Sometimes we get so excited about the ecosystem services of Studenchishte Marsh like carbon lock-up and water filtration, we forget just how amazing it is for biodiversity too. From charismatic animals to carnivorous plants, the wetland doesn’t just do logistics for the Lake Ohrid party. In many ways, it’s the star of the show.
Stroll by Studenchishte as the evenings get warmer, and the soundtrack to your steps will doubtless be sung by a jovial frog choir–perhaps not your first choice for beauty, but certainly one of the most enthusiastic songs you’re ever likely to hear. It’s a different kind of tunefulness, whose harmony goes way beyond music. It’s the signature of the wetland.
And the wetland has many surprises. Take the Macedonian crested newt, a punky amphibian that can only be found in the central Balkans. Recently raised to species level, it’s a neat metaphor for the spicy mix of natural and cultural life in South East Europe, and a proud resident of Studenchishte, where its neighbors include the fire salamander, a species that can regrow a leg if it carelessly loses one!
If amphibs are not your thing, you may find the wetlands’ 50 species of birds more eye-catching. Herons, ibises, godwits, warblers, grebes, ducks, cormorants, swans and kingfishers all make up the mix at various times of year, and share the skies with a glittering array of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies, some of which are of international conservation interest.
These winged wizards swoop and soar among wily and playful mammals such as otters, foxes, polecats and pine martens, while rare reptiles like the four-lined snake slither on their solitary hunting paths and the occasional European pond turtle plods past in search of worms, frogs, insects and fishes for a tasty meal. On its journey, perhaps it will even meet one of the mysterious beetles that have been discovered in this location, yet nowhere else in Macedonia.
Diving with the turtle into Studenchishte’s waters sadly reveals far fewer fish than it would have done 100 years ago. Disruption of water channels prevents species such as carp from breeding in the wetland nowadays and restricts entry to the famed Ohrid trout, which once used to journey here.
Nonetheless, the channel that borders the marsh to the north still reports many native Lake Ohrid fish, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth. Such uniqueness is mirrored in the invertebrate world of Studenchishte, which hosts several more Ohrid exclusives.
Whether feathered or furry, slimy or scaled, all of Studenchishte’s myriad animals are weaved within a floral pastiche that continues to support populations of plants that have died out elsewhere in the region. These are under huge pressure, yet one or two refuse to give up on their right to live.
They prove the power of this enduring Lake Ohrid wetland.