Excursion to the Radotín Rocks Natural Monument on 15 June 2023 with a Scout Group from Radotín

Radotín’s youngest scouts went again to their favourite forest-steppe site in Radotínské Rocks Natural Monument . Last autumn they helped the site with their work and now they were curious to see how the site looks in the full growing season. The visit to the site included environmental education focused on traditional managements, which are being successfully carried out under the Magistrate of the Capital City of Prague, as well as observation of animals and plants in the area. The children were delighted to catch the herd of sheep and goats that maintain the site.

Raking leaves with Brontosaurs

On the weekend of September and October, an event took place in cooperation with the ROTATE project, the Brontosaurus movement and the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic (NCA), the Administration of the Český kras Protected Landscape Area. In addition to an excursion around the area, environmental education games and the like, a group of fifteen volunteers participated in raking leaves at one of the conservationally important forest-steppe sites (Čihadla above the village of Srbsko). The place is important for its rich population of the orchid red-headed lanceolate. Occasional digging, especially oak leaves, thus helps to maintain a relatively oligotrophic uninvolved lawn under scattered trees. The participants thus tried traditional management in practice and participated in discussions on the reason, meaning and sustainability of this action in broader conservation contexts.

 

Anacamptis pyramidalis

Early star-of-Bethlehem as a messenger of spring

Early Star-of-Bethlehem. Photo by P. Petřík

On Thursday, March 2, 2023, a check of the site with Early Star-of-Bethlehem (Gagea bohemica) near Hrušovský pond (Brandýs nad Labem) took place with 11 participants of the Písklata scout group. The expert supervision was provided by Petr Petřík, who explained to the children the relict character of the habitat of the legally protected plant and also the threat it faces. In addition to the ongoing removal of the invasive stonecrop, the bushes were pruned here last yeyr.

Scout troop „Písklata“ working in the site of Early Star-of-Bethlehem.

Autumn excursion to NPR Děvín

On October 21, 2023 and October 28, 2023, long-awaited excursions for the general public took place in the Pálava Protected Landscape Area, during which the participants learned how traditional farming was done in the Czech Republic for centuries, or in most lowland forests in Europe. During both excursions we moved on the northeastern slopes of the Děvín National Nature Reserve, where a forest called oak-hornbeam spreads. This forest has been managed as a coppice for many centuries (it is characterized by regular cutting of trees at relatively short intervals, the trees are then renewed from stumps or roots). During walks through the forest we made several stops, during which we said something about oak-hornbeam in general, about what coppicing actually is and what benefits it has, during a short stop with a tour of the ruins of Děvičky Castle we talked about the history of this type of management in our area and finally we went to see the new clearings from spring 2022, where we discussed the present and hopeful future of coppicing in the Czech Republic. During the excursions, brochures “Growing from their stumps” were distributed, in which the participants could obtain more detailed information on the whole topic and deepen their knowledge.

ROTATE project meeting in Ulvik (26-27 April 2023)

Our visit to Norway was a continuation of the exchange of experiences that two of us had last autumn. This time six Czech participants from two institutions (Institute of Botany of the CAS and Faculty of Environment of the Czech University of Life Sciences) took part in the meeting.

Czech team in Bergen. Photo by O. Vild

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a meeting in Bergen with our colleagues from Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research and a fascinating stop at the Steinsdalsfossen waterfall, our first study stop was at Arne Fykse’s farm. As well as running a hospitality business, he is musically gifted, as we were lucky enough to judge. Arne introduced us to the various joys and sorrows of his livelihood, giving us a tour of his farm, which focuses on apple growing and pollarding (cutting trees for buck).

Farmer Arne Fyksa demonstrating his piece of art made from pollarded tree. Photo by O. Vild

He continues the family tradition with enthusiasm, despite relatively low support (about NOK 100-500 per tree per year). He described to us the main tree species that can be used in this way for fuel or as fodder for livestock. (He used to raise sheep, but now focuses only on primary production.) These are mainly ash trees, which unfortunately have been dying in recent years from ash necrosis caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. There are also linden trees (mainly the bark from the branches is used), elm, birch (which cannot be completely pruned as it is sensitive), oak (which lives to a ripe old age) and willow (which provides nectar for bees even in early spring). The wood can also have a high aesthetic value, as Arne showed us in his carvings made from old dead logs. He also showed us a special tool called a hovold, which was used to pull down bundles of branches to make them easier to handle. In the process, the wood was put in salt water so that it could be bent. Old oaks grow on his property, providing habitat for other tree species such as birch and mountain ash.

Czech scientists studying interesting merging of three woody species. Photo by P. Petřík
P. Szabó and P. Petřík admiring pollarded tree. Photo by J. Doudová

After the farm, we continued on to the Uranes Nature Reserve, which was established in 1984 to protect the forest in the central part of the Hardanger Fjord area. Uranes protects one of the most valuable deciduous temperate forests in Hordaland because of its size, species richness and variability. The steep slopes are covered with oaks, lindens and birches with a varied herbaceous undergrowth and in some places even spring gardens. Traces of game activity were also evident, peeling the bark and nibbling the seedlings. On the twisted or several-headed tree trunks we admired lichens of the genus Lobaria, otherwise rare in our country, resembling lungs by their name.

Lichen Lobaria pulmonaria. Photo by P. Petřík

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old tree with many stems in the Uranes reserve. Photo by J. Doudová

The following morning was already filled with discussions about the ongoing project. Jana Doudová, the project leader, presented us with the progress and an overview of publications. In particular, we discussed the long-term effect of burrowing on biodiversity in forests, specifically whether weather extremes or management effects have a greater impact. Fride Høistad Schei introduced us to the basic characteristics of Norwegian nature, the oceanicity gradient and the distribution of phytogeographically important plants. The results of repeated records from ash dominated plots presented by her showed minimal changes in the species composition of the understory despite significant ash mortality. Jørund Johanssen talked about a socio-economic study involving 12 pollarding farms. Even though it is not the main activity for 2/3 of them, these farmers own an average of 50 trees per farm. It was also interesting to note that they use the leaves from pollarding as medicine for their cattle. There was a debate on whether the practice of pollarding trees in forests is sustainable. It involves thinning the whole forest, which may seem uneconomical, but the ecological benefits are considerable because of the increase in biodiversity. Radim Hédl presented an overview of coppicing for the Czech Republic and the results of a multitaxon study of coppiced areas, where the organisms studied responded differently to lightening and coppicing can be an important tool for the conservation of some of them. Finally, there was a discussion under the chairmanship of Ondřej Vild on the publicity for the project.

Discussion on the traditional methods in forests. Photo by P. Petřík

On the last day we stopped at a farmer’s house in Ulvik. Besides pollarding, he is involved in gardening and sheep grazing and has a great knowledge of biology. He maintains a diverse range of habitats with different uses on his land. The Norwegian colleagues then took us back to Bergen, where we have already spent experiences and discussions, e.g. on pollarding, which is also used in urban greenery care, but is still not appreciated here. We are planning another meeting with Norwegians at the end of the project in spring 2024.

Written by Petr Petřík

Managing the locality of Radotínské skály with scouts

On 12.11.2022, the youngest children from the scout group 5. květen Radotín gathered for a long-awaited event where they could experience what management supporting protected natural habitats can look like. The fieldwork followed a spring field trip to the same locations, during which the children learned about what makes a site valuable from a natural history and conservation perspective and how they can help. Although the children could not wait to pick up their tools, we first visited a nearby important site with fossils – Nature park Orthocerový lůmek and then we took a small hike through the surrounding countryside to Radotínské skály. During the snack, the children recalled interesting species of plants that grow here and which are the focus of the management. Although they were mostly pre-school children, they managed (with the help of the leaders) to do a nice job. The scouts removed several shrubs of the Golden chain tree (Laburnum anagyroides) – an ornamental shrub, but also an invasive plant that is capable of gradually overgrowing the steppe (along with other species), including several dozen seedlings of this species already. They then removed the branches with many seeds (and potential new plants) from the site, preventing further spread. They also managed to clear 2 oak trees from the surrounding scrub, thus brightening up areas where Lady orchids were growing. The children really enjoyed the work and are already looking forward to coming back in the spring to see how the orchids are doing.

IMG_20221112_123043

Raking the leaves with the Brontosaurus Movement

On the weekend at the turn of September and October, the ROTATE project event took place in cooperation with the Hnutí Brontosaurus NGO and the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic, Administration of the Český karst PLA. In addition to an excursion around the area, environmental educational games etc., the group of fifteen volunteers participated in the litter racking on one forest-steppe locality of conservation importance (the Čihadla locality above the village of Srbsko). On the site there is a rich population of endangered orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis. Occasional litter raking, especially of oak leaves, thus helps to maintain a relatively oligotrophic grassland under the scattered trees. The participants thus experienced traditional management in practice and participated in discussions about the reason, meaning and sustainability of this management in a broader conservation context.

 

Pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

Management of the site with endangered species Early Star-of-Bethlehem in cooperation with the Scout Institute

Early Star-of-Bethlehem (Gagea bohemica) at the locality near Hrušovského pond, 16/03/2022. Photo P. Jiras

The small locality at the Hrušovský pond near Brandýs nad Labem is one of the disjunct ones in the Czech Republic for the critically endangered species of the Early Star-of-Bethlehem. Around 70 flowering individuals and many sterile ones grow here. In addition, there are also a number of thermophilic species preferring open habitats (e.g. rush skeletonweed). The site was gradually overgrown with bushes, and the invasive species of the ornamental plant, the Caucasian Stonecrop, also contributed to the reduction of the area of ​​rocky outcrops of the valuable habitat. Cooperation has therefore been established with the Scout Institute with the local branch of the Scouts from Brandýs nad Labem, the site has been be monitored from spring 2022, and management in the form of cutting and removing invasive stonecrop is also taking place here. Petr Petřík led a botanical excursion to the site on April 9, 2022 in cooperation with the Czech Botanical Society, and then organized a separate event for smaller scouts on April 19, 2022. Prior to that, we managed to arrange the pruning and removal of bushes with the Technical Services of the city Brandýs nad Labem, so the place became brighter and we expect the development of the rock steppe.

A rocky slope above the road overgrown with bushes and an invasive species of Caucasian stonecro, among which the remnants of the population of the Early Star-of-Bethlehem survive, 9/3/2022. Photo D. Hrčka
The slope above the path after tree cutting, 19 April 2022. Photo P. Petřík
Scouts working at locality with endangered species. Photo Kleki 14/10/2022

Excursion on the locality of PP Radotínské skály with scouts

                                                                                                         Photo by Linda Zajíčková.

Since this year, Radotín Scouts have been involved in the Patronates programme, in which the troops take care of a selected site. Together with the conservationists from the HMP Municipality, we selected a beautiful and colourful site – PP Radotínské skály, which provides a wide range of opportunities for the Scouts to get involved in the care, but even to try a little scientific approach (e.g. monitoring of species, comparison with the state before and after the intervention, etc.). At the same time, there are many interesting things for children to learn about in a small space, from individual organisms (orchids and other attractive plants and animals) to landscape phenomena.

So we decided to visit the place in late spring and explore the site through excursions, talks and games. At the first stop in the restored orchard, which the scouts can also partly take care of, we talked about the importance of the old trees, about an interesting bird – the hoopoe, which is returning to us again thanks to the return to the original farming methods (e.g. grazing) and we watched with anticipation the large hoopoe box to see if it was already occupied. We also inspected a site with an abundance of purple loosestrife, which was already fruiting at that time, and we were lucky enough to see white orchids in bloom. 

Then we came to a viewpoint from which we could see the wide surroundings, including the Radotín cement factory and the surrounding hills. This place provided an ideal backdrop for talking about the phenomenon of limestone landscapes and the former use of the landscape, which is the key to understanding the high species diversity today. For this occasion we had with us photographs and aerial photographs of these places as they looked in our grandmothers’ childhood and the children were able to observe for themselves that the former landscape was much less overgrown (and also built up) and thus more easily understand why it is good to actively manage certain places, for example by bush-cutting and grazing, and that many now rare species depend on such management.

Photo by Linda Zajíčková.

Science camp in the Museum of Nature of Bohemian Paradise

On 6 August 2021, at a natural history camp at the Museum of Nature of Bohemian Paradise, children accompanied by Petr Petřík learned about the flora and vegetation, particularly about what is native to the area and how the landscape would look like without human intervention. Pupils from different parts of Bohemia learned, for example, that in order to preserve biodiversity in the current conditions, it is sometimes necessary to involve disturbance in the form of mowing or grazing, or in the case of forests, traditional management methods such as coppicing. Management objectives may vary depending on the object of protection and the type of forest, but even a commercial forest should take into account basic knowledge of species biology and ecology (e.g. not planting invasive tree species, favoring natural regeneration, and increasing the proportion of deadwood).

Petr Petřík demonstrating plants found in the forest. Photo by Marcela Lazurková

Photo by Marcela Lazurková

Photo by Marcela Lazurková

Photo by Marcela Lazurková