not yet tried the Plitvice Marathon should do so at the earliest opportunity, for it is difficult to find a more unique setting for getting together with runners from almost the entire world.