Before you are the approved small grants of the Young Ecologists Program “d-r Ljupcho Melovski” for 2022. We hope that the projects in this category will encourage young researchers to remain active in the field of ecology and contribute to scientific work in our country.

1. Population Assessment for Bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus и Vaccinium uliginosum) and Their Resource and Economic Potential at Kozhuf Mountain

 Coordinator:  Filip Todorov

Summary: Bilberries in Macedonia represent significant natural resource that provides additional income for number of people. However, the systems for collection, licensing, control and monitoring are still not well developed in most of the Republic of North Macedonia which puts pressure on natural habitats and wild species and leads to unsustainable use. The aim of this project is to assess the economic potential based on sustainable usage of bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus – European bilberry and Vaccinium uliginosum – Bog bilberry) on Kozuf  Mtn., by intensive field assessment of annual production of fruits and leaves along with chemical characterization and analysis of the importance of bilberries for local population.

2. Discovering Autochthonous Cannabis on the Territory of North Macedonia

 Coordinator:  Jovana Gjorgjievska

Summary: Scientific interest in cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) has grown exponentially in the last 30 years due to the discovery of beneficial phytochemicals along with the study of the human endocannabinoid system. Accordingly, changes in legislation were initiated to legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Cannabis is a plant that was previously cultivated as an important industrial plant but can also be found as an autochtonous plant in North Macedonia. The purpose of the study is to investigate whether there is autochtonous cannabis in Macedonia and whether it is of commercial value, through localization of the areas where it grows, collection of plant material, and its morphological and phytochemical characterization. The obtained results will be properly disseminated and will contribute to the valorization of this plant and the development of awareness of the existence of indigenous cannabis in N. Macedonia, its importance and how to change the practice of its intentional destruction to its preservation.

3. Diversity, Taxonomy and Distribution of the genus Dryopteris Adans. at Kozhuf Mountain – 37 years after “Micevski’s Flora”

Coordinator:  Ana Varelova

Summary: Dryopteris is a cosmopolitan genus of ferns, which includes species with diverse habitat ranges and morphologies. Hybridization and apomixis are the main reasons for the origin of some species, morphologically separated by fine discrete characters (Fraser-Jenkins, 2007), which make the identification process particularly difficult. The project will provide data on the distribution and diversity of the genus Dryopteris on Kozhuf Mountain, through analysis of the morphological characteristics of the species and through analysis of the ornamentation and dimensions of the spores. This research is a continuation of two decades of efforts to confirm the presence of species and the published data on the genus on а national level (Melovski, 2016), where data on Drypoteris on Kozhuf were not included. This project is also a continuation of the taxonomic research of one of the most complex genera of ferns in Europe.

4. Wet Meadows in Prespa – a Natural Filter for Prespa Lake from Fertilizer Pollution

 Coordinator: Dragana Pelikudovska

Summary: Wet meadows in Prespa are important ecosystems with specific bio-geo-chemical processes that provide numerous ecosystem services: water purification, nutrient and mineral retention, carbon sequestration, rich biodiversity, etc. The main threats to these habitats come from agricultural activities, mainly through the transformation of wet meadows into arable land. The project will carry out experimental research in which the main focus will be the role of wet meadows in retaining nutrients and heavy metals from fertilizers used in agricultural production. In this way, the role of these habitats to serve as a filter for these substances that reach Lake Prespa will be emphasized, and thus the need for their appropriate management and protection in the protected area Nature Park “Ezerani”.

5. Mycodiversity in Old-growth Forests in National Park Mavrovo

Coordinator:  Iva Nikolovska

Summary: The goal of this project is to the determine the mycodiversity of old-growth forest communities in the National Park Mavrovo; as well as detect the presence of other important species of fungi  which develop in forest communities. The main challenge is to compare species of fungi in different types of old-growth forests; beech forests (Korab – Zhuzhnje), alder forests (Volkovija) and spruce forests (Adzina Reka). We will also compare the species composition in different period of the year (spring-summer and autumn).

6. Representation of Microorganisms in Glacial Lakes in the National Park Pelister: Environmental Response (MICRO ECO ICE)

 Coordinator:  Nikola Radmanovikj

Summary: National parks represent particular sanctuaries for natural wonders which must be protected from the pernicious effects of humankind. This is achieved by constant monitoring of all described and valorized bio-geological resources. Thus, evaluations are required of all the macro-microscopic elements of these ecosystems. The “eyes of Pelister” are glacial lakes with little to no data regarding their microbial ecology. Microorganisms, members of these glacial ecosystems, hold key positions in the numerous biological and ecological processes (Liu et al., 2017; Liu et al., 2019). Glacial lakes are the most vulnerable elements of the biosphere, under constant erosion due to global climate changes (Jiang et al., 2019). The proposed project aims towards evaluating the heterotrophic microflora of these natural wonders, including potential anthropogenic contaminants, as functions of the physical parameters of the water and the seasonal variance in ecotope. The analysis of these unique lakes is of imperative magnitude in order to evaluate the vulnerability of these invaluable ecosystems.

7. Microorganisms as Indicators for Contamination of Mineral Water from Thermal Springs in North Macedonia

Coordinator:  Ognen Boshkovski

Summary: Natural mineral and thermal springs are an underexplored wonder of invaluable eco-cultural value (Gorgieva and Popovski, 2007). These spring are often subject to extensive anthropogenic exploitation. Meanwhile, insignificant attention is allotted to the biodiversity of these natural treasures. Additionally, the degree of anthropogenic damage inflicted is seldom discussed outside the legislative limits of allowed contaminants. The goal of this project is to enact a thorough microbiological analysis of the mineral springs at Negorci, Proevce, Katlanovo, Stip and Debar. These particular geothermal-mineral springs represent notable cultural objects under intensive local usage. Ecologically there is currently great interest in the study of microorganisms that are able to live in extreme environmental conditions such as high temperatures and mineral concentrations. In addition, very little information about autochthonous microorganisms inhabiting such thermal waters presently exists in N. Macedonia (Sagova-Mareckova et al., 2021; Hui et al., 2021). The results may serve as specific pioneers for the category as well as cause for future conservation attempts.

8. Conservation of Endemic Plant Species at Alshar

 Coordinator:  Lina Gegoska

Summary: The project “Conservation of endemic plant species from the locality Alschar” represents a significant contribution towards evaluating the status of two very rare endemic violets Viola arsenica and Viola allschariensis. By determining the population sizes, the threats, as well as establishing the monitoring areas, it will become possible to adopt conservation measures. Until now, there haven’t been any researches for determining the sizes of the population, but this project will provide data that is necessary for assessment of the species in accordance with the IUCN methodology. Students and concerned parties will be involved in the project and will have the opportunity to attend the field work and training. A truly important part of the project is ex – situ conservation of plants within the Botanical garden of the Faculty in Skopje, through the maintenance of viable populations and by collecting seeds.

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