Velebit rewilding area

  • Country:
    Croatia
  • Start year:
    2012
  • Location:
    Velebit mountain
  • Size (ha):
    220000
  • Area Type:
    Croatia
  • Type of protection:
    Velebit Nature Park (200,000 ha) and two National Parks (Sjeverni Velebit and Paklenica). Natura 2000.

This rewilding project in Velebit works to favor the comeback of wildlife and the restoration of natural processes in the 200,000 hectares of Velebit mountains, using wildlife and wild landscapes to provide new economic opportunities to the local communities.

Velebit in summer, with Adriatic sea and islands at the end

Area

  • Habitat types: Velebit is a mosaic of diverse habitats - forests, grasslands, rocks, screes and rare aquatic habitats. No element of this mosaic is completely independent from the others, because many species use more than one type of habitat. In addition, the boundaries between habitats are not clearly delineated, but merge into one another in transitional areas, which are often the richest in life forms. <br /> <br /> It may seem to us that this landscape has always been like this, however, the reality is quite different. Its present appearance is the result of a long development process and a multitude of influences.<br /> <br /> The essential habitats for these endemic plant species are the rocks and "gulles" (western Velebit slope), caves, rivers (Krupa and Zrmanja), as well as alpine meadows and grasslands. Among the Velebit endemics is the Velebit degenia (Degenia velebitica), the Croatian sibbirhaea (Sibiraea altaiensis ssp. Croatica), the Velebit bellflower (Campanula velebitica), the Window bellflower (Campanula fenestrellata), Kitajbel's primrose (Primula kitaibeliana), the Velebit dianthus (Dianthus velebiticus)...<br /> <br /> The rocky grounds and cliffs of Velebit are also home to peculiar and exquisite plant species - roseroot (Rhodiola rosea), Croatian barberry (Berberis croatica), twin-flowered violet (Viola biflora), creeping saxifrage (Saxifraga rotundifolia), mountain avens (Dryas octopetala), edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum), and others. <br /> <br /> Although forest habitats predominate on Velebit, the alpine meadows and grasslands are very important to the conservation of its overall biodiversity. The most widespread forest association in the mountain-vegetation belt, the beech forest with large red dead nettle (Lamio orvalae-Fagetum), inhabits altitudes below 900 meters. At altitudes above 800 m, dwell the Dinaric beech and fir forests (Omphalodo-Fagetum). The coastal beech forest with autumn moor grass (Seslerio autumnalis-Fagetum) prevails on the rocky plateaus above 1000 m. Subalpine forests of beech and hollyfern (Polystycho lonchitis-fagetum) inhabit areas from 1100 to 1650 m above sea level that are typically covered in snow, have a short vegetation period, and are exposed to strong winds. The trees of these forests are bent at their lower section under the weight of the enduring snow. The main features of the top-most landscape are the bare, karst formations that alternate with forest valleys and dry grassland areas.
  • Keystone species present: Velebit is home to 1854 registered plant species, of which 79 are endemic. Such a great many endemic species is why Velebit is often called "the centre of endemism" of this part of Europe.
  • Fauna (mega) species present: Bears, wolves, lynx, fox, marten, wild cat, badger, deer, chamois, roe deer, wild boar, capercaillie, rabbit, partridge, griffon vulture ...

Scope

  • Description: At the initial stage, work is planned to increase wildlife numbers by decreasing hunting pressure through policy and field actions in close collaboration with the hunter community, and re-establishment of natural grazing systems.
  • Aim: The main goal of this project is that cooperation with scientific institutions, hunting associations and the local landowners develop an action plan to increase the number of wild and grazing animals to ensure preservation of the natural regime pastures, without the need for human intervention.
  • Vision: To increase wildlife numbers by decreasing hunting pressure through policy and field actions in close collaboration with the hunter community. Wildlife watching is already seen as an economic alternative to unprofitable hunting. Chamois is a symbolic species and we want to boost its numbers.
  • Accomplished in 10 years from now: The unbroken ecological integrity of the Velebit ecosystems has been preserved, and at the same time large areas of it have become much wilder, with a number of core rewilding areas hat have no-hunting-no-logging regimes, along the ridge of the mountains.
  • Uniqueness: The Velebit mountain chain is, together with its surrounding lowlands and sea, one of the largest and best protected wilderness areas in Mediterranean Europe.
  • Results so far: - Build a strong relationship with the Croatian government which is the key landowner.<br /> - Rewilding work initiated, e.g. on wildlife watching or creation of hunting free zones.<br /> - First steps to create breeding facilities for bison, chamois and Tauros.<br /> - Clear ideas have emerged to start local rewilding enterprises.
  • Flagship species: Bear
  • Other characteristics: Community involved, Eco tourism, Education, Recreational activities, Research, Sale of sustainable products

Exchange

  • Inspirational value: In Velebit rewilding area our team works at a unique European haven with interrelation of mountain and the Adriatic Sea. The mountain has a specific ecosystem, with soft habitat boundaries, where there is a change of both biodiversity and climate starting from North and going to the South end of Velebit mountain range.
  • Experience you would like to share: The challenges of raising awareness and educating the local people about the nature based tourism opportunities and possibilities of creating added value to their products and services. Establishing and sustaining good cooperation with the hunting society with the efforts to create no take zones. Survey implementation and methodology.
  • Experience you would like to gain: Management of wildlife watching facilities, vulture conservation, raising awareness on nature conservation, fundraising.
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