MAY 16 2018: On May 4th, Ohrid’s international conference on wetlands from the Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS) ended. Since then, we have had two weeks to review its message, impact and meaning for the future.
Here is the summary of the main moments from an Ohrid SOS perspective:
30 papers were presented, each containing the latest progress from the field of wetland science. Each has its own potential legacy, especially now that it has been shared with other experts, who can incorporate it within their existing knowledge. There is no way to measure just how important that can be.
At the same time, experts from SWS have promised to review the Ohrid SOS vision for the future of Lake Ohrid’s Studenchishte Marsh wetland as a protected area and nature tourism attraction. Their input will bring us closer to implementation, another exciting future path opening for the Ohrid region.
Nonetheless, the unveiling of The Declaration on the Protection of the Lake Ohrid Ecosystem stands alone in terms of significance. Unanimously adopted by all participating members of SWS’s 2018 conference, it has the power to change and improve the Ohrid region’s relationship with wetland habitats forever. There can be no greater legacy.
Most Original Research
An alternative to more conventional methods, one way to verify the depth of wetland pools is by falling into them, as explained by Macedonia’s own Dr. Slavco Hristovski, who has demonstrated the depth of those in Studenchishte Marsh by this very method…
Pic of the Future (Part 1)
As a member of the Society of Wetland Scientists nature-watches over the Studenchishte Marsh habitats, we foresee this lone nature-watcher soon becoming many as Lake Ohrid transitions to a model that places its unique flora and fauna at the center of the show.
The lack of Balkan scientists and papers at the wetland conference was noticeable and sad.
Two wetland scientists conducted a brief survey of Studenchishte Marsh and are currently writing up the report. The information contained will then be used to facilitate the wetlands’ designation as a Monument of Nature, and, together with Lake Ohrid, as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.
Presentations like those from Rory Harrington revealed how constructed wetlands can reduce pollution problems like those we face in the Ohrid region. Is this another insight into the future from #SWSEuro2018?
Moment of Drama
Scientist Kris Decleer captured this amazing shot of Studenchishte Marsh’s powerful nature in action during the SWS site visit!
Alenka Gaberščik explained how disturbances to the riparian zone create conditions favorable to invasive species.
This reminded us how the degradation of Lake Ohrid’s underwater habitats is gradually favoring cosmopolitan species over the world-unique ones that only exist in this tiny corner of our planet. The fear is that it will soon hand the advantage to non-natives too…
Moment of Gratitude
Ohrid SOS presented Prof. Dr. Jos Verhoeven with a special commemorative photo of Lake Ohrid and Studenchishte Marsh in recognition of his incredible efforts to protect their globally important habitats, ecosystems and species.
At the same time, we also presented SWS with a Certificate of Gratitude, thanking their members for speaking out for the Ohrid region when most others could only be heard by their silence.
Picture of the Future (Part 2)
Daniel Montagud of the University of Valencia revealed what restoration of Studenchishte Marsh might look like one day soon. Following work with Ohrid SOS’s own Dr. Apostolova, he also described how to make it happen.
“Let’s wake up our governments. Restoring wetlands is a win-win situation” — Kris Decleer neatly summed up what anybody who has researched wetlands in any depth must be thinking…
“I speak today as a representative of Ohrid SOS who will fight every government imposing crazy plans.” — Prof. Talevski makes it clear that we’ll be ready to defend Lake Ohrid and Studenchishte Marsh, whatever happens…
Moment of Hope
Although the Macedonian government is moving towards protection of Studenchishte Marsh, there have still been no guarantees of the size of the area to be set aside for nature. Moreover, there have been many broken promises of protection for Macedonian habitats (including Studenchishte) in the past.
However, Mayor Stojanoski of Ohrid Municipality said the right things with the two quotes below. We hope he now stays true to them, both in letter and in spirit.
“In our political program we clearly defined the protection of the marsh as our goal by the end of 2018.”
“The recommendations from the scientists have to be implemented. It is the only way to wise management.”
To see highlights of the SWS Europe Chapter 2018 conference hosted in Ohrid, please check #SWSEuro2018 via Twitter.