Presentation of preliminary results and field trip to karstic caves in which research is taking place
Within the A2 action (analysis of existing situation), representatives of Municipality of Kočevje, Slovenia forest service (regional unit Kočevje), Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Nature Conservation, Karst Research Institute, representatives of LU Kočevje (Adult education center) and representative of TV Kočevje, gathered at Jezero tourist complex. After introductory presentation by Dr. Mitja Prelovšek, we headed to the field and observed the locations and entrances of some of the caves in which research is being done (Vodne jame – caves in Klinja vas, velika in mala Stankova jama – caves, Želnjske jame – caves and Remihov mlin – watermill).
Within the A2 action, Municipality of Kočevje is implementing activities, which include observing the existing situations in caves, which are known to have been inhabited by Olm (Proteus anguinus) in the past.
Within above mentioned activities, performed by the external staff of Karst Research Institute, physical and chemical analysis of the quality of the groundwater and biological inventory of the cave fauna is being done. In August they’ve completed the second series of sampling and processing of the preliminary results, which were presented to attending members of the press, project workers and project partners. After two more samplings/analysis the preliminary results will be used to interpret and evaluate whether or not the caves can provide suitable habitat for the target species – Olm.
The tour was accompanied by dr.Mitja Prelovšeks’ presentation of the state of some chemical and physical parameters of the groundwater for each of the caves, as well as species that inhabit them and estimated quantity of the waste that was uncovered. He also explained the options and the equipment that would be needed for restoration of the caves and restricting access to them.
We learned that quality of groundwater in Karst areas that are within the project’s area is still influenced heavily by the coal dust which has been leaking into the ground water for years due to intensive coal mining that took place in Kočevje and discussed the correlation between pollution of underground karst habitats and farming, mainly livestock and pig farming, forest management and private sheep and cattle farming
In search for optimal solution, the final conclusion of everyone present was, that we need to find a balance between protection of the environment and the reality of continued operation of the abovementioned stakeholders. All things considered though, it is of utmost importance, that within the LIFE Kočevsko project, besides successful execution of project activities, aimed at the underwater habitat and Olm, the target specie (cleaning, monitoring, restricting access, warning signs), we raise awareness of the general public trough various events, press articles and if necessary trough individual approach. Doing that we can reach longer lasting results and solutions.