of successful public participation that stopped degradation
of a unique ecosystem and facilitated its restoration
into a nature reserve
Nature reserve Skocjan inlet lies on the north part
of the Adriatic coast at the city of Koper, and it represents
the left-over from the sea that once surrounded the
city. It is one of the important sites for migratory
birds in the network of coastal Mediterranean wetlands
in the North Adriatic.
Formation of the Skocjan
The hystoric town of Koper used to be an island connected
to the mainland by salt-pans. The construction of a
900 meters long dyke, stretching from the town of Koper
to the spring of the Riana River, turned the Skocjan
bay into a lagoon that covered 230 ha of water surface.
Two small rivers flowing into the lagoon and an open
exit to the sea provided for water exchange and for
sufficient oxygen levels to allow rich bioproduction
and a diverse flora and fauna.
The Skocjan Inlet Nature Reserve consists of two parts,
Bertoška bonifika as the freshwater part of the
Reserve, and the brackish lagoon with its shallows and
mudflats. It is a large unfrozen water area for wintering
of waterfowl and it remains of great ecological importance
throughout the year. In therms of biodiversity, the
area provides habitats for 41% of all Slovene amphibian
species, 41% of all Slovene reptile species, 55% of
all species of birds observed in Slovenia, and 36% of
all mammal species living in Slovenia. This diversity
of animal and plant species is facilitated by different
depths of the lagoon, and high diversity of habitats
such as marshy meadows, shoals, pools, rivers etc. The
Skocjan Inlet is important on the international level
as a European rest-stop for migrating birds and as a
suitable location for wintering, feeding, breeding or
By changing the flow of the Badasevica river into the
Koper Bay in the 80s and by closing the left discharge
stream of the Rizana river, the Skocjan Inlet was left
without the sources of fresh water. Later on, the Port
of Koper started to dry the lagoon with 286 thousand
cubic metres of sludge, which spread over the entire
lagoon and destroyed the original bottom. The number
of bird species and of individual birds fell drastically.
Today, the natural reserve area is to a large extent
degraded, human interventions over the last decades
has drastically reduced the size and the volume of water
surfaces. The lagoon is too shallow and has only very
limited water exchange and water in-flow.
In order to prevent further destruction of this outstanding
living environment the experts and NGO's, among them
the Bird Watching and Bird Study Association of
Slovenia (DOPPS), launched a wide campaign in 1993
for the conservation and restoration of the lagoon.
In that same year, Slovenia adopted a decree temporarily
investing the Skocjan Inlet with the status of a natural
feature, and in 1998 the Act on the protection of
the Skocjan Inlet nature reserve was adopted by
the Government of the Republic of Slovenia. In 1999,
a five year (1999 - 2003) action plan titled the Programme
for the protection and development of the Skocjan Inlet
nature reserve was approved by the Slovenian government,
while in 2002 the same institution issued the regulation
plan for rehabilitation and restoration of the natural
reservation Skocjan Inlet. The main restoration works
started at the end of 2004 and should finish by the
end of the year 2005. In April 2004, the Slovenian government
adopted international act of Special Protection
Areas – Natura 2000, which includes also
the Natural reservation Skocjan Inlet. This way Slovenia
adopted all the necessary legislation for the conservation
and restoration of the Skocjan Inlet.
The Skocjan Inlet nature reserve is a good example of
combining the goals for protection of sensitive habitats
with the goals of ecological, aducational and scietific
A freshwater marsh and a deep water area with small
wooded islets will be created as a substitute for the
degraded wetland areas of the Badasevica river outlet
providing good feeding sites and resting grounds, as
well as potential nesting areas for various bird species.
After the nesting period is over, the wet meadows are
to be mowed or grazed by the Istrian cattle.
The most demanding task of the restoration project
is the enhancement and rehabilitation of the brackish
lagoon, which has largely lost its original character
due to years of filling with mud. Re-establishment of
the inflow of the Riana and Badaševica rivers
and the deepening of the central part of the lagoon
will cause both the volume of the lagoon and the freshwater
inflow to increase, thus enabling fresh and saline waters
in the lagoon to mix and, at the same time, create favourable
living conditions for animals and plants alike. In the
lagoon a series of small nesting islets shall be formed
and intended primarily for birds nesting in colonies.
The area shall be open to public. A circular interpretation
path with well-equipped observation sites and Information
Center will provide the basic infrastructure for development
of educational and scientific tourism.
Who, Where, When
The wide campaign run by experts and NGOs has contributed
to gaining a positive public opinion on the matter and
to raising the public awareness. This helped put through
the timely proclamation of the Skocjan Inlet as a natural
reserve and prompted the activities for its restoration.
The Skocjan Inlet nature reserve is now managed by an
NGO, Društvo za opazovanje in proucevanje ptic
Slovenije -DOPPS (Bird Watching and Bird Study
Association of Slovenia).
|COMMENTS AND THEORY
The destruction of wetlands can represent a serious loss
of natural wealth and bring about the downfall of a large
number of animal and plant species. Gainning a positive
public opinion on the matter and raising the public awareness
are the keys to their restoration.
Is public awareness important in
preservation of wetlands?
IIDE – Institute for Integral Development and Environment
(Marta Vahtar, Maja Zdesar and Miran Rusjan)