Livanjsko Polje

Landscape of superlatives

© Borut Stumberger
© Borut Stumberger


Not far from the Adriatic in the Split hinterland a landscape of superlatives lies hidden: The Livanjsko polje is not only the largest wetland in Bosnia but also the largest regularly flooded karst field in the world. Over centuries, in complex processes of dissolution, water has eaten into the limestone rock of the Dinaric Alps and formed a huge plain of 400 square kilometres (or roughly 155 square miles) a so-called karst polje (polje being the word for a plain or field in the Slav languages). Water flows underground into Livanjsko polje from several other plains which lie at higher elevations in the Dinaric Alps, as it were on a ladder of levels, each one roughly 150 metres higher up. 



Multicoloured carpet of diversity

Being encircled by walls of steeply rising mountains allowed the plain to develop into a veritable carpet of brilliantly coloured but highly sensitive habitats: reed beds, fens and grassland lie close together and contain a great diversity of species. About one fifth of the Livanjsko polje is covered in old-growth forests of alder, pedunculate oak and ash in which rare predators such as the Lesser Spotted Eagle and Short-toed Snake Eagle breed. The grasslands around the Zdralovac (or Crane) fens in the north of the polje are home to the largest distribution of the Corn Crake in Southern Europe.


The large expanses of water in this natural water reservoir but also its marsh vegetation and alder carrs offer resting and breeding sites for numerous waders and water birds such as Bittern and Montagu's Harrier. For Cranes and other migratory birds on the Adriatic Flyway Livanjsko polje provides a resting place of inestimable value.

Endangered paradise

However the electricity and power station industries have plans to use tunnels to increase the volume of water extracted from the karst poljes higher up in the Alps and to set up brown coal (or lignite) mines in the area to a depth of 250 metres. Such plans threaten to turn the wetlands of the Livanjsko Polje into industrial zones and at the same time endanger the supply of drinking water in Croatia.
There is already the negative impact of peat mining, which is still going on in the Crane fens at the north end of the polje and, ever since the 1980s, the impact of a network of canals withdrawing water from this precious wetland and endangering the habitat of rare plant and animal species in doing so.



What actions is EuroNatur undertaking in cooperation with its partners?

 

  • Continuing the development of effective protection concepts for Livanjsko polje in order to preserve the region as a valuable habitat and as an important resting site on the Adriatic Flyway.
  • Supporting and monitoring the renaturation of the 750 hectares on the Crane fens affected by peat mining and water “extraction” nd so making a concrete contribution to climate protection.
  • Raising public awareness of environmental impacts and sensitizing local people and visitors to the precious ecological heritage represented by the Livanjsko polje in order to further the long-term success of protection measures.



What we have so far been able to achieve – a selection of important successes:

 

  • The Livno Hunters Association has designated large parts of the Crane fens in the north of the karst field as a No Hunting Zone. EuroNatur had urgently recommended this measure to the canton of Livno and the responsible Minister.
  • In 2008 the Livanjsko polje was officially recognized as an internationally important wetland for waders and water birds (Ramsar Area). Over many years EuroNatur and various partners have collected and collated all the necessary data on flora and fauna of the  Livanjsko polje and in this way created the basis to enable the Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina to submit an application for nomination of the important weland as a Ramsar Area.
  • In cooperation with the Franciscan Museum and Gorica Gallery in Livno EuroNatur organised an exhibition in 2008 dedicated to the uniqueness of the Livanjsko polje.
  • Since the beginning of August 2011 the Livanjsko polje has been designated an Important Bird Area. The world-wide Important Bird Area Programme set up by BirdLife International has the goal of identifying, monitoring and protecting areas of significance for the protection of birds. Important Bird Areas host significant populations of three categories: endangered species, species with regionally restricted range size or large populations resting or stopping-over.


Partners: “Nase Ptice” (Our Birds) Bird Protection Society, Livno Youth Centre, WWF MedPo

Sponsors: MAVA Foundation, EuroNatur donors and sponsors

 

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Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Karst Poljes as Wetlands of National and International Importance,
Livno, 30 September - 1 October 2014

Dinaric Karst Poljes – Floods for Life

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