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Northern Velebit National Park

Northern Velebit is the youngest of eight national parks in Croatia.It is this diversity of wildlife and landscape, to a large extent created by man, which was the main reason for setting up the Northern Velebit National Park.

Established in 1999, Northern Velebit is the youngest of eight national partks in Croatia. 

Northern Velebit National Park encompasses several areas protected earlier:Hajducki and Rozanski Kukovi, strict reserve, the  Visibaba botanical reserve – home to the endemic species Croatian sibirea, and the Zavizan-Balinovac-Velika Kosa botanical reserve which houses the well-known  Velebit Botanical Garden, which has been listed as a monument of landscape architecture. Northern Velebit National Park, together with Paklenica National Park and Velebit Nature Park, has been included in five European pilot-areas  as part of the Rewilding Europe project.

Northern Velebit National Park also signed the Bruxelles “Declaration on a European Network of Destinations of Excellence for Sustainable Tourism” committing to exchange information and experiences on the web portal created by the European Commission, participate in annual workshops and implement the actions and conclusions of the network, constantly exchange information and knowledge regarding tourism development programmes based on sustainable development.

Velebit is a mosaic of diverse habitats - forests, grasslands, rocks, screes and rare aquatic habitats. No element of this mosaic is completely independent from the others, because many species use more than one type of habitat. In addition, the boundaries between habitats are not clearly delineated, but merge into one another in transitional areas, which are often the richest in life forms. It may seem to us that this landscape has always been like this, however, the reality is quite different. Its present appearance is the result of a long development process and a multitude of influences. The landscape is not static, but continually changes depending on a number of factors that are often difficult or even impossible to predict.  The Park is predominantly covered by forest habitat (more than 80% of the total surface area). The main feature of mountain forest habitats is zonation - distribution in belts arranged according to altitude. With the increasing altitude, the climate becomes more severe, which is reflected in the plant cover or vegetation.  Although grasslands are a common feature of a mountain landscape, the climate in Velebit, much like that of other Croatian mountains, is not suitable for the development of natural pastures. In high mountains, grasslands occur in areas above the "upper forest line", at about 2100 meters above sea level in the Alps region. Croatian mountains are too low for the development of grasslands due to the impact of climate in the peak regions. Natural grasslands which are called  rudine, can sometimes be formed at lower altitudes as a result of specific local conditions such as the bora wind, which is what happens as well in the Northern Velebit National Park.   

The Park is also home to some very rare aquatic habitats, which are of crucial importance for aquatic organisms. The most important and interesting aquatic environment in the Park is a network of streams and creeks at Stirovaca, the only area in the Park with a water-impermeable ground layer, which contains the only source of drinking water and the only running water of the Park. There are several ponds (Borove vodice, Žive vodice, Lubenovačka ruja..) in the Park, either fully man-made or built around naturally occurring moist areas. Thanks to these ponds, water – a very sparse resource in Velebit, has become much more accessible to animals inhabiting the surrounding areas. As for aquatic residents in the waters of the Park, there is only a handful of fully aquatic algae, plants and very small animals, which can migrate on the bodies of birds and other animals that frequent the waters. Most of them spend only a portion of their life cycle in the water, while spending the remainder of their life on the ground or in the air, such as frogs and dragonflies, which allows them to inhabit these isolated habitats, "islands" of water in a "sea" of land of a very dry land habitat. Fish are not natural inhabitants of these tiny, isolated aquatic ecosystems, and if artificially introduced, they may significantly disturb, or even completely destroy, these delicate ecosystems.  

 

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