Habitat restauration

Why implementing this? The reason is, human beings damaged the environment at a such level that it can’t restore itself anymore without our help.

From the 25th to the 27th of September 2020 we went to Rovozna site, in Učka mountain range, Istria region, eastern Croatia. The association called BIOM works there to restore natural habitat and to preserve the biodiversity.

Učka mountain range is a unique place, the relief and the proximity to the Adriatic sea make it a perfect region to host a great biodiversity. We can find there more than 35 different species of birds and a wide variety of plants.

Učka typical landscape

Why to restore natural habitat ?

1. A bit of history

Over the past few millennia sedentary farmers were living in Rovozna area with herds and crops. Nowadays we can see the ruins of their houses and the walls they built to parcel the lands and the hills. However, the last centuries these farmers left the mountains to reach the seaside where it was easier to live, and miners came during the 19th century to extract the metals from rocks. From this point the landscapes started to be modified by humans, the miners imported scotch pine in order to build the mine foundations, and nowadays this tree is part of the biodiversity although it is not an original specie of the mounts. Also, the meadow were abandoned, the grasses grew without ever being cut down and the trees began to grow from the edges to the middle. Indeed, a few centuries ago the big herbivores played an important role because they were strong enough to put down the trees and ate the grasses, then more recently the herds ate the grasses and the farmers cut down the trees they didn’t need in the meadows. But nowadays, BIOM’s workers do this job because there is no more farmers and no more herds.

Ruin of an old farmer’s house.

2. How do we do habitat restauration ?

Nowadays, the BIOM’s team and volunteers try to restore the meadows by cutting down the grasses in autumn, gathering it in huge heaps and burn it. You may ask : Why not to leave the grasses live and die so that the soil be more rich in nutrients ? and we asked it for you to the professional : the reason is that a nutrient-poor soil supports a greater diversity of grass and plant species. This is why the BIOM’s team cut down the grass, as the herds did centuries ago.

The forest is also somewhere we should work because of the imported species and of the bushes and brambles : some trees don’t have enough light to grow well, and the bushes often spread fast. BIOM’s team try to help the trees in need, mainly fruits trees or rare species to grow better by cutting down the trees and the bushes that surround them.

Gathering of the cutted grasses in the meadow.

Else, it is sometimes necessary to kill big trees because they are not useful, they cast too much shadow with their leaves : it is better to keep the dead tree rather than getting rid of it by cutting it down, because the dead wood is used as a house for lots of insects, fungi, and can feed the birds and other animals : a great idea to keep and even increase the biodiversity ! To do so, a bark collar is removed at the base of the tree, so that the sap cannot reach the roots : the photosynthesis process cannot be combined to the nutrients drawn from the ground, and the tree dies, makes no more leaves and no more shadow.