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Vegetation, species and trees

Species number in the watershed of Skadar/Shkodra Lake


Vascular plants 1900 147 aquatics
Freshwater molluscs 54
Insects 6000 210 aquatics
Fish 54
Amphibians 16
Reptiles 28 4
Birds 282 112
Mamals 57 3


Around the lake stands of willow (Salicetum alba) are the most abundant forests, mainly on the northern shore and in the flooding area. They are used by the local population for the production of fuel wood, for construction and for wooden handi- craft products. Forests of Skadar's oak (Quercus robur ssp. Scutariensis), which were widespread in the past, have substantially degraded. The most significant forest com- munities are domestic chestnut and oak (Querceto castanetum montenegrinum), oak and European Turkey oak (Quercetum confertae ceris), as well as hornbeam (Carpinetum orientalis) with several sub-communities. Only degraded stands remain from the once well developed forests.

Zone of Macchie-Shibljak vegetation

This zone goes up to 400 – 500 m altitude. Among the evergreen trees and shrubs of this zone are: Quercus ilex, Phillyrea latifolia, Juniperus oxycedrus, Erica arborea, Olea europea, Arbutus unedo and Larus nobilis. Other common species (not ever- green) of this zone are: Pistacia terebinthus, Punica granatum, Carpinus orientalis, Crataegus monogyna, Rubus ulmifolius, Paliurus spina-cristi, Quercus robur, Ulmus laevis, Ulmus minor, Genista hassertiana, Fraxinus angustifolius, Fraxinus ornis, Populus alba, Populus nigra, Salix alba, Salix elaeagnos, Salix purpurea, Alnus glu- tinosa, Ficus carica etc.

Zone of Oak

This zone is situated from 300 – 700 m altitude in the basin of Skadar/Shkodra Lake. The most common oak species in this zone are Quercus trojana, Quercus cerris, Quercus petraea, Quercus frainetto and Quercus pubescens. Other species of this zone are Acer planatoides, Acer pseudoplatanus, Acer obtusatum, Castanea sativa, Sorbus torminalis, Sorbus umbellate, Sorbus aria, Tilia platyphyllos, Corylus avel- lana, Crataegus pentagyna, Juniperus communis etc.

Zone of Beech

The zone of beech covers the altitude 600 – 1700 m of the Skadar/Shkodra Lake ba- sin. In some areas this zone may reach up to 1900 m together with the zone of pines. Common trees of this zone are Fagus sylvatica, Acer pseudoplatanus, Sorbus graeca,while the common shrubs are Cotoneaster integerrimus, Rubus idaeus, Vaccinium myrtillus etc. Among the pine trees, the most common are Pinus leucodermis and Pinus nigra.

Zone of Alpine Pastures

Alpine pastures cover the areas over 1800 – 1900 m of the lake basin. The most spread plants of this zone are Rosa sp, Juniperus sabina, Luzula italica, Gentiana verna, Gentiana lutea, Astragalus purpureus, Anthyllis aurea, Silene macrantha, Campanula, Poa, Festuca, Sesleria, Koeleria, Bromus etc.

Endangered plant associations and species

At least, six important plant associations are considered as endangered, after Dhora & Sokoli (2000): Nymphoidetum peltatea, Potameto – Vallisnerietum, Myriophyllo – Nupharetum lutei, Trapetum natans, Phragmitetum australis and Leucojo – Fraxine- tum angustifolia. 20 vascular plant species, most of them macrophytes, are endan- gered in the Skadar/Shkodra Lake and its coasts. The most threatened are considered Marsilea quadrifolia, Hydrocotile vulgaris, Hidrocharis morsus – ranae, Butomus umbellatus, Cladium mariscus, Nuphar luteum, Nymphaea alba, Nymphoides peltata, Sagittaria sagittifolia and Trapa natans.

Acquatic Vegetation

About 420 species belong to the diatoms, where the most abundant are Navicula, Nitzschia, Cymbella, Gomphonema, Fragilaria, Achnanthes, Cyclotella etc. Species of these genera are found in both plankton and benthos. Chlorophytes are characterized by a high diver- sity, too. 470 species are known from this group for Skadar/Shkodra Lake, among which Pediastrum, Scenedesmus, Tetraedron, Closterium, Cosmarium and Staura- strum are the most abundant. Other well-presented groups are also Euglenophyta with Euglena, Phacus, Trachelomonas and Cyanophyta with Croococcus, Merismopedia, Microcystis and Oscillatoria. The total number of aquatic macrophytes for the whole area of Lake Shkoder is 164 species belonging to 66 genera and 43 families. At the northern shore of the lake dominant plant communities include the Scirpus – Phragmites community (Phrag- mites communis, Scirpus lacuster, Typha angustipholica) and the Myriphillum verti- cillati – Nuphar community, where especially Nuphar, Ceratophyllum, Trapa and Po- tamogeton species are represented. The western lake shore consists of steep rocks and hills with hardly any submerged vegetation. Along the eastern and southern lake shore extended reed beds (Phragmites) have developed. 36 associations of macrophyte plants have been listed for the whole lake by Dhora 2005: Potamion, Najadetum marinae, Charetum fraglis, Charetum sp., Chareto –Nitellopsidetum obtusae, Potametum pectinati, Myriophylletum (spicatum – verticilla- tum), Potametum perfoliati, Potametum – Ranunculetum, Potametum lucentis, Po- tameto – Najadetum, Utricularietum vulgaris, Nympheion, Myriophyllo – Nuphare- tum lutei, Nymphoidetum peltatae, Nympheetum albo – lutea, Nymphaetum (alba), Hydrocharetum (morsus – ranae), Ceratophylletum (demersum), Potametum natantis, Ranunculion, Ranunculetum fluitatsis, Phragmitetalia, Eleochari – Hippuridetum, Heterophylletum, Eleocharetum (pallustris), Sparganio – Glicerietum fluitantis, Scir- petum (lacustris), Scirpeto – Phragmitetum, Phragmitetum (australis), Typhetum (an- gustifolia – latifolia), Menthetum aquatica, Ludwigietum palustris, Magnocaricietum, Juncetum and Agrostitetum (alba).Besides biodiversity values, reed beds and other macrophytes are also important for their purification capacities through nutrient retention and transformation (nitrogen, phosphor), and binding of pollutants. The water quality of part of the Morača River improves by passing through the macrophyte vegetation of the wetland before it en- ters the lake.

Fauna of Skadar/Shkodra Lake and its watershed


Zooplankton of the lake is an important community, which defines the trophic struc- ture of the ecosystem. It plays an important role in the dynamism of nutritive matter in the water and other populations of vertebrates, especially fish. Zooplankton of Ska- dar/Shkodra Lake is predominated by protozoans, (especially Ciliophora), rotifers and crustaceans (mostly Cladocera, Copepoda, Ostracoda). Other groups presented in plankton are also bivalves (larval stage), Branchiura, Gastrotricha, Hydrozoa etc. Zoobenthos is another important community of invertebrates, with a high diversity and predominating biomass in the lake. Protozoans and rotifers are characterized by a high species diversity in the zoobenthos, too. From the molluscs, 54 species are known in the lake and its watershed, of which 42 are gastropods (snails) and 12 are bivalves (mussels). Oligochaetes represent one of the most abundant biomass among the invertebrates, despite their relatively limited species number. Crustaceans are well-presented in the zoobenthos of the lake, predominated by Cladocera, Ostracoda, Copepoda, Amphipoda and Decapoda. About 152 species of insects are known in the zoobenthos of Skadar/Shkodra Lake, mostly in their larval stages. Chironomids are the most presented group of insects with 20 species. Gastrotricha, Bryozoa, Hydrozoa and Spongia are other groups in the zoobenthos of the lake.


Skadar/Shkodra Lake has a high variety of fish fauna. Besides the potentials of the lake itself, the high diversity of fish is also due to the large network of rivers and streams in the lake watershed and the communication with the Adriatic Sea. The ich-thiofauna of this basin includes highland coldwater species, warm freshwater species and several marine species. 54 fish species are known in the lake. The relatively high number of endemic species makes the lake significant on regional level. About 10 species are the most important for the fishery in the lake, especially carp, bleak and eel. Two fish families are especially important: cyprinids (most abundant in species) and salmonids (which are much rarer).thiofauna of this basin includes highland coldwater species, warm freshwater species and several marine species. 54 fish species are known in the lake. The relatively high number of endemic species makes the lake significant on regional level. About 10 species are the most important for the fishery in the lake, especially carp, bleak and eel. Two fish families are especially important: cyprinids (most abundant in species) and salmonids (which are much rarer).The lake and its basin are very rich in amphibians and reptiles. These include endemic and endangered species. The lake, with its wide zone of water vegetation, floodplains, humid forests as well as many streams, is an ideal habitat for amphibians like the Ranidae. Currently 51 species of herpetofauna have been met, including a large num- ber of protected species and many endemics and subendemics.Skadar/Shkodra Lake is a very attractive area for birds, especially along their migra- tory routes, but also provides good nesting and colonisation conditions. The avifauna is characterized by a high diversity, with 282 species, belonging to 18 taxonomic or- ders. About 90% of the bird species are regionally and intercontinentally mobile, link- ing the region to neighbouring countries, Asia and Africa. Around 73 species of mi- gratory nesting birds inhabit the lake in spring and summer and leaving in autumn. About 18 species fly over the area during autumn and spring, 45 species are regular winter guests and 12 species spend summers on the lake, while their populations nest in the north. In addition, there are some 90 species that visit the lake irregularly, in- cluding those that fly over or visit the lake during the winter or summer season. The number of waterfowl on the Montenegrin side is determined by winter counts since 1990. Between 1990 and 1999 numbers varied between 150,000 and 250,000, but since 1999 the species number has dropped strongly to 35,000 in January 2005. Fulica atra, Anas platyrhynchos and Aythya ferina are found in large numbers. Bird abun- dance was one of the main reasons for claiming Skadar/Shkodra Lake as an interna- tionally important wetland and waterfowl habitat (Ramsar site) in Montenegro (since 1995) and Albania (since 2005).The mammals related to Lake Skadar/Shkodra are not well researched. The total num- ber of species found is 50 (belonging to 6 orders). Only a few mammals are strongly linked to the water habitat, like the otter (Lutra lutra). Bats are especially abundant around the lake. The other mammals live mainly in the forested areas, predominantly located on the south-western shore of the lake and in the mountainous areas.

Endangered animal species

Dhora & Sokoli (2000) have published a list with 124 endangered aquatic animal species of the lake. If considering the terrestrial species, too, the list of endangered fauna of the lake watershed would be much longer. From these 124 en- dangered aquatic animals, 9 are molluscs, 33 are fishes, 12 are amphibians, 4 are rep- tiles, 65 are birds and 1 is mammal.

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