A year after the opening of its local office, MES and PrespaNet continue to work alongside regional stakeholders for the protection of Prespa. 2019 was an interesting year, with many achievements for the network.
After the mapping of Prespa shoreline habitat types in 2018, which resulted in the production of recommendations on habitat management in Macedonian Prespa for the Municipality of Resen, MES focused its research on two important habitats – alluvial alder forests and wet meadows.
The study on wet meadows aims to determine the biomass of the plants present in the wet meadows, as well as the soil profile of the habitat. The primary production of plant biomass is a crucial basis for different ecosystem processes; without plants the rest of the ecosystem would not be able to function. The wet meadow study aims to understand the amount of nutrients that are absorbed by wet meadows and therefore do not reach the lake – restoring this vital habitat can reduce the amount of nutrients entering the lake, improving the lake water quality for everyone.
In the research study on alder forests, a naturally very rare habitat, MES worked on determining the condition of the forests and their connectivity, as well as on identifying potential sites for reforestation.
People and Prespa
Aiming to promote citizen science in Prespa, in February of 2019, MES organised The Wild Side of Prespa – a series of open presentations and field activities. Unique, exciting and even humorous population and behavioural examples learned from plants and animals studied in the area were presented to high school students in order to spark their interest in biodiversity and conservation. Local examples were crucial, since each presentation revealed a different activity that these future citizen scientists would get a chance to take part in. The field activities that followed during the spring and summer gave these enthusiastic students a little taste of the efforts needed to witness Prespa’s remarkable species and the work that needs to be put in to conserve them.
As for pupils from the primary schools, PrespaNet prepared an environmental education programme about wild plants, teaching them about the importance and ecology of these species, both in the classroom and outdoors.
In July, PrespaNet brought together young people from all three countries to exercise their fieldwork skills together and to get to know Prespa up close. MES hosted a summer camp in Pelister National Park for life sciences students, focusing on monitoring and surveying methodologies, with a daily series of scientific study tours on the mountain slopes of the park. The group also spent time learning about some of the fieldwork carried out under the project.
In order to increase our knowledge on large carnivores, MES and the PrespaNet partners conducted a camera-trap monitoring study over the whole transboundary Prespa region for the second year in a row. Twenty cameras were placed in Galičica and Pelister national parks during May, with the help of the park wardens. The camera-trap session lasted for approximately 50 days, with regular checks to see what images were being taken. An amazing 416 photos of nine different species were captured during the study. In addition to the monitoring study the team worked on a transboundary study on the brown bear population. Bear scats were collected in the three countries sharing the Prespa Region for diet and genetic analysis that will help us to better understand their way of life and also estimate their population numbers.
There are a number of rare and protected waterbirds of global, European, regional or national importance that use the Prespa lakes and their wetlands. The key 12 species (the Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Dalmatian Pelican, White Pelican, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Purple Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Pygmy Cormorant, Great Reed Warbler) were monitored this year, confirming and/or locating their breeding territories and providing an estimate of their breeding populations.