Cultural ecosystem services of Balkan rivers

Cultural ecosystem services of Balkan rivers

Cultural ecosystem services of Balkan rivers

Supervised by: Ana Stritih (ETH Zurich)

Performed as: Master thesis 

Duration: 6 months (can be discussed, depending on study programme), ideally starting in February/March 


The Balkan Peninsula is home to many of the last free-flowing rivers in Europe. These rivers are hotspots of biodiversity, but also provide a variety of ecosystem services for locals and a wider society. They are an essential part of the life and identity of local communities, and attract visitors from abroad for their recreation opportunities and beautiful landscapes. Currently, many of these rivers are under threat due to the planned construction of more than 3000 dams in the region. The cultural ecosystem services (CES; such as recreation, landscape aesthetics, and identification) that will be strongly affected by dam construction, are often not considered in the decision-making process of hydropower development. In this thesis, you will develop indicators that can be used to map and monitor the CES provided by rivers in the Balkans. These indicators can be based on spatial data (e.g. social media data) or assessed in the field through citizen science. You will have the opportunity to participate in a citizen science campaign on the Sava river and its tributaries in May 2020 (organized in collaboration with Balkan River Defence ( and River Intellectuals (, and use the data collected there to map the CES of the Sava catchment. 


  1. Develop indicators for cultural ecosystem services that can be assessed via spatial data or citizen science. 
  2. Map the cultural ecosystem services of the Sava and its tributaries. 


  • Background in environmental science, geography, landscape ecology, or similar
  • Knowledge of GIS (e.g. ArcGIS or QGIS) and statistical programming (e.g. R, python, matlab)
  • Knowledge of a local language (e.g. Croatian, Serbian, Slovenian) and kayaking experience are an advantage. 

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