Establishing a Long-Term Monitoring Study of the Endemic and Highly Endangered Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii macrops) in Serbia

9 Jul 2020 Mokra Gora Mountain, Serbia, Europe Education | Habitats | Reptiles

Margareta Lakušić

Meadow viper (Vipera ursinii), the smallest and most endangered European viper, faces many threats and pressures that cause population decline. The only locality in Serbia where it is found is still in a long process of getting under state protection, while the already vulnerable habitat is degrading. We aim to check localities from literature and to search for suitable new localities with meadow viper population. Assessing habitat quality along with educational activities oriented toward schoolchildren, students, mountaineers and local populace will give a foundation for making a sustainable conservation plan. Establishment of a long-term monitoring study will contribute to survival and protection of this endemic and highly endangered species.

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Being the European most endangered viper, meadow viper faces many threats and pressures which eminently cause population declines. In the Balkan Peninsula, fragmented and isolated populations of endemic subspecies of meadow viper (Vipera ursinii macrops), inhabit alpine and subalpine meadows above 1600 m. Due to the high level of habitat specialization, narrow diet, infrequent reproduction and small litter size, meadow viper has many biological limitations. Its habitat is degrading due to overgrowing of grassland caused by reduced livestock intensity, fires, soil erosion and potential unplanned infrastructure development.

Population status of meadow viper and its distribution in Serbia is unknown and the single locality where this species is found, Mokra Gora Mountain is not under protection. Therefore, checking literature data, looking for new localities and evaluating habitat quality is a steppingstone for drawing attention to this issue. Addressing the threats and pressures that meadow viper and alpine habitats are encountering is crucial for the implementation of appropriate conservation measures, while engaging biology students, mountaineers and local populace will contribute to sustainable conservation of meadow viper and its habitats. Also, the establishment of a long-term monitoring study will provide the basis for the protection of this endemic and highly endangered species.

We plan on:

1. Checking the presence of meadow viper population in the known (published) localities and searching for a new suitable one

2. Estimating the relative abundance and age and sex structure of the found populations

3. Identifying the main threats and pressures for meadow viper and its habitat

4. Engaging biology students in fieldwork and educating them how to perform and establish conservational projects on their own

5. Raising awareness about endangered species and their habitats with educational effort oriented toward schoolchildren and local populace

6. Organising workshop with mountaineering societies to teach them how to gather data about species presence and habitat status that will contribute to long term monitoring of this endangered species

7. Improving species and habitat conservation measures and proposing reliable monitoring plan for meadow viper population on Mokra Gora mountain

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