Most of the terminology to describe Lake Ohrid, Studenchishte Marsh and Mount Galichica is simple, but one or two words and phrases might be unfamiliar. Here’s all you need to know to speak about the Republic of Macedonia’s masterpieces of nature with authority.
ANCIENT LAKE: These are rare inland waters that have existed continuously since before the last glacial period 120,000 years ago. Typically, ancient lakes are inhabited by large numbers of species. As one of the most biodiverse lakes on Earth, Ohrid is a prime example. So are Lakes Baikal, Biwa, Malawi and Titicaca.
APEX PREDATOR: An apex predator eats others but is not eaten itself. Consequently, it has a crucial role in ordering food webs. Apex predators are thought to offer multiple benefits to ecosystems. At Ohrid-Prespa in Macedonia, examples include the brown bear, grey wolf, Balkan lynx and eagle owls.
BALKAN ENDEMIC: Any species referred to as a Balkan endemic can only be found in the Balkan Peninsula and nowhere else on our planet. Many such flora and fauna inhabit the Ohrid region. Take the Balkan Lynx, for example.
EBRD: EBRD is the acronym for the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. Despite frequently congratulating itself for green achievements, its insensitive behavior in Macedonia has been threatening two national parks. In Mavrovo, only the Bern Convention could prevent the bank investing in a project that would risk destroying the major breeding area for the Balkan lynx, one of the rarest big cats in existence. It’s attempt to fund an express road through National Park Galichica was ultimately blocked by UNESCO.
ECOSIGN MOUNTAIN RESORT PLANNERS: Another company that likes to big up its green credentials while targeting national parks and wilderness areas for large-scale resort construction is Canada’s Ecosign. Frequently working in countries where various intimidation inhibits environmental opposition, Ecosign has designed a ski-resort for the Republic of Macedonia’s National Park Galichica.
ENDEMIC SPECIES: An endemic species is a kind of plant or animal that only exists in a certain geographical area. On the Ohrid SOS website, we often refer to endemics, because much of Lake Ohrid’s flora and fauna cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The Ohrid sponge and Ohrid trout are great examples.
LAKE PRESPA: To the east of Lake Ohrid, on the other side of Mount Galichica, is Lake Prespa. Not only does it contain yet more world-unique species, but it also supplies water to Ohrid through underground channels that run through the mountain. Incredibly, almost half of all European bird species can be seen here.
LAKE SHKODRA/SKADAR: On the border of Albania and Montenegro is another superb lake with great importance for European nature, particularly birds. Named Shkodra in Albania and Skadar in Montenegro, it is connected to Lake Ohrid via the River Crn Drim. Dams disrupt that link now, but there is still an overlap in species composition. Unfortunately, Lake Skadar is also threatened by irresponsible developments.
OHRID TROUT: Probably the most famous of Ohrid’s world-unique species, Ohrid trout (Salmo letnica) was once so prized that power-people in the Ottoman empire had it delivered all the way to Istanbul. Right now, overfishing and pollution are pushing it to extinction.
RAMSAR: The Ramsar Treaty is an international agreement that looks to identify the world’s most important wetlands and ensure their wise use. To become a Ramsar Site, a wetland must fulfill at least 1 of 9 criteria. Lake Ohrid is believed to meet 7, yet still it has not been designated despite being on the shadow list for 30 years!
REACTIVE MONITORING: When UNESCO believes that a World Heritage Site may lose the features that give it Outstanding Universal Value to all humankind, it instigates a special state of conservation assessment. This is part of the procedure by which a site can be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Due to concerns over threats to the Ohrid region, a Reactive Monitoring Mission headed by experts from the IUCN, ICOMOS and World Heritage Center visited the Ohrid region in April 2017. Its recommendations for project cancellations and a construction moratorium broadly agree with Ohrid SOS.
REFUGIUM: Certain specific geographical areas enable plants and animals to survive when climate or environmental factors cause them to be unable to live elsewhere. Several such refugiums exist in the Balkans, and research suggests that the Ohrid region contains them.
RELICT SPECIES: When a formerly widespread plant or animal dies out in most of its range but continues to live in a certain few areas, it is known as a relict. The Ohrid region’s Studenchishte Marsh has historically been a habitat for relict plants, while parts of National Park Galichica hold relicts from glacial periods too.
RIVER SATESKA: Between the towns of Ohrid and Struga lies the River Sateska, which was artificially channeled into Lake Ohrid in the 1960s. It has since become a major source of sediments and nutrients to the detriment of endemic and native species.
Cover Pic: Kliment A.