How Balkan botanists saved an endangered oak and planted hundreds extra
The saying "Mighty oaks grow from tiny acorns" is often used in reference to the ambition of Henry Ford, whose automaker empire began with hundreds of factories and hundreds of thousands of employees from a single humble beginning. With great irony, young ecologists from the Balkans in their endeavor to save an endangered subspecies of the oak were inspired by the same sentence: They have not only collected over 20,000 acorns and want to plant them in forests, but also successfully for the Protection of a single monumental tree was put in place – which resulted in a new road being diverted.
In Montenegro, Skadar oaks grew Quercus robur ssp scutariensis are single individuals or small remnants of what were once huge oak forests with ancient growth that were an integral part of the floodplain zones of Lake Skadar and the surrounding river systems. These endemic oak forests also became some of the earliest human settlements as oak was a great source of warmth and building material. Then came agriculture and urbanization and the rest is history.
Today the remaining oaks are which can be easily recognized by the long 3 cm long stems of their acorns have a monumental value – both ecologically, e.g. as home to hundreds of species and culturally, as places where family and friends can gather and tell old stories, or as healing properties of their bark. And if you were forced to reduce such an amazing being to its monetary value, studies show that one of these oaks in your garden accumulates 1.7 tons of CO2 per year, binds 1.36 kg of air polluting particles and saves 1.460 kWh of energy.
Give early botany experts by Crnogorsko Društvo Ekologa, the Montenegrin Ecologists Society (MES), who recognized the uncertain future of this tree and received the inventory and restoration from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund *. As part of a new generation of plant conservationists in the area, they have managed to collect an incredible 20,000 acorns this season, which they estimate will be enough to produce at least 10,000 seedlings. Thanks to the great dedication to local landowners and volunteers, MES found many notable individuals as well as important forest areas in four important areas of biodiversity: Skadar Lake, Buljaric, Delta Bojana and Zeta River (where the tree is a symbol of the recently declared Zeta) River nature park).
One consequence was the discovery This one old oak was to be felled for a new road construction. MES acted quickly, drew the local media's attention and saved the tree. Pedunculate oaks in the region have long been a respected symbol of strength, power, longevity, and spiritual and material wealth. Now, when cars drive by, this tree stands as a lonely, courageous symbol against many external pressures on the environment of Montenegro. No acorns were produced that year, but acorns were collected just a few miles away from specimens, indicating that the area was once a contiguous forest community.
MES will start planting next year – Strengthening of existing forests, planting in school playgrounds, restoring private land where old forests once existed, and high hopes of planting agricultural land as well. Locals exposed to MES awareness work are already interested in planting oak trees in their gardens. So when you start saving a species, keep in mind that with the right ambition, one oak tree can be enough to plant over 100 acres of forest – and divert a road. One wonders what Henry Ford would have thought about it …
* The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of the Française de Développement agency, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Japanese government and the World Bank. Additional small grants for the Balkans sub-region were made available by the MAVA Foundation. A fundamental goal is to ensure that civil society is committed to conserving biodiversity.
CEPF is more than just a financing provider
A dedicated Regional Implementation Team (RIT) (local experts) directs funding to key areas and even the smallest organizations. Building civil society capacity, improving conservation outcomes, strengthening networks and sharing best practices. In the biodiversity hotspot of the Mediterranean basin, the RIT is entrusted to BirdLife International and its partners: LPO (BirdLife France), DOPPS (BirdLife Slovenia) and BPSSS (BirdLife Serbia).