Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park and the Buna River Protected Landscape are subject to the intensive field work of vegetation data collection using phytosociological investigations to define the distribution and conservation status of the habitats and important plant species. At the same time, the Plant Ecology Unit is developing the Vegetation Map for the whole surface of the two protected areas.
The development of Vegetation Maps is an important step to take, as they represent a tool for the management and monitoring of the biodiversity status in two protected areas. First of all they are a powerful instrument for storing and visualizing the information gathered through the field work activities. They are also an important source of information per sé. Surface and fragmentation data (easy to calculate on the map) are important factors affecting the conservation status of habitats and should be carefully monitored: in general terms, small and isolated habitats are more sensitive to disturbance and thus potentially more at risk. Moreover animal species make use of the different plant communities in different manners and their extension and spatial arrangement is important to understand if wildlife can perform safely all their vital functions.
The vegetation maps of the two protected areas are being developed by the Plant Ecology Department of the University of Rome “Sapienza” under the supervision of the international plant expert Mr. Michele De Sanctis. They closely collaborate with the staff of the Forest District Service offices of Librazhd and Shkoder, in charge of aerial photos interpretation. The local collaborators received additional training on the open source GIS software QGIS. The aim was to learn the basic editing functions of GIS files, specifically the design and the insertion of information in the database associated with the graphic elements. They also learned how to identify different plant communities on digital ortophotos. The photointerpretation is checked by means of ground truthing carried out by the local collaborators on the points marked by the team during the previous field campaign. The maps should be finalized by August.
Prepared by Michele De Sanctis, IUCN and Mirjan Topi, PPNEA