The living world of an area is primarily determined by climate. The climate determines the plant cover that provides home to animals and fungi, single-celled organisms and bacteria, which together with inanimate elements of nature (air, water, rocks, soil…) make up an ecosystem.
North Velebit is a piece of European nature that has been preserved in its authentic form – not completely untouched wilderness, but a natural landscape shaped by pervasive human influence, in a time when people’s only chance for survival was to coexist with nature. But don’t let the presence of men lead you to believe that this is a tame landscape – Velebit is rugged and harsh both in its climate and terrain. Most of the Park is covered with forest abounding in various moods, from the dark and mysterious spruce and fir, knotty and tough European mountain pine to fairy-tale and magical pre-alpine and alpine beech.
The grassy and rocky peaks and slopes provide stunning views of northern Adriatic and the vast mountain slopes of Velebit. The meadows delight us with their charming multitude of blooming plants and pollinators (butterflies, bees and bumblebees, beetles and many other insects), and the rocks inspire awe with their unusual and rugged forms with indigenous plants growing in crevices.
Although Velebit is not a high mountain, its topmost parts have true mountain climate owing to their position and relief. This is evidenced by the typical high mountain plant and animal species that inhabit these regions, such as edelweiss, European mountain pine, yellow-billed chough, white-backed woodpecker, ural owl, chamois and others.
Thanks to the well preserved ecosystem, north Velebit is home to bear, wolf, lynx and golden eagle, predators at the top of the food chain which need a large expense of land and abundance of prey.
Today, abandoning of traditional cattle-raising and lifestyle poses the greatest threat to the rich nature of the Park. The pastures that are not mowed or grazed are taken over by forest, and with the disappearance of pastures, all grassland plant and animal species are disappearing too, resulting in impairment of biological diversity. The National Park is currently conducting a research into biological diversity of grasslands in order to single out the most valuable ones for future recovery and management.
In previous studies as many as 1500 plant, fungus and animal species have been identified within the Park area. This number represents only a small portion of the biological treasure trove, because many groups have not yet been recorded, such as mosses or countless groups of insect (grasshoppers, moths, flies, wasps and others). Among the lists that are still very incomplete are those of beetles, spiders and fungi, the least well-explored species groups in Croatia. In addition, with the exception of insects and spiders, no lists have been made of invertebrates, much less of single-celled organisms or bacteria which greatly contribute to biological diversity both for the large number of species and the important role they play in the cycling of matter in ecosystems. And, of course, there is still a lot of work to be done in some of the much better explored groups, such as birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles!