Neretva Science Week

NERETVA SCIENCE WEEK 2023

From May 30th to June 7th, a diverse team of scientists will visit the Neretva River to contribute to conservation of this river as knowledgeable experts and scientists. The event is a follow-up of the first Neretva Science Week in 2022, in which more than 50 scientists explored the river continuum at a dozen common sites. We now call for scientists to express their interest in participating in more specialized research missions that will further increase the visibility of this unique river system.

THE NERETVA RIVER...

is a 230 km long river flowing through Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia before its confluence with the Adriatic Sea. While larger parts of the river network are already reservoirs, the upper “Gornja Neretva” and its tributaries can still be considered free-flowing. Here, the river constitutes the heart of a karstic valley widely regarded as a natural heritage of regional significance. This part of the river is threatened with the construction of at least 25 new dams. In addition, the Nevesinjsko Polje, part of the hydrological catchment of the Neretva River, is under threat of the big Upper Horizon project, that would dam and divert the water of Zalomka River entering various sinkholes, the largest of them being the famous Biograd ponor. This project threatens unknown underground hydrological systems and well known karstic springs and would have severe negative effects on the Buna, Bunica and Bregava Rivers. Now is a critical moment to collect data to provide evidence of what is at risk if hydropower development continues in this area, and to thereby increase public visibility of these valuable ecosystems.

Wilderness. The Alder forest surrounding the upper Neretva is a key part of this unique riverine ecosystem © Vladimir Tadic

MISSION-FOCUSED SCIENCE WEEK

With the experience of the first Neretva Science Week, the upcoming science week will dive further into specific areas worth exploring. The plan is to form various independent teams around specific research missions that could create a deeper understanding of specific habitats, point to threatened places and integrate across terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Some missions are taking shape already, but we are happy to hear from you if you have a certain interest in the area, that could help build arguments for the protection of the Neretva River Basin. 

  1. Peak to Peak Biodiversity Transect: To get a better understanding the whole complex ecosystem of the Upper Neretva, we will include the … of the primary forest ecosystem, to which the Neretva forms its veins, we will define a line of sampling sites perpendicular to the river and along both slopes of the valley. Many scientists of NSW’22 have commented on the diversity of forests in the valley, ranging from dry oak on North-Eastern slopes to more moist beech on South-Western slopes via astounding alder riparian forest along the river. Ideally, we assemble a diverse team of experts that is ready to take on this challenge of  following an exciting and unconventional approach to describe the landscape´s biodiversity at this unprecedented scale.
  2. Ljuta Canyoning: The Ljuta, one of the most beautiful tributaries of the Neretva, is very hard to access. Even if the war-torn remote area has no road access and ends in a canyon section of the Neretva river only known to kayakers, a cascade of upto 10 small hydropower plants are planned on this river. A well prepared canyoning mission could allow access to this place and shed light on previously unexplored terrain.  For this mission, we hope to gather a team of adventurous scientists that are ready to enter the canyon and reveal its extraordinary value, before dam builders can set foot. 
  3. Nevesinjsko Polje: The Neretva basin is largely a Karst system, where underground hydrological connections are more a rule than an exception. Indeed, the closeby Zalomka River is part of the Neretva´s hydrological catchment: After ‘disappearing’ in the Biograd ponor, one of the largest sinkholes of the Dinaric region, water of the Zalomka River reappears in karstic springs forming the Buna and the Bunica rivers, both tributaries of the Neretva river.e. The sharp difference in elevation between Biograd ponor and springs of Buna and Bunica (app 760 m of elevation on a short distance of 20 km) makes it the fastest underground flow in the Dinaric karst according to some sources. An absurd hydropower project is on its way, capturing this water at the sinkhole, flooding Nevesinjsko polje, reducing the Buna and Bunica springs to an unknown minimal flow, and drying up unknown underground ecosystems. The idea is to investigate the importance of Nevesinjsko Polje, both for the biodiversity of the Polje itself, for the area around the springs that are fed from it, as well as for the hydrology of the entire Neretva Basin. Since this task is a huge challenge on its own, we aim to do preliminary investigations during  the NSW’23, which will be followed by underground missions in deep and demanding caves that are accessible only in driest periods of the year.

There would be space for a fourth and maybe fifth mission, and we are curious to hear about your ideas. 

CALL FOR EXPRESSION OF INTEREST

Are you a scientist that could contribute to the Neretva Science Week, either in one of the missions described above or in another mission? We would like to hear from you! Please send an email to scientists@balkanrivers.net and explain to us how you would contribute to one of the missions, or which additional mission you have in mind.

The scientists celebrating the intact and diverse Neretva River at the Ulog bridge.
The scientists celebrating the intact and diverse Neretva River at the Ulog bridge. © Vladimir Tadic

 

NERETVA SCIENCE WEEK 2022

The first Neretva Science Week took place from June 28th to July 4th. See the video below for an impression and head over to the preliminary results on this page. It was organised as part of the Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign, which calls for scientists to help protect important rivers, to collect data and also to speak up for saving the free-flowing rivers against dam projects in the Balkans. It followed the model of the Vjosa Science Weeks (see this video for an impression) and engaged local as well as international scientists in research on the Neretva and surrounding rivers, for this week, and in the long run

 

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