Karavasta Lagoon Ecosystem
- Albania -
Photo: © RAPA Fier
Karavasta Lagoon Ecosystem designated as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site) under the Ramsar Convention on 31-10-1995.
The area of Divjake-Karavasta National Park is considered to be one of areas with specific natural and biodiversity values. The area has continuously been the subject of studies and researches in the framework of several projects realized in the past two decades. The main habitats of the Divjake-Karavasta National Park consist of Karavasta lagoon, Godulla around it, the old river beds of Semani and Shkumbini, the water collectors of Terbufi and Myzeqeja, the agriculture reservoirs and agricultural lands, forests along the riversides of the Semani and Shkumbini rivers, and Mediterranean pine forest.
The area is one of the most preferred places in the coastal zone of Albania for beach tourism, ecotourism, recreation, research and studies. In the Divjake-Karavasta National Park area there are coastal sand dunes up 4-6 m. The sandy belt along the coastline is completely bare of vegetation, while the sand dunes close to forest formations are covered by plant vegetation. Karavasta lagoon is the biggest and the most important lagoons of the Adriatic coasts together with other godullas created in this area.
The lagoon’s catchments area is small, but it is also surrounded by some artificial dikes separating the lagoon from drained agricultural lands. There are two big water collectors which divide the agricultural land inside the area of DKNP, bypassing the lagoon. The lagoon communicates with the sea through three channels: the first channel is linked with the sea through the External godulla, the second channel, too, located close to the fishing centre, communicates with the sea through the External godulla, and the third channel, located close to the dike separating the godulla from agricultural lands, communicates with the sea through the same godulla.
Along the dunes strip which divides the lagoon form the sea, the Divjaka beach is around 50-200 m wide and 5 km long, in harmony with the Mediterranean Pine Forest.
Flora of the DKNP in found in forest plant associations such as Pinus pinea L. with Myrtus communis L., where a wild type of pine tree Pinus halepensis associated with shrubs is found; the association Pinus pinea L. with Carpinus orientalis L. is associated with Pinus halepensis and shrubs; the association Pinus pinea L. with Erica arborea L., including Pinus halepensis L. with Juniperus nana L., Myrtus communis L., Philyrea angustifolia L., etc.; and the association Pinus halepensis L. with Juniperus nana L. including Pinus pinea L. and other shrub species etc.
The Karavasta lagoon and the surrounding area is the most important ecosystem for water birds. Karavasta lagoon harbours the only coastal breeding site of Dalmatian Pelicans (Pelecanus crispus), a globally threatened species. For some of the species the area represents a very important breeding site for more than 30% of their breeding population in Albania. This is the case of the Dalmatian Pelican (100%), Oystercatcher (75%), Collared Pratincoles (53%), Redshank (62%), Common Sandpiper (32%), Yellow-legged Gull (67%), Common Tern (59%) and Little Tern (46%). The Divjake-Karavasta National Park area is even considered as the area of the Emerald network according to the Bern Convention “For conservation of European wildlife and nature habitats” and Important Bird Area (IBA).
The site is regularly inhabited by seven species of global conservation concern:
- Common Pochard (Aythya ferina) – Regular wintering bird considered as Vulnerable by IUCN. The average number for 1993-2020 is c.325 individuals. Min 24 ind. Max 1325 ind.
- The Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga) – Regular wintering bird considered as Vulnerable by IUCN with at least 1-2 specimens in the past five years of 2015-2020.
- Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) – Wintering bird considered as Vulnerable by IUCN, observed in 2017 with 3 wintering individuals.
- Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca) – Wintering bird considered as Vulnerable by IUCN, observed respectively in 1995 and 1996 with one specimen.
- White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) – Wintering bird considered as Endangered by IUCN. Observed in 1995 with 4 individuals.
- Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) – Resident bird in the Mediterranean considered as Vulnerable by IUCN. Regularly observed at the coast of the Ramsar Site.
- Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) – Regularly breeding bird considered as Vulnerable by IUCN. Present in the area with c. 100-150 breeding pairs.
The ecosystem has an added value with the presence of some plant endemic species such as: Aster albanicus subsp. paparistoi, Orchis albanica in the form of hybrid Orchis x paparistoi, Orchis albanica x O.coriophora. In the Divjake-Karavasta area is found the Hydrocotyle vulgaris, as well as Dryopteris filix-mas, and Adiantum capilus-veneris (J. Vangjeli et al. 1994).
Provisioning Services – Food for humans
Sustenance for humans (e.g., fish, molluscs, grains)
Regulating Services – Maintenance of hydrological regimes
Flood control, flood storage
Cultural Services – Recreation and tourism
Nature observation and nature-based tourism
Cultural Services – Scientific and educational
Educational activities and opportunities | Important knowledge systems, importance for research (scientific reference area or site)
The majority of residents of the Divjake-Karavasta National Park area live in Divjaka. The area is well known for its natural beauty and diversity, old civilization and economic, natural and historic significance. The main income generating activities include:
- Agricultural activities and farming (crops, vegetables, fruits, cereals, etc.);
- Livestock raising (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses)
- Fishing (Karavasta lagoon and its three canals, Semani river, Adriatic Sea)
- Tourism (Karavasta lagoon, Divjaka beach, Divjaka hills
The crops that are produced include: cereals, potatoes, beans, different vegetables and fruits, olive oil, wine, milk and meat products, honey, leather, wool, etc., which meet local consumer needs and provide some supply at national level. The breading of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses and donkeys is a traditional way of life for local communities, and there are several breeds of domestic animals in the area.
Fishing is an important activity and a significant source of income for several villages along the coast of the Karavasta lagoon, the Semani river and the Adriatic Sea. Fishing supports many livelihoods in a commercial capacity and for subsistence use.
Religious or symbolic importance, historical/archaeological sites, social relations with the wetland:
- Archaeological site of Arnisa is an ancient Illyrian city from the Iron Age (IV-III).
- Saint Thanasi Church in Karavasta was built in 1778.
- Saint Nicholas church at Xeng Village is a Byzantine-style church built during the 18th century (1776).
There is a visitor center near the park offices.
In the Divjaka-Karavasta National Park there are various activities for visitors: nature walks, bird watching, boating, cycling, guided horse riding, sport fishing, and a 360-degree view from the observation tower.
Law Nr. 81/2017 for (Protected Areas)
Management Plan of NPDK
Threatened/rare species management programmes
Communication, education, participation and awareness activities
Factors adversely affecting site
Tourism and recreation areas
Housing and urban areas
Drainage | Water abstraction
Development of agriculture
Hunting and collecting terrestrial animals
Gathering terrestrial plants
Logging and wood harvesting
Fishing and harvesting aquatic resources
Invasive non-native / alien species
Garbage and solid waste
Yes, the Ramsar Site has a management plan, approved in 2014 and valid up to 2024.
Latest updates: February 2022