PONT and CEPF awarded two complementary grants to the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Art (MASA) and ILIRIA – Protection and the Social & Environmental Development Association concerning the conservation of endemic plants restricted to the Galicica/Mali i Thatë mountain, spanning the borders of Galicica National Park, in North Macedonia, and Prespa National Park in Albania.
Both grants implement actions designed to foster a new generation of young professionals in plant conservation by helping university students and protected area staff to develop skills to identify plants, carry out practical field work, including survey, as well as to implement in situ and ex situ protection actions.
The MASA team developed Guidelines for Application of the IUCN Red List Criteria at Regional and National Levels that also included a chapter on the taxonomy, biology and ecology of six endemic species that will be assessed with the grant: Centaurea galicicae, Dianthus galicicae, Edraianthus horvatii, Festuca galicicae, Laserpitium ochridanum and Sempervivum galicicum. The methods and procedures for collecting field data for the red list assessment were demonstrated to a group of young professionals during the field trips in the park carried out during 20-25 and 27-29 July. The trainees included seven undergraduate and two graduate students at the Institute of Biology of the St. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, three Bachelors of Science students in Biology from the Prespa – Ohrid region, and four staff of Galicica National Park. The training took place in several locations in Galicica National Park and involved identification of the endemic species of concern, estimation of the number of mature individuals, the extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, subpopulations, locations, and the threats these species are facing.
At the same time, the team of experts of ILIRIA conducted three field investigations in the Prespa National Park in Albania to collect new data concerning the occurrence of several endemic species: Centaurea galicicae, Centaurea soskae, Centaurea shumkana, Dianthus galicicae, Edraianthus horvatii, Laserpitium ochridanum, Sempervivum galicicum, Chamaecytisus pseudojankae and Oxytropis dinarica subsp. weberi. A PhD student at the University of Tirana and two master students at the Fan S. Noli University of Korca also participated and carried out research on these species in pursuit of their doctoral and master degrees. In addition, two park staff joined the team in the field improving their skills in identifying the endemic species concerned and the threats they are facing, such as overgrazing and wildfires. The experts deployed a drone to locate and count individuals of Centaurea soskae and Centaurea galicicae growing at the steep cliffs along the shores of Lake Prespa. This was the first time the experts used this new technology to collect high-resolution spatial data, acquiring new technical skills in plant conservation.
The work will continue through December 2021, with MASA and ILIRIA involving the young professionals and park staff through all stages of the IUCN Red List assessments at both national and regional levels.
Photo credits: PONT; Lulezim Shuka & Abdulla Diku; Dejan Dimidzieski.