ljubljansko barje


Ljubljansko Barje, this almost 160 square kilometres large plain, originated some two million years ago through the sinking of an extensive area of the Ljubljana basin. Consequently, the local rivers deposited huge amounts of shingle and sediments there, virtually damming the Ljubljanica river where it joined the Sava and inundating the entire Barje basin at the same time. Some 6,000 years ago, the Barje lake dried up, leaving a marshy plain in its place. In its greater part, layers of peat were formed, in places even up to 9 metres thick.

Although this boggy area was in no way an ideal environment for people to settle there, numerous archaeological finds speak of the fact that the area of Ljubljansko Barje had been inhabited from the very Copper Age onwards. This was the time of the prominent pile dwellings as well as of highly developed, technologically advanced and with wider European environment linked cultures, whose pottery and copper artefacts still astonish the lovers of everything beautiful.

The regular floods at Ljubljansko Barje are the reason for centuries long attempts to drain the area. The first that tried to curb and reclaim the Barje were the Romans, who built the first road across it and regulated the course of the Ljubljanica river in order to transport the Podpeč marble along it for the needs of building the city of Emona (the present-day Ljubljana). The attempts to drain the land became more intensive in the 16th century, when first channels and canals were built. The most notable, although not particularly successful, was the work of Gabriel Gruber at the end of the 18th century. The persistent attempt to drain the land, deepening the beds and channels, pulling down the dams on the Ljubljanica river and building new drainage channels brought first success in the first half of the 19th century, when the water level subsided enough to proceed with the planned colonisation and tilling of the Barje plain. But the fact was that it was the digging and sale of peat that was bringing more money than agriculture! The exploitation of peat caused the ground to subside and this in turn brought new floods. The struggle to drain the Barje continued until the mid-twentieth century, when the idea of creating "the granary of Europe" finally died down even in the most stubborn heads.

It is almost a miracle that in spite of all the above-mentioned attempts, nature managed to remain exceptionally diverse till this very day. The cohabitation of people and nature created a unique and highly diverse cultural landscape, an endless mosaic of meadows, litter woodlands, fields, ditches and hedges. This interlacement of different habitats is home to many plants, birds and insects that can rarely be still seen elsewhere in Slovenia in Europe. Although the Barje plain covers only 1 % of Slovenia's territory, it is the breeding site of about a half, i.e. more than 100, of all Slovene bird species. Grassland birds, such as Corn Crake, Whinchat, Eurasian Curlew, Stonechat and Common Quail, still persist at their grassland nest-sites, but the fight against huge agricultural machinery has unfortunately already been lost by the Hoopoe, Common Snipe, Lesser Kestrel, Lesser Grey Shrike, Short-eared Owl and Montagu's Harrier.

Along water surfaces and in the extensively farmed and relatively late in the year mown meadows we can see some rare butterflies and gaily coloured dragonflies. This boggy environment is a good shelter for amphibians and the very rare European Pond Terrapin.

At Ljubljansko Barje, nature could have followed the changes caused by man and his activities for thousands of years, but now it looks that this cohabitation is gradually coming to an end. The fact is that human encroachment upon this wetland is becoming increasingly aggressive and that the need to expand agricultural production as well as to build business - residential - industrial - commercial complexes is already beyond control.

Ljubljansko Barje is the largest Slovene and southernmost European wetland. Similar areas are a true rarity in Europe today, due mainly to the intensive farming and urbanisation. About 70 % of the European wetlands are all history now. In the 1990s, the European Union adopted, for many too late but still, the legislation with which it attempted to protect rare and endangered animal and plant species and their habitats. Ljubljansko Barje, home to numerous endangered species, has been proclaimed a Natura 2000 site.