They are a part of our planet’s incredible biodiversity, and they include the places, or ‘habitats’, that are home to all life on Earth.
Read more about the habitat types of transboundary Prespa, or visit some of them using the guide in this electronic version of our new leaflet, which has been created as part of the PrespaNet project ‘Strengthening NGO-led Conservation in the Transboundary Prespa Basin’, funded by PONT and the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation, with support from EuroNatur, and which will be available in print form soon!
The mapping of Prespa littoral habitats, conducted in 2018 resulted with scientifically sound recommendations on their management. According to the habitats map, priority habitats, Alluvial alder forests together with wet meadows were identified as a priority for restoration and management, respectively.
The habitat selected for revitalization-Riparian forest with Alnus glutionosa, is a priority habitat type according to the Habitat Directive 92/43/EEC. The common alder not only in NP Ezerani, but also along the entire shore of Prespa Lake is presented with small forest patches, scattered through different types of vegetation. Given the biodiversity and the importance of different vegetation types i.e., the presence of important habitat types all over Prespa, it is very difficult to choose the most suitable place for reforestation, and it is crucial to take into account the importance of the surrounding habitats and types of vegetation.
The process of selecting the most suitable plot for reforestation included analysis of a number of parameters, but also a number of filed visits to determine the true condition of the potential plots. The hydrology, morphology, pedology of the area, as well as the land ownership were taken into account. The results were presented in a summary map with possible places for revitalization. All identified plots were further ranked through their prioritization. For this purpose, the funnel method was used, through which, by applying different exclusion and selection criteria, it gave the most potential reforestation area. The highest scoring plots were singled out as the most suitable one.
The process of revitalization and restoration of alder forests is a complex process and includes a series of follow-up activities which determine its success, that MES undertook:
Research on the suitability for revitalization of a given area,
Favorable and appropriate weather conditions for each of the activities (seed collection, production of planting material, field preparation, afforestation, etc.),
Providing seed material for afforestation,
Appropriate treatment of the seed material,
Human resources and equipment (nurseries, manual workers, mowing equipment, ploughing, digging, watering, protection and care of seedlings, electronic equipment for monitoring seedlings),
Preparation of the terrain for revitalization and providing water source for watering the seedlings (mowing, removal of other shrubs and weeds, digging, channelling the nearest waters).
After the finalization of all the preparation activities, one part of the selected plot was sown with alder seeds and another part was planted with 45 one-year and two-year old shoots, that were collected previously near the area of reforestation. The Ezerani Nature Park followed closely and was involved in all the activities, as they will continue to monitor the growth and the development of the seedling in the next period. The reforestation process will continue in the following years.
The mapping of Prespa littoral habitats, conducted in 2018 resulted with scientifically sound recommendations on their management. According to the habitats map, priority habitats – Alluvial alder forests together with wet meadows were identified as a priority for restoration, i.e., management.
In 2019, MES team started with pilot management activities of wet meadows around Prespa Lake. First, it was determined their distribution along the Prespa shoreline with a total area of 547 ha. The habitat map revealed four different types of wet meadows in the Macedonian part of Prespa:
Mediterranean tall humid herb grasslands of the Molinio-Holoschoenion
Beds of large Carex spp.
Calamagrostis epigejos communities
Helleno-Moesian riverine and humid Trifolium meadows
In order to confirm the socio-economic, as well as the cultural significance of the wet meadows, private owners (of wet meadows) survey was conducted. Target groups were stockbreeders and owners of larger areas under meadows. The results showed that 44% mow their meadows, which satisfies the complete diet for their livestock, and 56% don’t, as they don’t have the necessity. Also, short-term biodiversity research was conducted, which revealed three new species of spiders for North Macedonia (Pisaura novicia, Berlandina cinerea and Trachelas minor, a representative of a spider family encountered for the first time, nationally, Trachelidae) and three new species of grasshoppers for Prespa, but also huge negative differences in the species diversity of the meadows exposed to agricultural practices in the region. The recommendations that emerged from the results obtained from the activities in 2019 gave several directions for improving the condition of this habitat. Among other things, a pilot project was proposed – stimulate summer mowing of wet meadows, remove the hay (biomass), and distribute it to local farmers to use.
In order to select the most suitable plot for management, a system of criteria was created:
to be within the Ezerani Nature Park
to be outside of the strict protection zone
to be state-owned
to be spatially distributed as a buffer zone between orchards and natural habitats in ENP
to be larger than 2 hectares
to be easily accessible
In the process of selection, MES was in constant communication with the Municipality of Resen. Various working meetings and field visits to the area were organized in order to finalize the selection. After the plot was selected, a local farmer was hired to process the land and bale the hay.
An area of 16.054m2 was mowed in August, 11.858 m2 consisting of the Calamagrostis epigejos community and 4.196m2 belonging to beds of large Carex spp. The mowed hay was collected into 350 bales that in collaboration with Municipality of Resen were distributed to local stockbreeders without financial compensation, which was another way to help the local community benefit from habitat restoration activities.
Despite the pandemic, MES managed to mark this incredibly important day following all measures of precaution. Together with otu parners from Greece (SPP) and Albania (PPNEA) we counted the Dalmatian and Great White Pelican pairs on Lesser and Greater Prespa Lakes. We moved along predefined points of interest and on the way met with our collaborators from Nature Park “Ezerani”, and several activists and volunteers from the region that helped us finally and timely reach our last destination, one of the most special places in our country – Golem Grad island. The whole experience was documented using facebook live and you can see the video in English here as well as videos of us approaching and circling the island. For more videos with Macedonian content please visit the Macedonian version of this post and also enjoy the photographs.
Saying hi to our international colleagues and followers from v. Konjsko
Approaching Golem Grad Island
Riding around the island
A message from our friends and colleagues from National Park “Galichica”
MES and NP Galichica started a detailed monitoring scheme (using the capture-mark-recapture methodology) of the Macedonian newt (Triturus macedonicus) in Simoncheska Pond on Mt. Galichica. During two capture sessions we used aquatic funnel traps to trap newts and photographed the unique belly color patterns of each captured individual in order to recognize recaptures. This efficient and reliable methodology of estimating newt population size was implemented for the first time in North Macedonia and is another testament to the fruitful collaboration between MES and NP Galichica. Practicing such standardized methodology is crucial to North Macedonia’s European Union aspirations. Namely, the Macedonian newt is on Annex II of the EU habitats directive, which means that its presence qualifies the area for a protected NATURA 2000 site and its populations should be monitored continuously.
We were hard at work in 2019, planning wetland restoration, studying mammals, birds and reptiles, working with many kids and future citizen scientists of Prespa and much more. For a brief summary of each of the components that make up the project “Strengthening NGO-led Conservation in the Transboundary Prespa Basin” financed by PONT and the Aage V. Jensen foundation, please visit the overview prepared for PONT
The transboundary nature of Prespa and Baba Mt. implores transboundary cooperation and coordination in order to achieve the efficient conservation of the region that PrespaNet strives for. Consequently, when MES was invited to join the Biology Students’ Research Society in their biological and ecological investigations of Baba Mt. (particularly national park “Pelister”) from July 8th-13th, we used PrespaNet to reach out and invite student volunteers from the three countries where the Prespa basin stretches.
During the intense field research, we explored the biological diversity of the mountain, generously shared knowledge and experience with over thirty students, and noted any new biological and ecological data for the national park, as well as what has sadly gone missing and is possibly now extinct. Collecting such data proved to have a two-fold purpose – research and education. The project foresees the organisation of a similar camp in 2020 in Greece.