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Wild taxa

Cardamine pratensis - livadna režuhaThe biodiversity in Croatia is amongst the richest in all of Europe. The reason for this is the specific geographic position of Croatia at the crossing of four biogeographical regions, each of which is characterized by specific ecological, climatic and geomorphological properties. The great diversity of habitats has resulted in a wealth of diversity of wild taxa (species and subspecies). Unfortunately, the exact number of wild taxa in Croatia is still unknown. To date, almost 38,000 taxa have been recorded. However, the actual number is estimated to be much higher, with estimates ranging from a minimum of 50,000 to over 100,000. Every year, scientists observe, discover and describe new species and subspecies. Such finds are rarer among fish, amphibians and reptiles, birds and mammals, as well as vascular flora, considering that these groups are relatively well known. On the other hand, groups such as algae, mosses, fungi and the invertebrates have been very poorly studied. For example, in the last five years alone, 198 new taxa of terrestrial invertebrates, 146 taxa of freshwater invertebrates and 20 taxa of marine invertebrates have been registered.

The wealth of Croatia's wild taxa lies not only in their diversity, but also in their endemicity. One of the reasons for such a high number of taxa endemic to Croatia, in particular the Tertiary relicts, is in the fact that these areas were not strongly impacted by the glaciations. The main centres of endemic flora are the Velebit and Biokovo mountains, while endemic fauna are most represented in the underground habitats (cave invertebrates, olm), on the islands (lizards, snails) and in the karst rivers of the Adriatic basin (minnows and gobies).

Despite the great wealth of wild taxa and the preservation of their habitats, many wild taxa in Croatia are threatened. These taxa have been included on Red Lists and described in the Red Books. Thus far, eight red books have been published in Croatia, covering the following groups: birds, vascular flora, mammals, freshwater fish, marine fish, amphibians and reptiles, dragonflies and mushrooms. All threatened taxa are strictly protected under the Ordinance on the proclamation of protected and strictly protected wild taxa, which entered into force in July 2009. This Ordinance lists both strictly protected and protected taxa. Many wild taxa in Croatia are protected in line with international regulations, such as the Bern Convention, the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive.

The greatest threat to wild taxa in Croatia is the direct destruction of their habitats. Natural habitats are being transformed into construction or agricultural land, while road construction leads to habitat fragmentation. The introduction of alien species, some of which become invasive, also represents a great threat to wild taxa. Overexploitation through the commercial collection of plants and fungi, fishing, hunting and forestry also threaten the populations of many wild taxa. Intensive agriculture and tourism, pollution of the water, air and soil, and poaching and some other threats to the wild taxa of Croatia.