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  25.10.2017, 07:27h

Restoration of the rocky grasslands in Krka National Park

From 23 to 27 October 2017, autumn monitoring of vegetation took place on selected experimental plots near the settlement of Brnjica in Krka National Park.

The objective of the monitoring is to implement the restoration model for rocky grasslands through controlled burning.

This is a project that the Public Institute of Krka National Park is implementing together with the Croatian Botanical Society. The project began in 2015 with the controlled burning of two plots, one 900 m2 in size, and the second 800 m2 in size. Both plots were selected in cooperation with the land owners.

Prior to the first burning in May 2015, the initial (baseline) condition was recorded. During the first six months, monitoring of the newly recruited plants on the rocky terrain was performed through monthly field visits. Since 2016, the monitoring of the rate of development, number of species, coverage, height, renewal of shrubs, etc. has taken place three times per year, in the spring, summer and autumn. One method also includes subplots, where burning was repeated over varying intervals of time. In the past, when these lands were used for grazing, they were also occasionally burned, with the constant removal of shrubs, in order to maintain the grassland.

At the same time, a second project to restore the rocky grasslands via controlled grazing was started. To date, 20 experimental plots have been selected for this project, each 25 m2 in size, on the rocky grasslands directly above the canyon over the Brljan waterfall. The study area includes ten open rocky plots, and ten plots overgrown with shrubs. A cooperation contract on the implementation of maintaining rocky grasslands through sheep grazing was signed with the local population that will use this area for the grazing of herds of sheep of the Dalmatian Pramenka breed, with a total of up to 300 animals. Since this area also includes sections of overgrown land, it is also recommended that up to 50 goats (Croatian white or spotted goats) be included with the sheep herds. The initial (baseline) condition was recorded, and the start of the grazing process is expected to begin.

Following the completion of the three-year monitoring phase, and the interpretation of the obtained data for both projects, the results will be used to develop a pasture restoration model for the broader area of Krka National Park. In these projects, cooperation with the local community is of paramount importance.

The objective of the project is to develop a restoration model for overgrown rocky grasslands through controlled burning and grazing, the return of biodiversity to the rocky grasslands in Krka National Park to its former level, and to test controlled burning and grazing as methods for the restoration of rocky grasslands.

The project was conceived as a means to develop a model of controlled burning and grazing of shrub vegetation on overgrown rocky pastures. Over recent decades, the region of Krka National Park has faced great changes to the socioeconomic and population structure of the population, which has resulted in significant changes to land use within the park area. These changes have led to changes in the composition of the flora and structure of the plant cover. The pastures, once widely used for grazing, have since become grown over into shrubby vegetation, today dominated by juniper bushes and the occasional Aleppo pine tree. This type of vegetation has a significantly lower biodiversity and species richness than the typical rocky grassland types of vegetation.