Tourism and climate change – two challenges of the future

Dimitri Zver comes from the University of Western Brittany Brest, France and is here as an exchange scholar working with Triglav National Park (TNP). We asked him a few questions about his collaboration with the park and his views on environment protection and development.

Dimitri Zver Nationalpark Triglav© Romana Purkart

How did you come into contact with TNP?

I'm Slovenian on my father's side and and I contacted the park through my relatives at the University of Ljubljana. I'm taking a master's degree in ecology in France with a focus on biodiversity management, and at TNP I'm cooperating with various services and departments. My main area of interest is fieldwork. My studies focus on bogs and their flora and fauna, especially the bogs on the Pokljuka plateau. I'm also interested in other TNP's projects. I would like to learn more about how TNP operates and all the challenges that the park is currently facing.

F004356-tnp_049_mountain_meadow_zajamniki_photo_ales_zdesar_orig_jpg-photo-l© Aleš Zdešar, www.slovenia.info

How does the ecological situation in Triglav National Park compare with other similar areas around the world?

It's hard to say but I think that the environment in Slovenia is generally in a better state of conservation than in other parts of the world, even better than elsewhere in Europe. Slovenia is a small country, but it has a rich and preserved biodiversity. The nature of the national park is well protected and its state of conservation is very high, especially in the core zone. Nevertheless, I've noticed that the park is facing many challenges, first and foremost tourism. The number of visitors is increasing, which is both good and bad. On the one hand, we need to understand that people are seeking peace, quiet and contact with nature, while on the other hand, this is likely to evolve into a major issue.

Do you think we should cap the number of visitors?

Under the TNP Act, the park is open and accessible tom all, which is only right. The park has to be open to the public and accessible without any admission fees to all but we should still work to strike the right balance between visitation and protection. Of course, we will have to find this balance in the future and this will, in my opinion, be one of the park's greatest challenges. Even today, traffic is one of the main problems of the Vršič pass, and also Bohinj. We will need to find a way to regulate traffic. One solution is a stronger public transport system, and some roads might even have to be closed to motorized traffic. Of course, we don’t want things to escalate to the point where we would need to address such a huge issue.

F002353-12_bohinjsko_jezero_4101_orig_jpg-photo-l.jpg© Iztok Medja, www.slovenia.info

I asked that question because I was hoping you would share an outside view …

Yeah, it's going to be hard. The situation on the Vršič pass is already out of hand, or so it seems. I understand that the pass needs to stay open because the road connects the Gorenjska and Primorska regions, but the load is just too much at peak times. I experienced Vršič this summer, during Covid-19, so it hard for me to imagine what it must be like when things are normal. Triglav National Park is split between local communities, the state, tourism and economy, but its primary objective remains nature protection. In France it is similar. Parks are crowded in summer and, apart from that, camping is still allowed everywhere, which makes things even more difficult. In France, like in Slovenia, there are no admission fees for entering national parks. Unlike in the USA or Canada, French parks are accessible to all free of charge. That's the way it should be.

What, apart from traffic, will be our main problem in the next ten years? Climate change?

Yes, definitely. Climate change is already beginning to affect the life in the park, forests in particular. A few decades from now, the impact of climate change on the park will be clearly evident, especially as summer heat and the upcoming changes in the precipitation systems. Only through management of ecological systems we will be able to mitigate the effects of climate change.

F004352-tnp_014_forests_on_pokljuka_plateau_photo_ales_zdesar_orig_jpg-photo-l.jpg© Aleš Zdešar, www.slovenia.info

If we look a few decades into the future, certain areas of southern Europe will be impossible to live in, let alone visit for holidays...

Life will definitely change a lot for the coming generations. We cannot even begin to imagine that. The quality of life in Slovenia is pretty high, as the Alps shelter the country's western half from heat and provide precipitation. You still have plenty of drinking water, abundant vegetation, life is good and nice here, which means you can expect not only increased visitor numbers but also a rise in immigration to Slovenia.

Romana Purkart, Green Coordinator of Bled