Hutovo Blato wetland | WWF

Hutovo Blato wetland

Hutovo Blato rel=
Hutovo Blato
© Edward PARKER / WWF
Hutovo Blato covers about 40 square kilometers in the Herzegovina part of BiH. This sub-Mediterranean wetland oasis, located 20 km from the Adriatic Sea in the karst terrain along the lower course of the Neretva River, is one of the four major bird migration pathways from northern and central Europe to Asia and Africa. Experts believe that Hutovo Blato is one of the richest European habitats for wintering migratory birds.
 
Winter bird count from 2014 [1] registered 163 species from 39 families in Hutovo Blato, including duck (Aythya nyroca), coot (Fulica atra), the great white egret (Egretta alba), hawk (Buteo buteo), cranes (Grus grus), the silver gull (Larus argentatus) and pygmy cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus).
 
22 fish species have been identified in the waters of Hutovo Blato of which several are endemic: podustva (Chondrostoma kneri), zubatak (Salmo dentex) and the Neretva loach (Cobitis nerentana). The waters are connected to the Adriatic Sea so that some migratory species that live in salt water come to Hutovo Blato and adapt to the freshwater conditions. The best known species are European eel (Anguilla anguilla) and carp mullet (Mugil cephalus).
 
Hutovo Blato is also important for the local population as it ensures clean water, prevents salinization of underground water in the Neretva delta, where more than 30,000 people depend on agriculture, and provides fishing and eco-tourism services.
 
Main threats
 
Drainage, irrigation and hydropower development drastically reduced wetlands of Hutovo Blato. Waters from the Trebišnjica River were re-routed towards hydropower plant Plat near Dubrovnik, while 65 km long concrete channel through Popovo field closed karst sinkholes, the main source of water for Hutovo Blato.
 
In the last 30 years, the number of registered birds in Hutovo Blato was reduced by 31 percent. There is a drop in populations of endemic fish species, and their place is being taken by invasive species. Additional threat comes from the hydropower project “Upper Horizons”, which plans to divert water from the Neretva river basin for the purpose of electricity generation in hydropower system on Trebišnjica River. The continuation of this energy project in its current form would lead to the disappearance of Hutovo Blato wetlands in the next 30 years.
 
WWF's solutions
 
Administration of the Nature Park Hutovo Blato is working in collaboration with WWF and experts from various sectors to ensure the survival of Hutovo Blato wetland. This can be achieved through prevention of further deterioration of the ecosystems and revitalization of overgrown areas in the Nature Park. Activities are aimed at research and identification of the most important underground connections, as well as the development of “Action Plan for the revitalization of wetlands of Hutovo Blato”. WWF also made a video explaining the effects of the construction of hydropower plants in the system “Lower Horizons” on Trebišnjica River.

Hutovo Blato in numbers

163 bird species

22   fish species

3     endemic fish species
 
	© WWF
Map of "Upper Horizons" project
© WWF
Regulated tract of Trebišnjica river in Popovo plain, Bosnia & Herzegovina 
	© Edward PARKER / WWF
Regulated tract of Trebišnjica river in Popovo plain, Bosnia & Herzegovina
© Edward PARKER / WWF
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WWF coordinator Zoran Mateljak explaining the water flows in Hutovo Blato, Nature park Hutovo blato, BiH
© Andrija Vrdoljak / WWF