Amphibian spring migrations
Scriptorium is located on the fertile plains east of the river Mura. Although the entire watershed of the river has been altered in the last century by extensive hydrotechnical works, and the majority of the land has been ceded to agriculture, there are still pockets and bands of swamps and marshes inhabited by rich and unique fauna and flora. Every spring, beginning in late February or early March, amphibians (frogs, toads and salamanders), who spend the winter dormant in isolated patches of forest between the fields, begin their migration to the oxbow lakes and ponds where they spawn. In their path, they frequently encounter roads where they are run over by traffic by the thousands and tens of thousands. In the past decade, a substantial drop in the size of some populations has been observed and others have disappeared altogether. My role is to walk the road on rainy nights, pick up the animals trying to cross it and carry them safely to the other side. In the nine years that I have been doing this, more than 40 volunteers have joined me in these efforts on just one critical location. However, there are only a handful of people in the whole region who have held steadfast for all these years and do what we can on the most critical segments, sometimes not being able to save more than one tenth of the animals. Last year, we finally started receiving attention from the responsible state institutions and have offered expert monitoring services of migrating amphibians, their reproduction and their habitats. These surveys are designed to establish the main corridors of amphibian migrations that form the basis for permanent road construction amendments, such as wildlife bridges and tunnels. We also work closely with educators and offer engaging field trips to elementary and high school students. (Photo: Franc Kosi)
MEASURES Project: ten countries unite for a common purpose
Managing and restoring aquatic ecological corridors for migratory fish species in the Danube River Basin:
Ten countries along the Danube (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine) joined forces in an EU-funded project to conserve endangered migratory fish species in the Danube river basin by identifying and improving access to habitats and promoting the establishment of ecological corridors.
Danube is home to some of the most endangered sturgeon populations. Bulgaria and Romania hold the only – still – viable populations of wild sturgeons in the EU. Taking sturgeons and other migratory fish species (e.g. shads, barbel, nase etc.) as flagship species for all migrants of international relevance in the Danube River Basin, MEASURES project wants to identify, map and connect the migratory fish habitats in order to protect and enhance these aquatic ecological corridors.
Two years and counting
In Scriptorium‘s second year of existence, a foundation of its second research focus – the genetic mechanisms of brain regeneration, using the tunicate Ciona intestinalis as a model, was laid.
Check out the project website with regular updates:
and the press coverage in slovene:
The study is part of a broader regeneration-themed research led by William Jeffery from the University of Maryland.
The second anniversary of Scriptorium is therefore celebrated by the successful accomplishment of both primary goals set at its inception:
Next station: a regularly employed assistant…
New project: endangered cave clam Congeria jalzici
The spring of the Krupa river in southeastern Slovenia is the site of one of the biggest ecological disasters in the Dinaric Karst. Between 1962 and 1984 dozens of tons of pure polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were dumped at the waste disposal sites and neighboring dolines by a local condenser factory. They were leached underground, and their concentration in spring water in the 1980s exceeded the US Environmental Protection Agency regulations by up to one thousand (Polič et al., 2000). The undegradable carcinogenic chemicals are still gradually released from the sediments into the groundwater and were detected in the tissues of the population of the olm (Proteus anguinus) residing in the aquifer (Pezdirc et al., 2011). The Krupa spring is also a presumed site of the very rare cave clam Congeria jalzici, although shells and not living animals were found in it (Hudoklin and Ilenič, 2012). Environmental DNA assay for Congeria is being developed to establish if a living population is present behind the spring and to survey the area for additional sites inhabited by the mollusk.
Environmental DNA in subterranean biology
Environmental DNA can be especially useful for determining the presence of animals living in groundwater. Moreover, the eDNA approach can be applied not only in biogeography and conservation of rare and endangered species, but it is efficient also in addressing questions in evolution and taxonomy of the cryptic subterranean fauna.
The importance of early detection
Follow our project
Through a glass darkly: assessing population size of an endangered cave salamander from samples of spring and cave water