National parks and Protected Landscape Areas

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The National Park Bohemian Switzerland

The Bohemian Switzerland National Park (Národní park České Švýcarsko), which was established on 1st January 2000, covers an area of nearly 80km2, and is the youngest national park in the Czech Republic. The park on its northern side borders and is linked to the Saxon Switzerland National Park in Germany, which was established in 1990 and covers an area of 93 km2.

The mission of the National Park is to preserve the local territory in its full beauty and to enable natural processes to prevail in this area. Human interventions are only limited to activities which help restore the natural balance to the greatest extent.

The focal point of the area protection is a unique sandstone rock “town“ with the occurance of rare plant and animal species and islands of well-preserved woods. Natural values of the National Park have also been acknowledged within the European Union by including it in the prestigious list of European conservation areas called Natura 2000.

A country born from the sea

The National Park is a land of sandstones. They were formed by agglutination of sand grains that had settled at the bottom of the chalk sea. Throughout the ten million years that the sand was accumulating, a bed of sedimentation was growing grain by grain until it reached the thickness of more than one kilometre!

The most important stage of the geological development of the Elbe Sandstones took place in the Mesozoic Period, during the existence of the Upper Cretaceous sea which covered this region more than 90 million years ago. Sediments were laid down on the bed of this sea over a period of approximately 12 million years. This layer of sediments was up to 1,000 metres in thickness and is predominantly formed of sandstones.

At the end of the Mesozoic Era the sea receded and the sandstone land cracked into giant blocks. Hot magma and solutions were pushing their way to the surface through the cracks. Ferrous sandstones and the noticeable basaltic and clinkstone hills are relics of this turbulent period. Most noticeable is the so-called Růžovský Vrch ("Rosy Hill"), which is the highest spot of the National Park.

The present-day landscape is a result of the impact of rivers, rain, wind and frost. Thus the deep mountain passes and canyons, rock towers, gates or windows were created. Sandstone blocks keep crumbling and sometimes they even collapse. Nature never finishes its work...

Sanctuary for animals

The rocky and wooded country provides ideal conditions for life of many species. Deep forests offer nesting places for a number of birds, e.g. black storks, stock doves, owls or woodpeckers. Rock cracks and tree clefts are occupied by edible and garden dormice, and several species of bats. Deer and other shy animals can be also seen in the forests. European lynx (bob cat) very rarely stray to this region.

Common raven and also peregrine falcon, which came back to local nature at the turn of the millennium thanks to the environmentalists´ efforts, nest on the rocks again. Thanks to human help also Atlantic salmon returned to the Kamenice River.

Near water you can see common kingfisher, Eurasian dipper, Eurasian otter or fire salamander and other amphibia. A lot of rare species can be also found among invertebrates. Examples are cave crickets or mountain species of beetles.

Mysterious world of plants

On sandstone there is only poor and dry soil, where only hardy species of plants can grow, such as lichens, heather, birch and Scot’s pine. More varied life flourishes in gorges on moist and shady rocks, which are covered by cushions of moss, clubmoss, ferns, and here and there also by rare Labrador Tea.

Cold and damp bases of gorges are also home for piedmont and mountain species of plants, such as dog thorn, chickweed wintergreen or dog violet that has been growing here as rare specimen since the last glacial period.

Quite different species of plants can be found in broad-leaf forests on basalt and clinkstone hills, which are brightened by a carpet of anemones and other plants in spring. Pepperwort and crowtoe or protected purple lilies also belong to typical species of these altitudes.

Kingdom of forests

Forests cover nearly the whole area of the National Park. However, the majority of the original fir-beech primaeval forests have long gone, falling to the strike of woodman’s axe. People planted out allochthonous species, particularly spruces and larches in their place.

Finally, nature-oriented and scientifically valuable vegetation has been preserved in inaccessible gorges and on high rocks. Cool and shady gorges are also the last place, where in Bohemian-Saxon Switzerland spruces originally grew.

The most important task of the National Park Administration is to change allochthonous, non- native spruce forests into mixed stands and to get rid of exotic tree species, especially Weymouth pine. In addition to beech, once the most plentiful tree species, fir, oak, rowan or elm trees have been returned and these plants must be protected by fencing so that deer cannot browse them.