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

Sustainability days

On 5 May 2021, Petr Petřík and Radim Hédl from the project team took part in the Sustainability Days conference organized by the Na Zatlance Gymnasium. They presented the journal Botanika published by the Institute of Botany of the CAS and the activities of the Platform for the Landscape.

They also described the latest findings from research on forest vegetation changes to the conference participants. They also addressed landscape issues. For example, the students were asked whether they knew what was behind the rapid loss of agricultural land in the Czech Republic (an average of 15 ha per day), the decline in the number of field birds in agricultural landscapes (since the 1920s, the number has fallen by 90%) and the fact that we have extirpated around 20 species of our butterflies.

The children were most interested in what will happen when our landscape is completely destroyed by humans and came up with all sorts of catastrophic scenarios. They were a little surprised that the breakdown of spruce monocultures is not considered such a catastrophe from a botanical point of view, as it offers the possibility of changing the tree composition for a more natural and structurally diverse forest.

Radim Hédl

Petr Petřík

Excursion and preparation for care of biologically valuable locality Řepská step

In 2021 we started cooperation with Scout Group from Bílá Hora and state authorities responsible for management of biologically valuable locality Řepská step, which is situated on former military area. Because of this former landuse a specific vegetation of heath and sandy land developed here and some rare animals found refuge here. Unfortunately at the present shrubs and dominant grasses overgrow this biotope.  

Therefore we started planning managements that would be suitable for locality and Scouts as well. At first we will tear a greensward off some suitable places to reestablish a bare soil that is essential for some plants and insects, especially Hymenoptera, that use a bare soil for nesting.

An excursion was held there on 26 May 2021. We got acquainted with interesting plant species growing there, we mapped an extension of heath occurrence, found a small interesting grass Corynephorus canescens which grows only on the sandy bare soil and sandy places where bumblebee and other Hymenoptera nest. We also had a discussion on benefits of this specific management, explained that such biotopes are more and more rare because of quick overgrowing and that they are very important for many organisms.

Corynephorus canescens

Photo by Jindřich Prach.

Photo by Libor Zdařil.

Due to this excursion perhaps young people from Scout learned about interesting surroundings near to their clubhouse and understood modern approaches to nature conservation. 

Active management of dry grasslands in the Berounka valley

Photo: archive of 4th division VS Prague 3

On November 21st, a management intervention in dry grasslands took place with scout volunteers (4th group of water scouts from Prague 3 – Albatrosové) close to Korno village in the Protected Landscape Area Bohemian Karst. Scout volunteers cutted shrubs and trees growing in dry grassland with protected and rare species (e.g. Pulsatilla pratensis subsp. bohemica) under the expert leadership of Karel Boublík.

Pulsatilla pratensis subsp. bohemica, photo by David Svoboda. 

We explained to young scouts, why Central European landscape became overgrown with shrubs and trees and the importance of maintainance of open conditions for many light-demanding plants, butterflies and other groups of insects and animals. Then, we cutted shrubs and trees in an area of 0.25 ha.

Photo: archive of 4th division VS Prague 3

Photo: archive of 4th division VS Prague 3

November 17 in Plešivec

Photo by Jindřich Prach

On November 17, 17 people from various Prague schools (hobby group focused on biology organized by Celia Korittová) got out for a short trip to the Český kras area. The aim was a conservational management (in cooperation with the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic). After talking about the beauties of the area, identifying the found biological objects and presenting changes of the landscape and approaches to nature protection (Jindřich Prach from the grant team), they all came to the mosaic of steppes, forest-steppes and thermophilic oak forests, where endangered Adonis vernalis grows.

These patches, now mostly overgrown by shrubs are situated on the southern slope of the Plešivec hill above the famous Karlštejn castle. Hundreds of this yellow-headed famous plant bloom here in the spring, but from the former sparse forest-steppes, probably former-grazing forests, only the driest patches remain, while areas with deeper soil have been overgrown with bushes in recent decades. Adonis thus survives mostly at the edges of the area in the remaining population covered with leaves under the oak trees. 

Adonis vernalis, photo by Jindřich Prach. 

Half-day work with scissors and saws, simulating traditional management such as felling bushes and litter raking, lead to the expansion of grasslands and steppe vegetation. From a diverse mix of participants, from elementary school children to biology-skilled school students, perhaps everyone has at least experienced the need to take care of thermophilic oak forests, steppes and forest-steppes. As here, in a long-populated cultural landscape, has been done for many thousands of years.

Photo by Jindřich Prach

An experiential educational weekends in the valley of the Bubovický stream

Photo by Jindřich Prach.

Two events combining experiential education and management of nature protected area took place on the third weekend of October and second weekend in November in cooperation with the Brontosaurus Movement and the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic. Young people set out on an excursion through the valley of the Bubovický brook and the views of Paní hora in the Bohemian Karst protected landscape area, Karlštejn Nature reserve. Various types of forests – both maintained by traditional management (e.g. grazing) and non-intervention were presented. On the hill Mokrý vrch, everyone put their hand to active care of the local steppe and forest-steppe patches. The shrubs were removed with scissors and saws, and the rakes simulated litter-raking in the marginal parts of the steppe patch under mature oaks.

The issues of conservation management and the beauty of the local nature were presented using an explanatory pictures – comparative historical and contemporary maps and aerial images of the site, important local plants (e.g., very rare orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis) that are not visible in the fall, etc. And there was a lively discussion when and where to take out sometimes radically management to maintain selected species and when and to what extent, or when/where the contrary, possible non-intervention is appropriate.

Anacamptis pyramidalis, photo by Jindřich Prach. 

Photo by Jindřich Prach.

Organizing a workshop: Experiences with traditional management types in forests

On 13-14 October 2021, in the cosy surroundings of the U Krobiána inn in Hostim by Berounn, in the heart of the Bohemian Karst, a seminar on traditional forest management took place. It attracted a diverse mix of people working in nature conservation and forestry. Discussions were held on how the reintroduction of previously common practices (leaf fall raking, low and medium forests, forest grazing) can contribute to the conservation of the biodiversity of today’s forests. The large turnout of more than sixty people from conservation practitioners, government employees and scientists only confirmed how topical this topic is in society. The seminar was organised within the framework of the ROTATE1 project, funded by the Norwegian Funds and the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic with an amount of EUR 1.05 million. The project aims to raise awareness on the topic of enhancing biodiversity in forests using traditional management methods.

The morning was devoted to an excursion to the nearby Vysoká stráň, where scientists from the Czech University of Agriculture (ČZU) have been monitoring plant diversity in areas regularly cleared of leaf litter for a long time. Pavel Skala, the Trávníček brothers from the Třesina2 association and Jindřich Prach from the Administration of the Czech Karst Protected Landscape Area guided the seminar participants through places where the association carries out forest grazing with Shetland ponies and primitive breeds of goats and sheep. Thanks to the established grazing and especially to the tireless work of the association in cutting down the scrub, they maintain a valuable mosaic of forest patches and forest-free areas. Josef Mottl (Bohemian Karst Protected Landscape Area) showed the participants how they plan to use various old stands of oak-birch to restore the stumps.

The afternoon belonged to a busy block of lectures.

Péter Szabó from the Botanical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (Institue of Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences) spoke about the historical context of fallow raking in forests. In the 19th century, around 168,000 tonnes of leaves were still harvested, but in 1960 this form of management was completely banned by a new forest law. The reason for this was the depletion of the forest of nutrients, which had a negative effect on timber production, but also the gradual introduction of artificial fertilisers. The archives brought to light an event that took place in Horka nad Moravou in 1845 and reflected the social importance of raking forest litter at that time3.

It was followed up by a lecture by Jeňýk Hofmeister from the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology of the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague (FLD ČZU) on the influence of litter removal on soil nutrient supply. Raking and removal of biomass from the forest significantly reduces the amount of nutrients in the forest soil, which is more pronounced on poor substrates4. Today, nitrogen also enters the ecosystem in the form of precipitation from increased emissions from industry and agriculture. Raking fallow land could therefore be one way to reduce eutrophication.

Jana Doudová from the Faculty of the Environment of the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague (FŽP ČZU) presented the results of a ten-year experiment from Vysoké hillside in the Bohemian Karst in her lecture on the impact of raking in the forest5: “Raking not only increases the diversity of species associated with light forests, but in dry years it can even protect species that are particularly sensitive to lack of precipitation. Thus, burrowing can promote some species of conservation value and, conversely, help to eliminate ruderal species.”

In the following lecture, Petr Karlík and his colleague Tomáš Černý (both FLD ČZU) described the experience of re-establishing central forest from four experimental sites in the Czech Karst. They focused on stump regeneration in the areas in PR Na Voskopa, where they introduced the central forest and monitored its development and effect on biodiversity of fenced and unfenced areas. This is also where the excursion led the following day. The lightening of the vegetation has led, for example, to a significant expansion of the population of the endangered Gentiana bravita, which was not observed on the site before the intervention and now numbers about a hundred flowering plants.

Petr Karlík also presented the results of the repetition of vegetation records of the forests in the Karlice Valley from the thesis of the recently deceased botanist Dr. D. Blažková. Since 1956 many rare species have disappeared and the invasive Asian small-flowered buttercup has spread. This is mainly due to the high numbers of game (especially mouflon) and, more recently, to the decay of the tree cover due to climate change.

Tereza Kočárková from the Agency for Nature and Landscape Conservation (AOPK ČR) introduced the participants to the Integrated LIFE One Nature project. This project evaluates the impact of traditional forest management methods on biodiversity in forests and verifies their applicability for forest owners and managers. Thanks to this project, for example, the Bohemian Karst Protected Landscape Area can restore biodiversity in oak forests for the benefit of light-loving species.

After the break there was a lecture by Pavel Šebek and Lukáš Čížek (both ENTÚ BC CAS) with a slightly provocative title When, where and how to bother trees? Pavel Šebek drew attention to an apparent paradox: “Although our country has seen an increase in forest area in the last century, some once common light-loving forest species have, on the contrary, drastically declined.” Entomologists from the BC CAS are vocal advocates of thinning lowland forests and have shown in experimental plots in Podyjí NP how important connections to surrounding habitats, mosaicism and the dynamics of vegetation change are in restoring insect diversity in light forests.6 They also briefly discussed the conservation importance of tree head-pruning.

Karel Kříž (ZO ČSOP Vlašim) and Hanka Pánková (BÚ AV ČR) presented the project “Butterflies of the Vltava Slopes “7, where they presented the method of targeted tree damage as a suitable option for creating habitats for saproxylic insects and other invertebrate species. The tree ringing method may be a drastic method for some, but it is very effective if we want to lighten the site while leaving dead wood on the site.

Robert Stejskal (Podyjí National Park) informed the audience about how they are restoring coppice forests in Podyjí National Park. He showed that the disputes between conservationists and some naturalists about the preservation of light-loving insect species due to the absence of stumping are perhaps already a thing of the past.

In his presentation, Ondřej Vild with Radim Hédl (IB CAS) said: “We have been monitoring the impact of stumping on vegetation in Podyjí NP since 2015. We show a clear increase in the number of species of the herbaceous floor in the first years after the intervention. Initially, especially for ruderal species, but these are gradually receding.” 

Jiří Rom (Prague City Council) in his pictorial presentation presented a range of regime interventions with a link to traditional management in the city of Prague. These include cattle, sheep and goat grazing, central forest and hill farming. He stressed the issue of public information and education.

Petr Kjučukov (FLD ČZU and Lesy ČR, s.p.) concluded the evening with a talk on ecological forestry and showed an example of transferring the experience from American stands (structural complexity enhancement) to ours, where the spatial and age structure of the forest is prioritized to promote the preservation of old trees and dead wood. Using the example of the Samechov forest or the NPR Ve Studené, we agreed that the current forestry policy should focus, among other things, on the issue of preserving abundant sterile stands.

After dinner, the participants were treated to two engaging lectures by Jaroslav Vojta from the Silva Tarouca Research Institute for Landscape and Ornamental Horticulture (VÚKOZ) and Jan Šebesta and Tomáš Koutecký from the Mendel University in Brno (MENDELU), focusing on the diversity of scrub pasture plants and the effect of fire on stumpage in Czech settlements in the Romanian Banat8,9. It shows that when restoring treeless forests, it is necessary to maintain a certain percentage of shrubs to maintain biodiversity. The well-known fact about the importance of the central forest for the diversity of the herbaceous understory was also confirmed.

1 https://starfos.tacr.cz/cs/project/TO01000132

2 https://spolektresina.weebly.com/

3 https://www.ibot.cas.cz/cs/2021/08/23/pripad-neopravneneho-hrabani-lesniho-steliva/

4 https://doi.org/10.1007/s10533-008-9201-z

5 https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12801

6 https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.14019

7 https://motyli.csopvlasim.cz/

8 https://doi.org/10.1007/s12224-016-9279-3

9 https://ziva.avcr.cz/2020-1/pavel-kovar-ed-prenesena-krajina-cesky-venkov-v-rumunskem-banatu.html

Written by Petr Petrik, petrik@ibot.cas.cz

Petr Karlík při výkladu na exkurzi. Foto J. a J. Doudovi

Petr Karlík demonstrating an experimentally restored stand of central forest in PR Na Voskopě. Photo by J. Doudová 

Excursion participants. Photo by J. Doudová