Freshwater | WWF

Freshwater

Deranjsko lake, Hutovo Blato Nature Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina rel=
Deranjsko lake, Hutovo Blato Nature Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina
© Edward PARKER / WWF

Healthy ecosystems in river basins of the Dinaric Arc

Protection of freshwater ecosystems is one of the key environmental challenges of today. According to the latest WWF Living Planet Reportfreshwater species are at the greatest risk and their number has declined by more than 70 percent in the last 50 years.

WWF has identified the Dinaric Arc and the entire Adriatic region as one of the 200 most important ecoregions in the world due to their exceptional freshwater resources.

Scientists are unanimous concerning the surprising biodiversity of the Dinaric Arc, especially its freshwater life and exceptional number of endemic fish species, snails and other invertebrates that reside in pristine rivers, crystal clear mountain lakes and lowland wetlands.

Underground, in the dark caves and tunnels, there is a unique karst system in which a magnificent and mostly unexplored wildlife thrives.
 
	© Michel Gunther / WWF
The Dinaric Arc region is rich in all types of rivers, lakes and wetlands, and hosts a number of exceptional natural features:

The largest disappearing lake in Europe (Cerknica Lake, Slovenia)

The second longest canyon in the world (Tara River, Montenegro)

The second deepest lake in Europe (Lake Ohrid, Macedonia)

The largest network of underground rivers and lakes in Europe

The last remaining lagoons and deltas in the Mediterranean (Hutovo Blato and Neretva River deltaKaravasta lagoon in Albania)

An exceptional number of endemic species of mammals, fish, birds and amphibians
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Livanjsko polje, BiH
© Andrija Vrdoljak

Threats to freshwater ecosystems

Wetlands, rivers and lakes in the region provide home to over 250 species of fish and more than 70 species of amphibians, of which many are endemic.

Unique and water-rich wetlands are important habitats for birds, particularly migratory birds, who use them for rest and feeding. Lake Skadar in Montenegro is the largest bird habitat in the region and provides a haven for 280 species of birds. Livanjsko polje and Hutovo Blato wetland in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) are also crucial habitats for birds. 

Because of human activities many of these habitats are now in danger of disappearing. The biggest threats come from the introduction of alien species, pollution, regulation of watercourses and habitat destruction, construction of dams and reservoirs, irrigation, excessive use of water in industry and uncontrolled fishing and poaching.

The greatest threat to the rivers comes from hydropower development. In danger are not only remote natural areas, but also cultural and historical icons such as the Sutjeska National Park where there is a plan to build a series of small hydropower plants. 

Although a large percentage of freshwater ecosystems have been destroyed in the past by regulation or hydropower development, there are still many untouched areas in the region, biodiversity oases of exceptional natural beauty that need to be protected from inadequate management and bad practices.
Kopacki Rit in Croatia.  rel=
Kopacki Rit in Croatia.
© Mario Romulic

WWF's solutions

WWF's Freshwater Programme aims to ensure healthy ecosystems in the Danube and the Adriatic river basins and the protection and sustainable management of wetlands, as well as promoting policies and approaches that will help to preserve the natural rivers and enable local communities to use their resources sustainably.

WWF is helping to build the capacities of decision-makers, pointing out major threats to biodiversity, and demonstrating practical solutions that contribute to improving the policies and practices of water management.

To ensure protection of freshwater habitats WWF Adria is working on:
·         Conservation of priority wetlands (Livanjsko polje, Hutovo Blato, Neretva River, Skadar Lake)
·         Preserving rivers by promoting the principles of sustainable hydropower (DASHI project)
·         Changes in the legal framework (environmental flow, exclusion zones, IRBM - integrated river basin management, implementation of EU directives)
·         Establishment of new protected areas (UNESCO Transboundary Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube – the Amazon of Europe)
·         Sustainable water management in the private sector (water stewardship
 
For more information about the global freshwater programme of WWF click here