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The Škocjanski zatok

Škocjanski zatok Nature Reserve is a Mediterranean wetland covering 122 hectares, and at the same time the largest brackish marshland in Slovenia. This is a wonderful place to go for a trip, a walk, or a jog, and it also has an interesting educational trail.

The formation of this nature reserve is associated with the urban development of Koper and its surroundings. In the past, Koper was an island where the sea cut into the land, forming three small bays: Semedelski Bay, Škocjanski Bay, and Polje Bay. Salt harvesting has been one of the dominant activities in this area since the Roman times. In the 19th century, salt pans covered the smaller part of the area, enclosing the island of Koper in a semicircle from the south side. Salt pans were separated by the River Bradaševica, which lay its deposits there. The larger part was located on the north-eastern side of Koper, i.e. on both sides of the River Rižana. When, at the beginning of the 20th century, the price of salt began to decrease, resulting in the gradual decline of salt harvesting, Koper and its surroundings changed too. The Port of Koper’s construction also had a major impact on the appearance of the area. The Škocjan Zatok has existed since 1957, when an 877 m-long dike between Koper and the outflow of the Rižana was built.

The semi saline Škocjanski zatok. Photo: Miroslav Kastelic

Educational trail

The educational trail runs between the reeds and open water bodies, with nicely arranged posts featuring information boards about the animals and history of the place. The most widespread salt-tolerant plant species growing in the brackish Škocjan lagoon include the common glasswort (Salicornia europaea), swamp sea-lavender (Limonium angustifolium) and saltworts (Sarcocornia fruticosa). A special feature of the Škocjanski Zatok is its reedbeds.

The Škocjanski Zatok is especially important because of its rich biodiversity, with over 1,400 different plant and animal species having been recorded so far. Birds are extremely important: in the last 15 years as many as 252 bird species have been documented in the area, which accounts for 60% of all the species that have been observed in Slovenia. Among animal species, insects prevail (more than 360 species of butterflies, over 300 species of beetles, 41 species of dragonflies, etc.); moreover, 36% of the mammal species (25 species), 41% of the amphibian species (seven) and 41% of the reptile species (eight), present in Slovenia have been found here.

The Škocjanski Zatok area is also important in the broader international context, as many bird species valuable in Europe and worldwide, as well as endangered species, stop over during their migration and wintering.

Photo:Danilo Kotnik

Text by Tanja Glogovčan