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Travelling across Adriatic islands: Wetlands, No. 3 Korčula

1. Travelling cover - engl

 

The island of Korčula is the third „pearl on the necklace“ of Adriatic islands which we visited from 6 till 13 June 2017 within the project „Water pearls of Adriatic islands“! After Murter and Šolta, Korčula was a greater challenge. During our office work, with the help from topographic maps and orthophoto images, we marked as much as 73 wetlands on Korčula, 41 of which were karst ponds. Some of the other types of wetlands we recorded were intermittent streams, cisterns, springs, wells and pools (Figure 1).

Karta Korčule eng verzija

Figure 1. Wetlands on Korčula

 

In a week of our field work we managed to record almost all of the marked karst ponds (40 out of 41) and some new habitats which our eagle eyes did not see during the photointerpretation of the maps. The greatest concentration of ponds is on the eastern part of the island, around Lumbarda, and around the center of the island, near Blato and Smokvice in Blatsko polje. We would like to praise the locals for the way they care for karst ponds! This is directly related to the developed agricultural activities on the island, mostly olive groves and vineyards (Figure 2).

 

Korčula vinograd

Figure 2. Pond near a vineyard

 

Ponds are maintained and sustained, because water is from them is exploited for irrigation in a sustainable way. Therefore, a lot of ponds are landscaped and enclosed with stone walls. This potentially reduces the biodiversity within a pond but it is absolutely a better option than completely abandoning them and letting them become overgrown (Figure 3).

 

Korčula ograđena lokva

Figure 3. Stone wall around the pond

 

Through our own observations and talks with locals, we found out that traditional livestock keeping is rarely practiced on the island. This is not good for the continued existence of the ponds, which functioned as sources of drinking water for livestock in the past. On some ponds, we saw traces of wild animals which use these ponds as a source of water, thus keeping their functionality. However, this means that some of the man-made walls and fences around these ponds get damaged or destroyed. All of this is a proof that the survival of ponds depends on the people.

The weather was kind to us so we managed to record diverse flora and fauna in and around the wetlands during our field trips (Figure 4). We were surprised by two snakes which found refuge from the heat in wetlands. The king among snakes, the four-lined snake (Elaphe quatourlineata) and the swift eastern Montpellier snake (Malpolon insignitus) could not evade an encounter with us crafty herpetologists.

 

Collage fauna

Figure 4. A part of the fauna of Korčula

 

Karst ponds of the island of Korčula are also home to the most abundant amphibian of the Adriatic islands – the European green toad (Bufotes viridis). Although ponds are a home and feeding ground to many animals they can also become death traps for amphibians or other animals that may fall in them. This is specifically true for ponds with artificial, concrete, high or very steep walls, and one just like that we found on Korčula (Figure 5). Because of this vertical concrete wall toads could not get out to land, being forced to rest on discarded wooden boards and floating garbage (Figure 6). Amphibians do not live in the water all year, after mating they return to land but these walls disturb their natural cycle and they remain eternally captured inside the wetland. One of the possible solutions is to place long branches or boards which would serve as ramps on which the animals could climb and get out of the pond.

 

Korčula okomita lokva

Figure 5. Pond with vertical concrete walls

 

Korčula zelene krastače

Figure 6. European green toads crammed on pond waste

 

We recorded the Natura 2000 species European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis), but also the invasive turtle species – yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta) for the first time on Korčula. Speaking of invasive species, in about ten ponds we found goldfish and mosquitofish, which people introduced for decoration or as a failed attempt to decrease the number of unwanted insects, like mosquitoes.

Regarding the educational activities and creating the web of volunteers from Adriatic Islands, we organised two workshops for volunteers and two lectures about the importance and protection of Adriatic wetlands for students of elementary schools.

In Vela Luka Elementary School about fifty students from the fifth and sixth grades were listening to the lecture and in Blato Elementary School about thirty students from the fifth grade attended. After the interactive lecture, we gave “Young Pond Protector” certificates and basic protocols which need to be filled out when visiting a local pond (Figure 7). The curiosity and high engagement of the children during the lectures give us hope for the raised awareness of future generations, not only about the protection of wetlands, but nature in general. This and the following year we will keep in touch with the teachers, pedagogues, librarians and school principals because we plan to organize exhibitions of children's artwork about wetlands, which would be set up in all schools that hosted us and expressed a desire for future collaboration.

 

OŠ Blato grupna

Figure 7. Students from OŠ Blato with certificates „Young protector of pond“

 

On Friday, 9. June at 20:30 in Vela Luka Culture Center our employee Mak Vujanović held the first volunteer workshop for locals called „Wetlands - broods for mosquitoes or oases of biodiversity?“. Twelve islanders participated on the workshop which consisted of a survey which questioned opinions and knowledge of locals about the wetlands and interactive lecture where the participants expressed their concerns and feelings about bad and good examples of wetland management on Korčula and their purpose on the island.

On Monday, 12. June at 20:00 the same workshop was organized in the Culture center of the Korčula city, this time with poorer attendance. Nevertheless the interraction between these five attendees was there and their activity and casual atmosphere contributed to a quality discussion about the faith of wetlands on the island and future collaborations.

 

Korčula radionica

Figure 8. Wetlands - broods for mosquitoes or oases of biodiversity? - Vela Luka

 

 Listeners of local radio stations could also hear about our field activities and workshop announcements. We „surfed“ on waves of three radio stations: Radio Val and Radio M in Vela Luka and Radio Korčula in Korčula.

 

Radija kolaž

Figure 9. Visiting local radio stations: Radio Korčula, Radio M and Radio Val

 

We are thankful to Ranka Padovan on her help and company on field trips, Frano Fabris on his distribution of contacts, Katica Smojver and Novi Otok association on their enormous help with planning our visit to Korčula and spreading the news about our activities, pedagogue Katarina Curać and biology teacher Toni Šale from Vela Luka elementary and biology teacher Maja Šeparović and principal Tonći Padovan from Blato elementary school on their extra effort and patience they showed us during the last few days of the school year.

We are also thanful to culture centres on Vela Luka and Korčula for their hospitality and to all of the workshops participants for their good will and attention, DVD Korčula for accomodation and their interest in karst ponds because of what we gave them certificate „Young pond protector“, to radios Val, M and Korčula for pleasant and friendly atmosphere and for their intererst in this topic which is often overlooked by the general public.

 

Korčula Ranka

Figure 10. Field work with Ranka Padovan, our island guide

 

New adventures awaits us on Rab and until then we are sending you wet greetings!

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