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Travelling across Adriatic Islands: Discover Wetlands, No. 2 Dugi otok

1. Travelling cover - engl

 

Here is the second story, the second island called and known by all as Dugi Otok (=Long Island)! Surely you have been tingling with anticipation for the sequel about the Adriatic Islands wetlands?! Let's take a look at the news brought to you by this instalment of the travels along the Adriatic!
We visited Dugi Otok, the largest of the northern Dalmatian islands, in May 2017, from the 8th to the 13th. Our visit and research plan were announced to the PI Natura Jadera (Public Institution for the management of protected nature areas of Zadar County). With the topographic and digital ortophoto maps in hand, coordinates of wetlands and ponds in the GPS, the camera around the neck, hats on our heads and souls filled with enthusiasm we scattered about the field. We covered the entire island, north to south, in search of wetlands, and can safely say that the name "dugi" (=long) fits the island perfectly! On its 45 km of length and one to four kilometers of width, we recorded 92 wetlands by examining the maps. There are two wells, 15 cisterns, three lakes, one canal, 44 ponds, 26 intermittent streams and one cove with vegetation characteristic of saline wetlands. The main focus of our field research were the ponds, whose presence we wanted to confirm, investigate their current status and inventory their biodiversity.

 

 

Karta Vlazna stanista Dugog otoka

 Figure 1. Map of the wetlands on Dugi Otok Island

 

 During our stay, we visited about 30 ponds. Most of them are man-made, for agricultural and livestock-keeping purposes, while the minority is of natural origin. However, their continued existence is also dependent on human actions and usage. Large areas are left to become overgrown, which is a direct result of the long-occurring trend of emigration from the island and the abandonment of agriculture. This worries us because it means the ponds are left to themselves, awaiting an ill fate of succession and disappearance. The exception are the fertile valleys and lovely fields like Žman Lakes, in the hinterland of Žman, Dugo Polje Field by Zaglav, and Kruševo Field near Sali, where the land is still being tended by the local population in a sustainable manner that keeps the ponds functional without overtaxing them. We learned many interesting facts and stories about the usage of ponds through history while chatting with hard working viticulturists, olive growers and other farmers. Jump into the Long Island pond time machine and give in to the current of the stories we prepared for you about these water pearls!

 

MALO JEZERO LAKE, Žman
The fertile Žman Valley is situated in the central part of the island, southwest of the Žman Village. Hidden here is a plethora of arable land and vineyards, along with two lakes – Malo and Velo, better known as Žman Lakes. The green valley with lush blooming vegetation, surrounded and hidden by hills in the harsh karst environment, reminded us of the idyllic landscape of the mythical Shire from J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. This idyll was completed by the conversations we had with several farmers from Žman we encountered tending their fields. They told us that the valley periodically completely floods during the rainy season, with the water level rising to three metres. This winter and early spring there was less rainfall, so the water level rose by just one metre, and the field were flooded till March. Our conversational partner remembers, with a hint of laughter and worry, an anecdote – one autumn the valley flooded just as it was time to pick the grapes. They were like fishermen on the sea, rowing through the vineyard rows and picking the ripe grapes. Such a harvest sound like some sort of attractive fiction to tourists and us, but for the local farmer they are worrisome and laborious. We also learned that sometimes high water levels persisted in the valley all the way till June in the last 30-ish years, which complicates work in the fields and prolongs the ripening period of fruits. Despite this, the local population appreciates this valley and the Žman Lakes, the water pearl reservoirs of fresh drinking water and the aquifer that provides drinking water for Žman and the surrounding villages.

 

Dugi otok Malo jezero Žman

 Figure 2. The dreamy Žman Valley with arable land and Malo Lake.

 

Here are some photos that we took of interesting and photogenic species from this secretive oasis of wetland biodiversity for you to enjoy...

Herpetofauna Dugi otok samo latinski

Figure 3. Representatives of the herpetofauna of Dugi Otok Island

 

Odonata Dugi otok latinski paint

 Figure 4. Representatives of the dragonfly faunaof Dugi Otok

 

The Long Island story is somewhat different from the previous. Why, you may ask? Because we had a different type of education – expert education for biology students of the Biology Students Association – BIUS (http://www.bius.hr/?p=1324) from the Divison of Biology of the Faculty of Science, Zagreb. While we were on Long Island they, in cooperation with the Public Institution Natura Jadera and the Public Institution Nature Park Telašćica organised the research-educational project "Insula Tilagus 2017". Members from the Butterfly, Dragonfly and Freshwater Gropus joined us in the field, where they had the opportunity to learn by doing which data should be recorded and how to do it, in order to evaluate the status of wetlands, how to use a GPS device and its importance in locating wetlands, that ponds may be stationary, but can still be hard to find, which animal and plant groups live in these oases, and which characteristics are essential in identifying certain species and habitats. We would like to thank everyone from BIUS for their pleasant cooperation and company, and especially the Management Board, which organised our stay in the Kargita Camp, near Veli Rat, and in Nature Park Telašćica.

 

bius i Hyla-Dugi otok

 Figure 5. BIUS and Hyla – together we’re stronger!

 

To show that the islanders are very important to us we conducted ad hoc education in the field of the local inhabitants. We encouraged them to touch and hold a four-lined snake we found near their field. We helped them get over their fear of them and explained their usefulness in controlling rodent populations, emphasising the benefits of having them close to their fields.

 

Otocani i kravosas

 Figure 6. Islanders and the four-lined snakes

 

The story of Dugi Otok halts here, but it does not stop! We plan another visit to the island, in autumn. For all adventurers we announce the new island adventure ¬– we're going south, the next destination is Korčula, the island that enchanted us. Want to know why? Stay tuned for No. 3 Korčula.
Follow our stories and travel the Adriatic islands with us...

 

 

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