monitoring biodiversity in Croatia’s wetlands

Rainforest Connection (RFCx), Arbimon, Faculty of Agrobiotechnical Sciences at the University of Osijek, and Huawei Croatia have partnered with Kopački Rit Nature Park on an exciting 3-year project to monitor birds, frogs, and mammals in this Croatian park! We are using passive acoustic monitoring to survey biodiversity across the wetlands and surrounding forests in the park.

Kopački Rit covers 23,126 hectares of northeastern Croatia, located where the Danube and Drava Rivers meet. Wetlands and marshes cover >40% of the park, with riverine forests making up an additional 30%. Kopački Rit is a RAMSAR site, meaning that it has been declared a Wetland of International Importance and a key wildlife conservation area.

Ecoacoustic monitoring allows us to efficiently and comprehensively monitor biodiversity in the park, to determine species richness, composition, and distribution. Using RFCx’s Arbimon platform, we will develop an AI model that can automate the species classification process. Data from the first year of the project will be used to train the AI model and establish a biodiversity baseline, which will then be used to track changes over time.

One of our Biodiversity Scientists, Tomaz Melo, recently traveled to Croatia to train the University team on acoustic monitoring. RFCx’s approach is deeply collaborative, and these field visits allow us to both learn directly from our local partners and build on-the-ground capacity. During this first round of sampling, the team deployed recorders at 100 sites across the park.

“Traveling to Croatia and meeting the partners at Kopački Rit Nature Park and University of Osijek was incredible! I was surprised to see how similar the park is to the wetlands of the Amazon. In fact, the number of mosquitoes seemed even greater than any place I have ever explored in South America! The team taught me so much about the local wildlife and landscapes. I really enjoyed biking from the university campus to Kopački Rit every day – I could see so many species along the way!” 

Tomaz Melo, RFCx Biodiversity Scientist

“Embarking on this project is like diving into a treasure hunt of passion and purpose. We’re fueled by the excitement to safeguard our natural heritage, weaving a story that transcends borders with top-notch partners RFCx and Huawei. A special shout-out to Tomaz Melo, who made the journey from the heart of the Amazon to pave the way for a harmonious collaboration between technology and nature. Tomaz and the University team braved heavy rains to capture the essence of wild species. Our commitment, rain or shine, truly exemplifies the spirit of our collective mission.”

Ivana Majić, Entomologist at the University of Osijek

Our science team is now hard at work building the AI model, but we’ve already found some really cool vocalizations! Have a listen below to hear some of Kopački Rit’s flagship species, such as the white-tailed eagle, red deer, European tree frog, and great spotted woodpecker. The white-tailed eagle is the largest bird of prey in all of Europe, and even features on the park’s logo!

Great Spotted Woodpecker

White-Tailed Eagle

European Tree Frog & European fire-bellied toad

Red Deer

We’re excited to find out what other species we can find within Kopački Rit’s rich natural symphony!