Lonjsko Polje Nature Park
The Lonjsko Polje Nature Park is situated in the alluvial plain of the Sava River in the central Sava River basin region, between the cities of Sisak and Stara Gradiška and represents a unique landscape and ecological systems of flooded river plain of the Danubian basin. The Sava River begins to meander in this area creating typical wet areas that greatly determine its flow and the appearance of the surrounding region. With a total surface of 50 650 ha, the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park is one of the largest wetland area in the entire Danubian basin. The most significant ecological element in the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park is flooding which can appear any time of the year, because of the extraordinary constellation of the Sava River and its tributaries. Water waves are often so huge and Lonjsko Polje Nature Park has a very important role as a flood control system. In addition to this specific water regime, the micro relief plays an important role in creating the great diversity of habitats. Accordingly, a mosaic of diverse habitats typical for flooded areas has been created, resulting in the rich variety of different biocenosis. These include various types of wet forests, grasslands, meadows various types of marshy and water habitats but also of ditches and canals as a result of longstanding human impact. In the area of the Park, approximately 12 000 ha of pastures are used by cattle livestock of all inhabitans. They are the last examples of a cultural landscape that once extended throughout Central Europe all the way up to the end of the 19th century. With the highest concentration of indigenous breeds (horses, pigs, cattle) in Croatia, they represent a unique way of managing pasturelands and are, at the same time, one of the most important habitats for a large number of rare and endangered plant and animal species.
It is possible to assess the natural values supported by this wetland area by the richness of diversity of the living world, particularly of species considered endangered both on national and international level according to IUCN red list: white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), saker falcon (Falco cherrug), corncrake (Crex crex), pygmy cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmeus), ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca), spotted eagle (Aquila clanga), otter (Lutra lutra), bechsteins bat (Myotis bechsteini), european pond turtle (Emys orbicularis), european common tree frog (Hyla arborea), danube crested newt (Triturus dobrogicus), european mudminnow (Umbra krameri), sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus), danube salmon (Hucho hucho), balkan loach (Cobitis elongata), danubian gudgeon (Gobio uranoscopus), danube roach (Rutilus pigus), striped ruffe (Gymnocephalus schraetzer), streber (Zingel streber), large copper (Lycaena dispar), blue ground beetle (Carabus intricatus) and rosalia longicorn (Rosalia alpina). Thereby large pasture lands have remained preserved to the present as all as indigenous livestock species found in this region (the Posavina horse, the Turopolje pig, slavonian-syrmian grey-cattle).
Due to its natural values and cultural heritage this area has been protected as a nature park since 1990, according to the Law on the Nature Protection, and has been included since 1993 in the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar site). Given the abundance of bird species, specific areas of the Park: Krapje Ðol, Rakita and Dražiblato areas have been protected in the category of special ornithological reserves while the entire Park has been included in the List of important bird areas in Europe (IBA)
The village Cigoc, located in the area of Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, in which a very large white stork population nests, so that almost every house has its "own" nest, it has been proclaimed the European village of storks in 1994.
The cultural values of the Lonjsko polje Nature Park should be viewed as the result of the centuries long harmonious cohabitation of the human population with nature in which a dominant role is played by the river with its natural flooding cycles. The Sava River with its tributaries has had an impact on the morphological, natural, aesthetic and functional features of the cultural landscape which has the characteristic of a lowland agricultural region.
The characteristics of the cultural landscape and cultural identity are linked to traditional rural settlements. Traditional values of the area have been preserved in the organization of space, specific ambiences and traditional wooden architecture but also in the broader ethnological and anthropological sense; in the life-styles, cultivation of land, skills and intangible cultural heritage.
This area is permanently and continuously inhabited back to the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries, when in this part of Europe (Croatia) the centuries-old threat from Ottoman conquerors ceased. The need to defend Central Europe/the Austrian Empire from the Turks in the period from the 16th to the 19th centuries resulted in the organization of a specific military-economic organization set up of the Croatian border area which for centuries represented a dividing line between European and Turkish otoman culture in Europe.
Precisely these historical circumstances, in addition to natural geographical characteristics gave rise to the distribution of settlements in a continuous line along the bank of the Sava River. Rural settlements are located on the natural terrain elevations, so called "traverses", which provides in the river floodplain some kind of protection against floods. They developed as linear, longitudinal settlements situated unilaterally along the road which goes along the Sava River bank oxbows created by the regulation of the river in the 18th and 19th centuries. By their structure they are compact, densely built settlements, with a strictly defined distribution and symmetrical, exceptionally narrow lot divisions. The regular rhythmical rows of wooden house facades with the narrower sides facing the road and built on the same building lots give the settlements a unique appearance.
In the course of time, some villages had different central functions either as the parish and local administrative centers or as school centers which influenced the appearance of the settlements and formed specific characteristics in terms of space - ambience and architecture.
The primary characteristic of traditional architecture is wood as a the basic building material, namely the well know and top quality wood of the common oak from flood forests.
The architectural heritage is represented by a large number of preserved wooden houses (two or one storey houses). Approximately 700 houses have been preserved in the entire area of Lonjsko Polje. They are traditional houses, even standardized by their construction and architectural solutions and built of oak. The house is constructed by walls make of planks which are horizontally laid and connected by wooden joists. The whole structure is covered with steep gable roofs. An essential element of the architectural structure of the houses are the roofed-over outer staircases with porches, with different decorative details along with variously formed windows and ornamental carved details, give this buildings an individual and specific appearance. The various outbuildings, such as barns, hay-lofts, curing plunts (storehouses, woodsheds), hog houses, corn sheds are located deep in the plots and along its edges.
The traditional land use is represented by the distribution and type of arable land and meadows-pastures. The cultivated plots in their functional and land forms represent a link between the protected nature and rural settlement areas. The specific characteristics of the area are connected to traditional crafts and use of waterways for navigation, fishing, and other needs of rural households.
The river was very intensively navigated in the 18th and 19th centuries, at a time of bustling economic activities linked to trade and timber exploitation when in order to secure the waterway for navigation the river bed had to be regulated by intersecting the river meanders.
It should be pointed out that the cultural landscape spreds out of the boundaries of the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park. The same cultural landscape features are present in the entire zone of central Posavina region, from town Sisak to the town of Gradiška and including inhabited areas on both sides of the river (the area of the community of Sunja). The system of doubled, and confronted settlements located on the both sides banks along the river which were traditionally connected in all spheres of life and made a sociological, economic and cultural entity is one of the basic characteristic of the cultural landscape.
Traditional architecture and architectonic structures are damaged the region has suffered during the last Homeland War.
The mosaic landscape formed by nature and man such as we find in Lonjsko Polje represents a unique phenomenon in Europe. The wetland habitats in the Sava River basin represent a typical Central European river valley landscape as it existed 150 years ago. The state of preservation of nature, endangered and rare plant and animal species as well as cultural identity of this area, the traditional way of life and work of its population represents a unique heterogeneous area of protected natural and cultural heritage.