The second to last meeting of the project team was held on February 23, 2021. The meeting was again held online because of the global coronavirus pandemic. In addition to the meeting, the fourth regional workshop for the development and strengthening of SavaParks Network capacities was held on the following day along with the third training session covering the good examples of invasive alien species management. More than thirty participants and Network members took part in the workshop and the training session.
The Network gathers around 20 members from 13 different institutions and 5 countries (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Germany). In order to strengthen the Network and make it more efficient in protecting the natural and cultural values of the Sava river basin, the workshop addressed the possibility of formally registering the Network. The aspiration of the members is that the Network becomes a formally registered body recognized in all five member countries and further abroad. The goal is that the Network remains active and efficient, while maintaining independence from the ongoing projects that currently enable its work. This topic will be further debated on the final Sava TIES project meeting in May when the future of the Network will be defined.
In order to provide professional development to the Network members and project partners, a training session was organized on the topic of best practices in invasive alien species management with a special emphasis on plants. The presenters, who selflessly shared their experiences and knowledge with the Network members are renowned experts on invasive alien species from different parts of the world – South Africa, Canada, the United States, Turkey, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Serbia. This confluence of global perspectives resulted in an extremely valuable exchange of information and experiences between a group of experts who share a common goal – more efficient management of invasive alien species.
Seven presenters from different continents shared their experiences and knowledge about measures and approaches to eradicating invasive alien species. It is worth noting some of the information presented to the participants of the training session, such as the fact that river systems are one of the most important ways of introducing and spreading invasive alien species, which was pointed out by Dr. Llewellyn Foxcroft, an expert from the Krueger National Park in South Africa. Professor Brendon M. H. Larson, PhD, from the University of Waterloo in Canada stated that invasive alien species are just ‟passengers” caused by changes in the environment and that they reflect a wider environmental problem. Human influence is present everywhere on earth, even in the deepest parts of the ocean – said Brendon. He presented the participants with unsettling facts on a concrete example of research in which children recognized more invasive than domestic species. Even more shocking is the example where the children recognized more fictional characters from the Pokemon cartoon than real animals. Professor Larson ended with a question that each of us should ask ourselves: “What natural values will we leave for future generations, for our children and grandchildren?! ”. Invasive alien species are a global problem, and we cannot change that, but what we can change is our way of life – concluded Larson. The other presenters also shared with the participants their own experiences of the fight against the invasive species which provided the ending of this very successful training session with an insight into potential solutions applicable for the Sava river basin.