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Increased awareness of the risk management need for a visiting and recreational activities in protected areas is the result of several important responsibility cases of protected areas administration in Australia, the United States and in other countries, which has resulted in high costs and damages that threatened regular functioning of the park management. Therefore, in the modern concepts of protected areas management, the development of visitor risk management for visiting and recreational activities was prompted.
This article reviews the development of the risk management model when visiting protected areas in the Republic of Croatia from an aspect/field of hiking trails categorization regard to the requirements for physical engagement of visitors to overcome trail, or individual section of trail. The model is based on field measurement of physical loads of visitors that were carried out in the Krka National Park, onto the walking and educational trail Stinica-Roški waterfall-Oziđana cave. The total length of trail, which in the research was conditionally divided into five sections (Figure 1), is 8.5 km with a vertical drop of 176 m.
Physical strain of respondents in the research was assessed by measuring the heart rate using the Garmin Forerunner 910XT with a sample of 22 people, of both gender and different ages (Table 1 and 2). For each respondent, according to the expression/formula , percent increase in heart rate (%pFS) during overcoming individual section of trail were determined, and based on that class load and associated level of general physical fitness were defined (Table 1 and 2). The collected data and test results in further processing were used to test the option matrixes of risk distribution A, B and C (Table 3) where the level of risk is defined as a function of respondents age group (classified into four age groups – Table 4) and self-evaluated (subjective) physical fitness (5 groups of physical fitness – Table 2) and on the basis of physical fitness obtained from field measurement (objective physical fitness). Selection of optimal risk distribution matrix to categorize concrete trail i.e. sections by level of demand in overcoming was done by comparing the value of a specific risk-based measurement and risk values specified by self-rating fitness of respondents.
Average (FSa) and maximum heart rate (FSmaxa) during the strain are shown by trail sections in Table 5. The most demanding in terms of the need for physically engagement was D-5 and D-1. A more detailed field measurement of the visitors’ physical strain and the development of the methodology for the categorization of specific trail section towards demands were conducted on the basis of measurements for the D-5 section. The values of the average heart rate and other indicators that are obtained by monitoring 22 respondents are listed in Table 7. The selection of optimal risk matrix option to categorize demands of section D-5 is made on the basis of data from the Table 7. As optimal risk matrix, the one was selected where the majority of respondents recorded congruence of risk value and category of section demands determined by a personal assessment (self-rating), or determined by a field measurement. Matrix B proved as optimal, in which the congruence of personal evaluation and test was the largest and amounted to 90.9% (Table 7). From the selected risk matrix three categories of demands for the D-5 were defined, wherein each category of difficulty on the basis of risk size range (Table 8, Column 3), associated regime of overcoming trail were presented descriptively and with color: regime ”green„ means small risk; regime ”yellow„ moderate or intermediate risk and regime ”red„ enhanced or high risk (Table 8, Column 2). Such a composition of requirements for each regime makes TaB scheme which to the visitor is suggested as applicable in overcoming specific trail. Practical application of TaB scheme (Figure 4) contains following elements: (1) an information board set at the beginning of the track on the basis where every visitor can determine the optimal personal mode for overcoming trail as green, yellow or red regime; (2) constructed resting places along the route of the trail, where the location of resting place is determined in accordance with the requirements for resting periods of the most risky regime (red), and construction possibilities of resting place on the ground (micro locations); (3) an information board at each resting place which for a particular overcoming regime determines one of two activities: ”passage without stopping„ or ”stopping„, where in the case of necessary rest, on the information board, the duration of the rest in minutes is indicated.
Research findings shows how for the park administration and for the visitors management system inclusion of educational, informational and technical measures related to the reduction of health risks becomes necessary when visiting specific area. In doing so, as an innovative measure, application of the programmed modes for overcoming trails is presented where to every visitor a personal choice between several modes for overcoming trails is suggested. This approach, along with a demonstration of park administration responsible conduct, ensures that decision of every visitor whether and how to use the trail significantly decreases for him unwanted health risks.
Key words: protected area; visiting; physical strain; risk management
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