Buljarica cove including islets Katic in Montenegro

Credit: Ursula Nordmann

The example illustrates the importance of CBD Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development in general and hopefully will be used as pilot project at regional, national and international level, following the structure of CBD Guidelines.

Buljarica is situated in the central part of Montenegrin coast between two hills and administratively belongs to the Municipality of Budva, the biggest cove at the Montenegrin part of the Adriatic coast with 2.250 m long sandy beach, a brackish marshland with 58 ha and hills and steep slopes of the Pastrovska gora, where the surface of its plain area is 300 ha. The total area of Buljarica cove including Pastrovska gora comprehends about 1.800 ha.

Near to Buljarica cove and in front of the small town Petrovac with 1.485 residents is the islets Katic known for its most relevant habitats and species, protected under EU Habitats Directive and the SPAMI Protocol of the Barcelona Convention (Protocol concerning specially protected areas and biological diversity in the Mediterranean).

Buljarica is one of the few remaining brackish marshes at the Adriatic coast and unique for its relatively well-conserved ecosystems and species. A major part of Buljarica cove exists as a wetland ecosystem, a habitat that is rapidly disappearing. In addition to the rich and diverse wildlife Buljarica has a population of about 200 people mainly active in extensive agriculture and tourism service.

On the other side, Buljarica area is under strong pressure mainly by construction plans for a marina, golf courses, hotels, and mixed-use tourism facilities. Such a development would destroy the natural values.

Laws, regulations, and plans

The shoreline of Buljarica (4 ha) is protected after national legislation since 1968. However, management or protection activities are lacking. 2006 Buljarica cove was designated as an Emerald Habitat under the Bern Convention and has also been included in the list of key sites in Montenegro for the Natura 2000 Network. It was recognized as a potential Important Bird Area (300 ha) because of the importance as a stopover for migratory birds. A study of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism proposed a wider area of the islet Katic encompassing Buljarica to be declared as Marine Protected Area (MPA). No MPA has yet been designated in Montenegro.

In the National Spatial Plan to 2020 (issued in 2008) Buljarica is listed as a Monument of Nature, but at the same time and contradictorily identified as an area with high potential for nautical and exclusive tourism development. And due to the Special Purpose Spatial Plan for the Coastal Zone until 2030, Buljarica could be transformed into a luxury tourist complex with villa resorts, marina, golf courses, and other tourism-related facilities.

The National Sustainable Development Strategy to 2030 identified Buljarica as a site of valuable biodiversity which leads to problems for the development of large touristic capacities and the National Strategy for Integrated Coastal Zone Management to 2030 defined Buljarica as an area with the greatest number of habitats of international importance.

Ecological aspects

Following the ecosystem-based approach, the biodiversity of Buljarica is grouped into three main categories of specific ecosystems.


Marine and coastal ecosystems:

Despite restricted time and resources 94 species of animals were recorded, among them, 16 are protected under national and international law. Concerning plants, Posidonia oceanica stands out as Mediterranean endemic and one of only a few marine flowering plants, highly important for forming microhabitats for numerous forms of life. At depths of 10 to 23 m Posidonia meadows are mainly well developed, dense and very rich with benthic species and fish, mixed with Sandbanks in the middle of the bay and Coralligenous habitats and reefs at its edges.

In the area of islets Katic the following habitats and species are observed and protected under Habitats Directive Annex I: Posidonia beds, reefs, submerged caves; Annex II: Tursiops truncates; Annex IV: all species of cetacea, Lithophaga lithophaga, Pinna nobilis; Annex V: Scyllarides latus. And under SPAMI Protocol Annex II: Posidonia oceanica, Cystoseira spp., Ophidiaster ophidianus, Litophaga litophaga, Pinna nobilis, Tonna galea, Hippocampus ramulosus, Tursiops truncates; Annex III: Scyllarides latus, Scyllarus arctus, Epinephelus marginatus.


Freshwater and brackish systems:

This category reflects the strongest need for conservation as brackish coastal marshland ecosystems suffer from various human activities. Up to now in Buljarica marshland exists beside numerous freshwater springs a rich flora and fauna. It is a hotspot for dragonflies (41) and butterflies (66 species), more than 40% and 61% of all species of these orders in Montenegro and the most numerous among 175 insects are registered here. Four of the 41 species of dragonflies have special significance: Cordulegaster heros, Cordulegaster bidentate, Caliaeschna microstigma and Lindenia tetraphylla. The first three species are assessed as Near Threatened at European level by IUCN. Cordulegaster heros and Lindenia tetraphylla are listed in Annexes II and IV European Habitat Directive. Regarding the fauna of butterflies and the 13 species of moths, the one with the highest conservation status is Euphydryas maturna, Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, presented in Annex II Habitat Directive and Appendix II Bern Convention. There are 12 species of aquatic bugs, 27 species of beetles and 16 species of grasshoppers and crickets.

11 species of amphibians were recorded in Buljarica, representing 79% of all Montenegrin amphibians, all listed in Appendices II and III of the Bern Convention, six in Annexes II and IV Habitat Directive and Pelophylax shqipericus is endangered after the IUCN Red List.

Buljarica is the best-preserved habitat for the Balkan terrapin, Mauremys rivulata, and the study identified 22 species of reptiles, again 61% of all reptiles present in Montenegro. All species are listed in Appendices II and III Bern Convention, 19 in Annexes II and IV Habitat Directive and four have an unfavorable status Near Threatened and Vulnerable after IUCN Red List. The presence of reptile species was recorded in all three ecosystem categories! The most important ecosystems for reptiles are maquis and Eastern white oak forests.

178 species of birds are identified, 93 are breeding here. Due to the limitations of resources only the status of possible breeders was given to 12 species. Most important are Eegyptian vulture, Neophron percnopterus, Griffon vulture, Gyps fulvus and Bonelli`s eagle, Aquila fasicata. Added migratory and or wintering species the bird taxa rises to 220-250. Buljarica belongs to the “Adriatic Flyway”. The conservation status of confirmed 178 birds, 39 are listed in Annexes I and II Birds Directive and four species have an Unfavourable Status on IUCN Red List.

A remarkable diversity of mammals was noted in two of the ecosystem types in Buljarica. Due to scarce capacities, marine mammal species can’t be surveyed. The most interesting group of mammals are seven species of bats, all registered on the Habitat Directive and Appendices II and III Bern Convention and also nationally protected. Miniopterus scheibersii and Rhinolophus hipposideros are assessed as Near Threatened by IUCN.


Terrestrial and karstic habitats:

In this category, 36 types of habitats (17 are protected) and 250 species of vascular plants can be found. Thermophilous oak woods, cliffs, and rocky outcrops naturally occurring. The forests were significantly exploited and degraded to maquis. Various inaccessible rocky formations provide shelter for many endemic and/ or relict species.

Identified threats

In May 2016 state-owned land has been offered for sale and/ or long-term concession in a state land tender process without first considering the protection status of the area. The planned drainage of the wetland and its urbanization would cause the disappearance of natural values of Buljarica cove and resources that are also providing economic safety for the local population. The loss of important marine habitats has a great influence on the sea ecosystem.

Besides this unplanned or illegal construction and active real-estate market caused by poverty, lack of knowledge and awareness of alternative sustainable development opportunities present another serious threat to the ecosystem of Buljarica.

Main factors for the ecosystem degradation through stress are: natural succession in cultural ecosystems, habitat fragmentation, low soil quality, changing of water interaction regime between sea and lagoon water, reduction of habitat area, decrease of species population size, eutrophication, untreated communal and illegal solid waste disposal

Development aspects

The village Buljarica is situated close to Petrovac settlement with a population of around 200 people in 67 households and together 230 apartments, according to the last census 2011. Buljarica consists of two units: in Buljarica I (387 ha) the land mostly belongs to private owners but in Buljarica II (1.316 ha) the situation differs and most of the properties belong to the state.

Tourism is already now the main occupation in Buljarica and seen as the biggest potential for economic growth. 50% of the residents practice agriculture for their own needs and the majority see in the combination of agriculture, tourism, and conservation or solely tourism the biggest development potential. The sea, the landscape, and clean water are considered as the most important natural resource in Buljarica, threatened by land selling trends, unplanned construction, pollution, harmful national and local planning policies. There is little knowledge about alternatives towards the typical sun and beach tourism offered at Montenegrin coast.

As a very old settlement with remains from Prehistoric Times Buljarica has a rich cultural heritage. Most important among several old churches is Gradiste Monastery and the most famous archaeological site is the rustic villa from Roman Times. Systematic archaeological researches have never been conducted in Buljarica except for excavations in Gradiste Monastery. You can also find traditional singing und music, legends, religious practices, and rituals and crafts.

Touristic development will be successful to the extent to which the landscape, cultural and ecological values of this area are preserved. Regardless of numerous problems Buljarica still has the potential that a well – preserved nature provides good opportunities for social and economic development.

Buljarica first sustainable development destination in Montenegro

The capital for the future of Buljarica is the beautiful landscape, the extremely rich biodiversity and the cultural heritage with Gradiste Monastery at the top. The local citizens of Buljarica and Petrovac should be proud of this unique wealth. For educational and informational reasons a non-technical summary of the study named in the title should be spread to all households in both communities. Regarding the specific value, Buljarica might become the first village in South-East Europe which takes the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) as the basis for its development. The CBD is beside the Framework Convention on Climate Change the most important and highly respected international treaty of the UN. The CBD strongly encourages participatory processes and the integration of local citizens and NGOs in decision making.

Above all, we need a bottom-up organization having enough capacities that are learning, planning, managing and leading the sustainable development agenda of the region. Most PAs in the Western Balkan are ineffectively managed and tourism needs to be in service of protection. Good governance principles are fundamental for any successful case. Consensus building being possible most rewarding for decision making. Management which includes those close to the resources and not centralized government organizations guarantees a participative and empowering process.

It is important to admit that resources for environmental protection are nowhere enough for implementing Aichi and other conservation targets. attracting and gathering all actors that can support the objective based on conservation is necessary.

In terms of monitoring and adjusting the planning and development, it is important to understand that the uncertainty, complex and changing are integral components of nature. It is not, which we often consider, something static and therefore it is vital to set biomonitor of the effects of our actions. Most projects have indicators on activity superior levels, but which resigns with the project goals, lacking to measure what effect this has on the ecosystem and its dynamics, the services they provide.


First goal: Protection of biodiversity

As already described at the beginning this part will be very brief. The island Katic and Buljarica cove should be declared as Marine Protected Area (MPA). The beach of Buljarica, apart from a few hundred meters at each corner because of an existing settlement, the marshland and a part of the mainland should be protected as Natura 2000 site. As a consequence, the camp at the beach should be reduced or even closed and the existing dam removed or at least interrupted at several places.


Second goal: Sustainable use

Buljarica should keep its typical characteristic as a small village with individual houses offering private accommodation, a few small hotels, guesthouses, and restaurants. Within the settlement, some new buildings may exist during the next years but the size of Buljarica should generally stay as it is. The introduction of solar energy for houses should be supported. Purification of wastewater is urgent and the existing illegal waste collection in some places and streets may no longer occur.

Gradually Buljarica could develop to an eco-village with walking, riding and biking trails and routes so that visitors can observe the beauty of nature and cultural heritage. Local tour guides offer hiking tours, visiting tours of the hidden hinterland. As a protected natural good the conditions for establishing health tourism are good. All these offers may establish quality tourism for the whole year and not only in summer times as it is now.

Organic farming can be excellently combined with nature protection and the products may be welcomed by tourists and local citizens. The abandoned land can systematically be re-used for agriculture. In private gardens and orchards fruits and vegetables could be produced in the same way. Bee-keeping, animal-keeping, fishery in form of aquaculture are further possibilities.


Third goal: Access and benefit-sharing

The valorization of biodiversity in Buljarica can start in a way that each adult visitor should pay an eco-tax of 0,50 EURO a day to a fund established by the local citizens. The income will be spent on capacity building of nature guides, waste management, infrastructure for walking and biking tours and even the restoration of monuments and churches. The local citizens may additionally establish a foundation or a community-based society that can buy continuously land owned by the state to use it for sustainable development. As already described at the beginning this part will be very brief. The island Katic and Buljarica cove should be declared as Marine Protected Area (MPA). The beach of Buljarica, apart from a few hundred meters at each corner because of existing settlement, the marshland and a part of the mainland should be protected as Natura 2000 site. As consequence the camp at the beach should be reduced or even closed and the existing dam removed or at least interrupted at several places.

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