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Livno karst field and Busko lake
Bosnia and Herzegovina
16o 46.39' East 43o 53.32' North
A4iii, B1i, B2, B3
699 - 991m
Year of IBA assessment
Summary The largest karst depression in the Dinaric karst and perhaps the largest periodically flooded karst field in the world. The site comprises seasonally flooded agricultural land and alluvial forest, seasonal marshes and pools, permanent streams, karst springs and sinkholes, and the largest peatland in the Balkans. Together with the Sava wetlands, it is the most important wintering, migration, and breeding site for waterbirds and raptors in the country and a key site of the Central European Flyway. The polje is important for the identity of the local community of Livno, well-known for its traditional cheeses, and for a wide range of recreational pursuits. Threats include water extraction for energy production, a planned coal-fired thermoelectric plant, and unsustainable peat excavation. Ramsar site no. 1786. Most recent information: 2008.
Site description From Ramsar Information Sheet (2007):
The entire Dinaric karst covers 70,400 sq km, within some 130 of its karst fields covering only 1,350 sq km (Bozicevic 1992). Livanjsko Polje is the largest karst polje in the Dinaric karst (410 sq km). Besides, little is known that Livanjsko Polje is the largest periodically flooded karst field in the world (Ritter-Studenicka & Grgic 1971). It has permanent streams, sinkholes, estavellas and karst springs above (Bistrica waterfall) ore at the polje level (e.g. Sturba, Zabljak). A series of temporary streams (e.g. Jaruga, Plovuca) and karst lakes (Mali and Veliki Zdralovac – big and small “Crane Swamps”) is present, too. Although the southern part of the polje is used for energy production, it is still regularly flooded on 230 sq km – 60% of its surface (55 sq km big Busko reservoir as the former flooded area not included). The diversity of its fauna and flora, as well as the size of the wetlands habitats are exceptional for the Dinarides and even the nearest (30-40 km) eastern Adriatic. The position of Livanjsko Polje, as the largest peatland in the Balkans, is remarkable as well. A brief history of the polje from its discovery by naturalists to the present day and the main human impacts can be summarized as follows:
After 1871, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy began to carry out an extensive research into Bosnia and Herzegovina by its naturalists. In 1888, for example, it was visited by Othmar Reiser, who in his famous work Ornis balcanica eventually gave (in 1939) the first ornithological and brief botanical description of Livanjsko Polje (Reiser 1939). In the same year, “Tusnica Coal Mines” began to operate near Livno (black and brown coal) and peat began to be excavated at a small scale. Extensive water regulation plans for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s karst fields were made (Ballif 1896) and the first works in the peatland area south of Livno (called Jagma) started in 1887 (Vlahinic 1986). In the 1970s, a large-scale pet excavation started in Zdralovac – northern part of the polje (Obratil 2006). In 1973, Busko reservoir (55 km) with canals and Lipa accumulation was built in the south-eastern part of the polje. In the same year, the Orlovac power plant in Croatia was also built. During and after the last war (1991 – 1995), human use of the polje was heavily reduced (e.g. minefields). However, several new destructive projects for Livanjsko Polje are being prepared.
Together with the transboundary Sava wetlands and its Ramsar sites Bardaca (BiH), Crna Mlaka (HR) and the Nature Park Hutvo Blato (BiH), Livanjsko Polje is the most important wintering, migration and breeding site for waterbirds and raptors in Bosnia and Herzegovina – it is in fact the keysite of Central European Flyway. One of the most fascinating facts is that that the polje is surrounded by little (extensive grazing) or no human impacted karstland. Dry grasslands, peatland pastures, marshes, wet meadows and alluvial forest (!) form, on the basis of the water gradient, the characteristic polje landscape. The woodlands of Livanjsko Polje are the largest karst alluvial forests. The most important ecological features of Livanjsko Polje is the fact that in the very same year it is possible to catch fish and to mow the meadows in the same place! For centuries, Livanjsko Polje has had a significant impact on the people and Livno Council. The famous Livno cheese (livanjski sir) was a trademark and a very expensive product before the last war – it was simply the best karst cheese in the world and an indicator of the extensive meadow and pastureland preservation. The south-eastern part (Busko Blato) has been transformed to an reservoir.
References Stumberger, B., Schneider-Jacoby, M. and Gotovac, M. (2007) Ramsar Information Sheet for Livanjsko Polje. Available onlline at: http://ramsar.wetlands.org/Database/Searchforsites/tabid/765/language/en-US/Default.aspx
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BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Livno karst field and Busko lake. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 29/11/2015
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife