Healthy ecosystems in river basins of the Dinaric Arc
WWF has identified the Dinaric Arc and the entire Adriatic region as one of the 200 most important ecoregions in the world due to their exceptional freshwater resources.
Scientists are unanimous concerning the surprising biodiversity of the Dinaric Arc, especially its freshwater life and exceptional number of endemic fish species, snails and other invertebrates that reside in pristine rivers, crystal clear mountain lakes and lowland wetlands.
Underground, in the dark caves and tunnels, there is a unique karst system in which a magnificent and mostly unexplored wildlife thrives.
The largest disappearing lake in Europe (Cerknica Lake, Slovenia)
The second longest canyon in the world (Tara River, Montenegro)
The second deepest lake in Europe (Lake Ohrid, Macedonia)
The largest network of underground rivers and lakes in Europe
The last remaining lagoons and deltas in the Mediterranean (Hutovo Blato and Neretva River delta, Karavasta lagoon in Albania)
An exceptional number of endemic species of mammals, fish, birds and amphibians
Threats to freshwater ecosystems
Unique and water-rich wetlands are important habitats for birds, particularly migratory birds, who use them for rest and feeding. Lake Skadar in Montenegro is the largest bird habitat in the region and provides a haven for 280 species of birds. Livanjsko polje and Hutovo Blato wetland in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) are also crucial habitats for birds.
Because of human activities many of these habitats are now in danger of disappearing. The biggest threats come from the introduction of alien species, pollution, regulation of watercourses and habitat destruction, construction of dams and reservoirs, irrigation, excessive use of water in industry and uncontrolled fishing and poaching.
The greatest threat to the rivers comes from hydropower development. In danger are not only remote natural areas, but also cultural and historical icons such as the Sutjeska National Park where there is a plan to build a series of small hydropower plants.
Although a large percentage of freshwater ecosystems have been destroyed in the past by regulation or hydropower development, there are still many untouched areas in the region, biodiversity oases of exceptional natural beauty that need to be protected from inadequate management and bad practices.
WWF is helping to build the capacities of decision-makers, pointing out major threats to biodiversity, and demonstrating practical solutions that contribute to improving the policies and practices of water management.
To ensure protection of freshwater habitats WWF Adria is working on:
· Conservation of priority wetlands (Livanjsko polje, Hutovo Blato, Neretva River, Skadar Lake)
· Preserving rivers by promoting the principles of sustainable hydropower (DASHI project)
· Changes in the legal framework (environmental flow, exclusion zones, IRBM - integrated river basin management, implementation of EU directives)
· Establishment of new protected areas (UNESCO Transboundary Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube – the Amazon of Europe)
· Sustainable water management in the private sector (water stewardship)
For more information about the global freshwater programme of WWF click here