The Landscape Park Rački Ribniki-Požeg stretches out over an area measuring 484 hectares or some 1,200 acres. A good seventy percent of the park is covered by lush forests. Some parts of the park still remain an authentic freshwater woodland marsh, which makes them difficult to cross in spring and autumn. The dominant tree species include the European oak (Quercus robur), European alder (Alnus glutinosa), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), spruce (Picea) and birch (Betula). The humid environment is ideal for a number of mosses, including peat moss (Sphagnum), which can retain large quantities of water and only thrives in acidic marshy soils. Such soil, however, is less suitable for spruce that generally does not thrive well and is frequently attacked by the bark beetle (Scolytinae). This must surely be nature's way of telling us that this is no habitat for this type of tree, which, in contrast, prospers on the elevated slopes of the nearby Pohorje Massif. Another tree species preferring humid forest soil is the European oak. It is well known for its deep roots that support a thick trunk and large wide-spreading crown.
The park’s forests are home to copious animal species ranging from tiny insects almost invisible to the naked eye, such as butterflies, dragonflies and ants, to large mammals, such as deer. Visitors to the park are also frequently surprised by the number and variety of its songbirds. Walking in and around its forests, you will surely cross paths with some of them. Remember to be respectful and keep in mind that you are only visiting.
The Turn Ponds Forest Trail will take you to the very heart of the park. Discover its lowland forest, stroll by the ponds, encounter fascinating plant and animal species, and then rest on a bench, perhaps even climb a tree or simply take a breath of the fresh air and enjoy the pristine natural surroundings.
Find your inner peace, leave your worries behind, reconnect with nature and relax.
Majority of the Landscape Park Rački ribniki-Požeg area is covered with forest. The soil is sand-clay and mostly shallow, washed and acidified. Various forest communities thrive in the park, predominant on wet soils being alder trees. Pine forest with European alder (Alnus glutinosa) and mixed forest with oaks and European hornbeams (Carpinusbetulus) grow on humid soils.
However, forest communities are not always a good indicator of the true tree species composition. In the park's oak and European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) forest community, unlike the hornbeam, the Scots pine (Pinussylvestris), Norway spruce (Piceaabies), European alder (Alnus glutinosa) and European white birch Betulapendula are dominant.
The prevalent tree species in the park is oak, precisely the European oak (Quercus robur). In the early 19th century, majority of the forest complex, which today constitutes the Landscape Park, was most likely a common land or a pasture forest. At that time, oak was cut down for railway thresholds; a railway line still longitudinally crosses the Landscape park. Forest clearings were planted with spruce especially because of its fast vertical growth which makes it useful in construction and as a building material. Preparing bedding for animals was also done in those forests, until the 1980s.
Resin extraction is an old economic method, known already in antiquity. Resin is collected from living conifers (Pinophyta) through extraction from resin-rich wood and wood residue. In Slovenia, extraction of resin was first undertaken in the eastern region of Prekmurje and on the Drava Plain in 1930. After World War II it continued for at least a decade. The resin was extracted mostly from Scots pines (Pinussylvestris) and processed in the resin factory in Rače, which was later renamed to Pinus.
The resin extraction process has changed over the years, advanced methods were developed and with the improving resin quality the income also increased. In one season, about 1.5 kg of resin can be obtained from only one tree. Despite different methods of resin extraction, the core process involves cutting into the bark and widening the cut into different directions over time. The resin is collected in special pots. The most suitable are clay pots, because they slowly warm up. The pots are attached to the tree with a nail or a special attachment.
Resin can be used for many purposes. Crude resin is usually distilled to obtain turpentine, the more valuable part of resin and rosin as a residue, which is used for various purposes. Both materials are important in the production of glues, fragrances, disinfectants, paints and other similar products. Tree resin was an important raw material in the chemical industry, until the 1960s when oil and plastic mass products began to make their mark.
Over two hundred bird species have already been observed in the Landscape Park area, around eighty species can be seen in this forest. Most of them also build nests or peck into tree barks, creating a tree hollow, where they lay their eggs and, after they hatch, raise their young. Most common bird species in the forest belong to the titmouse (Paridae), finch (Fringillidae) and thrush (Turdidae) families. From the titmouse family, the most common are the great tit (Parus major) and the Eurasian blue tit (Cyanistescaeruleus), which is mostly found around oak trees. The other two common species are the marsh tit (Poecile palustris) and the long-tailed bush tit (Aegithalos caudatus). From the finch family, the most frequently encountered is the common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), whose song may be heard from the treetops from early spring to late summer. The thrushes (Turdidae) are also known for their loud songs. The common blackbird (Turdus merula) and the song thrush (Turdus philomelos) are the most numerous representatives of the thrush family. Bird species like the European robin (Erithacus rubecula) and the lesser-known Eurasian blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), that are dependent on the bush and herb vegetation are less noticeable. We must not forget prey birds. The forest provides a nesting place for the northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), the common buzzard (Buteo buteo) and its rare relative European honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus). The woodpeckers (Picidae) and their most common species the great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), take care of tree hollows. Rare species that nest in the Landscape Park, include the black stork (Ciconia nigra), the Ural owl (Strixuralensis) and the middle-spotted woodpecker (Dendrocoptes medius).
Insects are by far the most abundant and diverse animal species. Currently there are about million known species of insects, however, it is estimated that this may only be one tenth of their entire population. They inhabit both land and water, and can thus be found in all living environments, including the area of the Landscape Park. Insects here are ubiquitous, albeit much more rarely in the winter; and usually gain people’s attention when they disturb the nature's balance, e.g. when they cause material damage due to overbreeding. Particularly damaging insects are lice (Phthiraptera sp.), bed bugs (Hemiptera sp.), bark beetles (Scolytinae sp.), and flies (Diptera sp.). Insects that carry diseases and cause damage on food, such as mosquitoes (Culicidae sp.) and flies (Muscioidea sp.) are also harmful. Therefore, most people are not fond of insects. However, we must not forget that the class of insects also consists of colourful beetles (Cleoptera sp.), dragonflies (Anisoptera sp.), and even multi-hued butterflies (Lepidoptera). Unfortunately, we tend to forget that we are dependent on insects. Just think about beekeeping. Domestic bees (Anthophila sp.) not only give us honey and products like royal jelly and wax, but they also play an important role in pollination. Among nature’s other most important pollinators are wild bees (Anthoplia sp.) and bumblebees (Bombus sp.). Unfortunately, their number is declining due to extensive use of pesticides, and destructive human interventions in nature. Wild bees and bumblebees benefit from environmentally friendly management, late season mowing, high-trunk orchards, meadow hedgerows and placements of insect shelters.
The Turn Ponds
The Turn Ponds are located in the very heart of the Rački Ribniki-Požeg Landscape Park. There are three ponds named: the Turntajht, the Middle Turn Pond, and the Špic. These ponds are the oldest in this area and are divided by embankments. Extending on an area of 2.5 ha the Turntajht is the largest pond, while the Špic measuring less than 1 ha in size is the smallest. All three ponds serve the same purpose. In the past they were used for fish farming. Over time they have become interesting for flora and fauna due to extensive fish farming. Numerous animal species, from small water-dwelling insects, to birds which are the easiest to observe near the ponds, find shelter in rich lakeside and aquatic flora. To preserve rich plant and animal life, the diversity of lake’s shore including its water vegetation must be protected, by adapting the water discharge regime to all pond life. Fish species quantity and composition are also important for indigenous flora and fauna and shall be similar to that found in natural lakes. Research shows that the biomass of indigenous fish species should not exceed 400 kg/ha for undisturbed development of flora and fauna.
In appearance, the water clover (Marsilea qadrifolia) closely resembles the four-leaf clover (trifolium) but here the similarities end because the water clover belongs to the order of water ferns (Polypiidae). It is a permanent plant that can reach up to 15 cm in height. It grows in shallow waters with its leaves floating on the water surface or on land. The water clover has especially interesting leaf movement, because its leaves fold and rise in twilight. It reproduces by means of sporocarps that can be found on the base of the peduncle or the leaf stem, but only if the plant grows on land. The sporocarps mature in autumn. The water clover is a low-land species. It grows in humid and flooded areas, as well as in shallow ponds and reservoirs. Herbivorous fish species and unsuitable pond management are also endangering the water clover. In Slovenia it is an extremely rare species, growing only in two or three locations.
In Rački Ribniki-Požeg Landscape Park we can view 12 species of amphibians – 2 species of newts (Pleurodelinae sp.) and 10 species of frogs. We can come across them near the Turn ponds and the Grajevnik pond where they have important amphibian spawns.
Grown animals head into the water during the breeding season that lasts from the end of winter to the end of spring. The amount of time spent in the water depends on the species. The common European green frog (Pelophylax) spends the most time in the water, while the common European toad (Bufonidae) spends the least time in the water – only a few days. After the metamorphosis (from egg to larvae into young amphibian), the young animals leave the water habitat and spread across the land habitats. They have thin and permeable skin so it is important that their land shelters contain enough moist and food. Another important factor in the life of amphibians are their winter quarters that are appropriate places where amphibians spend half a year in a state of numbness.
The moor frog (Rana Arvalis) belongs to the brown frogs as well as to its close relative the common European grass frog (Rana Temporaria) and the agile frog (Rana Dalmatina) that also lives in the Landscape Park. In the breeding season we can easily distinguish the moor frog from other frogs due to its colour. However, males stay blue only for a short period of time, whereas females remain brown all year round. Moor frogs head into the water only on warm humid days, usually in March or April. They spawn in shallow waters. Males make quiet sounds during the day and night to attract females. Spawn is produced by several females at the same time. Similar behaviour can be observed with the common European grass frog. Therefore, individual clumps are compacted and form spawn pillows. The tadpoles metamorphose into land animals in mid-summer.
The Grajevnik Ponds
The Grajevnik Ponds are located on the edge of the Landscape Perk near the road to wet pond Požeg. There are four ponds that together measure around 3 ha. In the first two ponds there is no fish farming, so they are of great importance to flora and fauna. Here we can find diverse flora and fauna thriving in shallow waters, silt-like areas and waters without fish.
Among rare and endangered species we can find the yellow water-lily (Nuphar Luteum), the sedge (Carex Bohemica), the spikesedge (Elocharis Carniolica), the marsh seedbox (Ludwiga Palustris), and the water clover (Marsilea Quadrifolia). Spikesedge and the water clover are critically endangered in Europe and thus give the Grajevnik Ponds international importance. The most common animals here are non-vertebrates, whose most known representatives are water beetles (Dysticidae) and dragonflies (Anisoptera); and vertebrates, mostly represented here by amphibians.
We must not forget the ponds surroundings. In the forest we can find nesting rare bids species including the black stork (Ciconia nigra), the nocturnal Ural owl (Strix uralensis), and several other bird species. The forest provides shelter not only to birds, but to all amphibians during their life on land as well. Here also grows the rare giant orchid (Epicactis Nordeniorun) which belongs among other Orchidaceae that grow in undergrowth of flooded forests or near the ponds.
Prey birds and owls
As many as 34 species of prey birds, and 11 species of owls were observed in Slovenia. Thirteen of those prey bird species and ten owl species also nest in Slovenia. In the Landscape Park Rački ribniki-Požeg, sixteen species of prey birds and five species of owls were spotted.
Seven species of prey birds nest in the park either regularly or occasionally, moreover three owl species nest in the park, while the other two nest in the nearby villages.
The rarest prey bird that occasionally nests in the park is the black kite (Milvus migrans), and the rarest owl is the ural owl (Strix uralensis), which was first spotted nesting here a couple of years ago.
During spring and autumn migrations, harriers, particularly the western marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus), travel across the park.
From time to time, the biggest European prey bird—the white-tailed eagle (Haliaetus albicilla) makes its appearance, causing panic among water birds. It is even possible that the White-tailed eagle nests right here in the Landscape Park.
Flying above the water and diving into it, there is another prey bird that catches our attention in spring—the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), which preys on fish.
Botanical Garden Tal 2000
Sheltered by the forest, at the edge of the Landscape Park Rački ribniki-Požeg, is a smaller but incredibly diverse botanical garden, which offers a habitat to several animal species.
The botanical garden is famous for its high number of autochthonous water plants, likely the highest in the country.
Some incredibly rare plants are found here, like four leaf clover (Marsilea quadrifolia), e. carneolica (Eleocharis carniolica), pillwort (Pilularia globulifera), water soldier (Stratiotes aloides), broadleaf arrowhead (Sagittaria sagittifolia), all species of cattail (Typha latifolia), to name but a few.
The botanical garden holds two important terrestrial vegetation collections, those of poisonous and medicinal plants. A small collection of stones and minerals can be viewed there as well. The garden is home to colourful dragonflies, amphibians, birds, and bats. Nest boxes and bat boxes provide a safe and comfortable environment for birds and bats. The botanical garden also offers a fun experience for children in its two theme parks, where children can learn about Percival—King Arthur's legendary Knight of the Round Table. Contact information: phone: +386 41 572 358, website: www.atropa.si, FB: Botanični vrt Tal 2000
Dragonflies These colourful insects are fantastic flyers. People often feel intimidated by them, whether due to their size or their name. However, you need not worry. They are completely harmless to people. From a total of 5.000 species of these magnificent aerialists that exist in the world, a good 70 can be found in Slovenia, which represents about a half of all the species extant in Europe. Because of its numerous habitats, the Landscape Park is an ideal environment for dragonflies. It is not a coincidence that various species of dragonflies find their niches right here in the park. They inhabit not only the water surfaces but also the hinterland, such as meadows, hedgerows, forest clearings, and woodland edges. Some two thirds of dragonflies that live in Slovenia were observed in the Landscape Park. Some critically endangered species, which are threatened with extinction not only in Slovenia but also on a European scale, have been spotted around here as well. These include the spotted darter (Sympetrum depressiusculum), the brown hawker (Aeshna grandis), the hairy dragonfly (Brachytron pratense), and the large white-faced darter (Leucorrhinia pectoralis).
The most abundant animal group on the planet!
According to the number of different species, beetles are by far the most numerous group of insects and the largest group of living organisms on Earth. There are between 350,000 and 400,000 beetle species, representing almost a quarter of all known animals. They are a very diverse group that can be found in almost all ecosystems.
The majority of beetles live on land, while some species spend most of their life underwater. With the exception of the sea, water beetles inhabit various aquatic environments. The well-known water beetle families are the predatory predaceous diving (Dytiscidae) and whirligig beetles (Gyrinus). Most water beetle species live in preserved stagnant and shallow waters with rich aquatic vegetation, which offers protection from predators, especially fish.
Thus far, 13 species of water beetles have been encountered in the Rače Ponds. The most common among larger species is the great diving beetle (Dytiscus marginalis). Also, the ponds were once home to the very rare medium-sized water beetle Graphoderus bilineatus. Whether the species still lives here or have people perhaps already altered their habitat too much is unknown.
How can beetles live underwater?
A beetle’s body shape is adapted to the aquatic environment. It is flat and oval-shaped, which reduces resistance while swimming. Beetles swim using their fringed hind legs, which are covered with thick and long swimming hairs. They can also fly due to their membranous-hind wings, which are folded under their wing covers. This enables them to find a new aquatic habitat.
While underwater, beetles breathe a supply of oxygen, which they carry in the air bubble under their wing covers. After consuming all the air, they push their abdomen up thorough the water surface and take in a new supply of atmospheric oxygen into the bubble.
Larger water beetles inhabiting the the Landscape Park Rački ribniki-Požeg encompass predaceous diving beetle (Cybister lateralimarginalis) an endangered and protected species.
Did you know …
That there are about 8,000 species of beetles in Europe? According to the number of beetle species, Slovenia is extremely diverse: since there are about 6,000 species living in Slovenia. That ladybug, bark beetles, stag beetles and many others are most familiar to the general public are. Do you know any other beetle?
That water beetles represent one of the biggest groups of aquatic animals on Earth, because they encompass more than 10,000 species?
That predaceous diving beetles are the biggest predators among invertebrates in the water? The larvae of the largest predaceous water beetle can grow up to 6 cm, while the smallest water beetles in Slovenia measure only 2 mm.
That water beetles are good indicators of the water quality? They are very sensitive to environmental changes. If their water population is immense, the water is not contaminated and has a good natural balance. If we place too many fish in the water, they can consume all the aquatic plants, and this can severely affect flora and fauna habitats.
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