The three day meeting consisted of sessions dedicated to each work package (WP), in which specific updates and activities related to the past months were discussed, as well as upcoming activities and next steps. In between the sessions we had the opportunity to discover the Soča Valley Pilot Case Study (PCS) on dedicated field trips in the region.

The Soča (Isonzo) Basin is an Adriatic basin that straddles the border between Slovenia and Italy. Regionally it is divided into the upper, middle and lower Soča Basins. The upper Soča Basin is entirely within Slovenia, and covers alpine and sub-alpine areas downstream to the confluence with the Idrijca river or Idrijca catchment area. A major part of the middle Soča Basin is situated in Slovenia; it ends where the Soča River meets the Goriško/Gorizia area. The lower Soča Basin within Slovenia consists of a small part of the Nadiža/Natisone catchment and a larger part of the Vipava/Vipacco catchment area. To find out more about the SPARE Soča Valley PCS please read here.

Our first excursion was to Wild Lake (Slovene: Divje jezero), a lake near Idrija in western Slovenia and a karst spring of the Vauclusion type. This means that the spring originates from a cave system, with the water rushing upwards under high pressure. Wild Lake is the source of the Jezernica River, a tributary of the Idrijca and the shortest river in Slovenia at only 55 metres long!

Although we did not get to see the endemic cave-dwelling proteus (Proteus anguinus), also called the „human fish“ by the Slovenians, we did see many endemic marble trout (Salmo marmoratus), both in nature as well as in dedicated fish farms for conservation and for food. Named for its marbled pattern it is the largest trout in the region and can reach 20kg in weight. The species is listed in Annex II to the Habitats Directive, thus making it a species of European importance with its habitat to be protected. Among others, construction of hydro power plants and gravel extraction represent major threats to this species in the area. Due to its torrential character the Soča presents favourable characteristics for hydro power use. There are five main hydroelectric power plants on the river and plans to build more.

In Idrija, which is one of two UNESCO World Heritage of Mercury sites, we were given a brief insight into the tough lives of the former mercury mining community. Mercury, which was first discovered in the area in the 15th century, had a major impact on the creation and development of Idrija. Today the mine is shut, but parts of shafts can be visited, as well as the The Idrija Kamšt Water Pump, which is an antique pump previously used for pumping water from the mine. The preserved kamšt (the wooden water wheel) was erected in 1790 and was in continuous use until 1948. It remains very well preserved!  

written by Martha Dunbar, CIPRA International