Ecological connectivity: how to achieve the conservation of biodiversity

The partners in the DINALPCONNECT project worked together on the betterment of cross-border cooperation by developing Strategies for the improvement of ecological connectivity of the Dinaric Alps and the Alps, as well as by developing Action plans for the improvement of ecological connectivity and four project pilot regions

  • 28.02.2023.

Volunteers working on removing the woody vegetation as part of the educational-volunteer camp Let’s connect

The disappearance and the fragmentation of natural ecosystems are the main causes of a global biodiversity crisis which could eventually threaten life on Earth. Ecological connectivity is a key condition that allows organisms to move through different parts of habitats, which reduces their risk of extinction, and increases their resilience to climate change. Therefore, the conservation of ecological connectivity also helps combat the negative effects of habitat fragmentation and climate change.

Features of land surfaces, climate characteristics, and human activities are in constant interaction and continually undergo changes, which is precisely what affects ecological connectivity. The challenges of fragmentation are further increased by a whole host of human activities, especially intensive farming and rapid urbanisation that are in turn linked to the pressures of a growing population in areas that are near protected areas.

Ensuring the ecological connectivity in the Dinaric Alps and the Alps is of immense importance, particularly due to the fact that this region extends through several countries, which is why international cooperation is instrumental in ensuring ecological connectivity.

In order to improve ecological connectivity, cross-border cooperation, as well as the cooperation of numerous sectors affecting ecological connectivity, are essential. This was precisely the goal of the DINALPCONNECT project.

In the span of the last two years, the partners participating in the DINALPCONNECT project have worked together towards the betterment of cross-border cooperation by developing Strategies for the improvement of ecological connectivity of the Dinaric Alps and the Alps, as well as by developing Action plans for the improvement of ecological connectivity and four project pilot regions.

What we were doing during the project

There were many activities carried out during the project and it’s difficult to list them all in just one short text.

The pilot area that was our focus was the cross-border area between Slovenia and Croatia. In Slovenia, that was the area of the Karst Plateau, while in Croatia we focused on the Učka Nature Park and Ćićarija. The issue that was addressed was the immense value of the dry karst grasslands as a habitat which is currently extremely endangered.

The map of the pilot area Slovenia – Croatia

During those two years we analysed the state of the grasslands, identified the problems that contribute to the endangered state of the habitat, talked with the local stakeholders and, with their cooperation, defined activities to be carried out in the next 10 years in Croatia and Slovenia in order to improve ecological connectivity of dry karst grasslands.

Some of those activities have already been carried out. Last year, we held an educational-volunteer camp Let’s connect during which, in cooperation with Učka Nature Park, we worked on the renewal of the valuable dry karst grasslands on the Park’s area. For 10 days, our hardworking volunteers worked on removing the woody vegetation from the valuable grasslands. At the same time, we organised numerous training events for the volunteers during which they could learn about grasslands, how to preserve them, and about nature protection.

Stakeholder workshop in Učka Nature Park where the activities for the Action plan were defined

Apart from their biological value, the grasslands also have a great traditional value. One form of a traditional practice related to the grasslands is the transhumance, and we had the honour of participating in this rare traditional practice. Transhumance is a practice of seasonal livestock migration for the purpose of ensuring that there is enough pasture for the livestock. An example of that is the winter migrations of the livestock to the foothills, and the summer migrations from the foothills up the mountain in order to provide enough pasture for the livestock. There is also a benefit for the grasslands during those migrations because by grazing, the animals maintain the grasslands. Today, however, in the areas of Učka and Ćićarija, there is only one family remaining that keeps to this traditional practice.

One of the rare forms of transhumance in Croatia can be found on Učka

One of the results of this project is spatial connectivity model. Based on the numerous data, an atlas of ecological connectivity has been drawn up, and the corridors that enable connectivity, but also the barriers that interfere with it, have been defined for the whole project area. You can find the atlas of ecological connectivity as well as its main barriers for the Dinaric area and the area between the Dinaric Alps and the Alps online.

The information list of the DINALPCONNECT project with all the details can be found here.