National parks and Protected Landscape Areas
- The National Park Bohemian Switzerland
- Protected Landscape Area Labské pískovce
- Protected Landscape Area České středohoří
Protected Landscape Area Labské pískovce
Labské pískovce PLA was declared by the Czechoslovakian Ministry of Culture on 27th June, 1972 in the counties of Děčín and Ústí nad Labem in the North Bohemian region covering an area of 324 km². After the declaration of České Švýcarsko National Park in 2000, this area was reduced to 245 km2.
The mission of Labské pískovce PLA is to protect the landscape values, its appearance, typical characteristics, natural resources and to create a balanced natural environment. Along with České Švýcarsko NP and Sächsische Schweiz NP and PLA it forms the most extensive region of block sandstone in Central Europe.
The great significance of Labské pískovce is underlined by its inclusion in the Natura 2000 system of European Union protected areas at 2 levels. The first is the Labské pískovce SPA – Bird Area, designated to protect 4 species of birds: peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), eagle owl (Bubo bubo), black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) and corncrake (Crex crex). The second level is the proposed Sites of Community Importance, aiming to protect selected habitats, plants and animal species. In the PLA this includes the following areas:
České Švýcarsko – protection of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), otter (Lutra lutra) and natural habitats of Community interest
Údolí Labe – protection of European beaver (Castor fiber), Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), otter (Lutra lutra) and floating water plantain (Luronium natans) as well as natural habitats of European Community interest
Královomlýnský rybník – protection of floating water plantain
Horní Kamenice – protection of Atlantic salmon and otter
Jílové u Děčína – school – protection of a colony of greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis)
In the deep valleys of the Labské pískovce area there are climatic inversions. At the lowest points there is a so-called “cellar climate” and these areas are the coldest with typical mountain plants and animals, but on the other hand, higher elevations on the rocky plateaux and cliff edges are very warm and are populated by thermophilous species. Under the blazing sun, the temperature on these rocks can reach 60 °C
Geology and Geomorphology
Labské pískovce is a landscape modelled by erosion, which has its origins in the Mesozoic, during the Cretaceous times around 100 million years ago. Massive layers of sandy sediments hundreds of metres thick, formed on the bed of the sea which covered the area at that time. As a result of the following lithification, sandstone was formed. When the sea receded, the sandstone layers were disturbed and broken by a series of faults caused by volcanic activity, which mostly took place in the neighbouring České středohoří region. For the following millions of years the landscape was formed and shaped by various erosional activities. The Labe river and its tributaries played the predominant role in this erosion. Igneous rocks, which were formed under the previous land surface but exposed by later erosion also contribute to the landscape appearance.
We can find a great number of geomorphic phenomena bound to the sandstone phenomena on the territory of Labské pískovce PLA. A perfectly modelled example is the Tiské stěny castellated rock “city”. The monumental Labe river canyon is a unique feature of this area and other notable features include the Pastýřská stěna cliff, Stolová hora (Table Mountain), Mt. Vysoký Sněžník as well as ridges, rock pillars, rock windows, rock niches and caves. The rugged geomorphology of the PLA territory is closely related to the great variety of climatic, and especially microclimatic conditions found here. Temperature inversions are found in the deep valleys where the valley floors are the coldest and are inhabited by typically montane flora and fauna. On the other hand the rock plateaux and ledges at higher elevations are very warm and are home to thermophilous species.
The flora of the region is influenced by the geological bedrock of the area, the ruggedness of the terrain, its position at the edge of the Baltic maritime climate zone and by human activity. On the rocky edges and plateaux we can find boreo-continental pine forests with heather (Calluna vulgaris), cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and wavy hair-grass (Avenella flexuosa). On the cold valley floors are natural spruce communities, accompanied by ferns, e.g. holly fern (Blechnum spicant), mosses and lichens but also white butterbur (Petasites albus) and clasp-leaf twisted-stalk (Streptopus amplexifolius). The local rarity is the occurrence of the Killarney fern (Trichomanes speciosum) which only reproduces vegetatively.
On basalt or granite bedrock areas there are forest communities of herb-rich beech forest, with a rich undergrowth of coral toothwort (Dentaria bulbifera) and nine-leaved toothwort (Dentaria enneaphyllos), sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), early dog violet (Viola reichenbachiana), the melic grasses Melica uniflora and Melica nutans, bulbous fumitory (Corydalis cava) and mezereon (Daphne mezereum).
Peat bogs only make up a very small part of the PLA, but are of exceptional botanical significance. Typical plant species for these localities are Labrador tea (Ledum palustre), bog whortleberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), the cranberry Oxycoccus palustris, hare’s-tail cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum) along with a number of mosses including sphagnum bog moss (Sphagnum sp.div.) and the haircap moss Polytrichum sp.div.
On waterlogged, wetland and low-bog meadows we can find a wetland plant community with typical species such as broad-leaved marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza majalis), bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata), spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum), hare’s-tail cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium) and broad-leaved cottongrass(Eriophorum latifolium), marsh valerian (Valeriana dioica), meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and globe flower (Trollius altissimus).
Labské pískovce was originally an almost entirely forested area and the fauna present reflects this. Human activity led to the creation of new biotopes which have enriched the original forest species with types which are bound to fields, meadows and human settlements. The present day landscape offers animals a complete range of habitats from natural to those heavily influenced by human activity. In the area we can find extensive forest growths, a variety of agricultural landscapes and water courses only a little influenced, or untouched by human activity. As a result of man’s negative influences many species became extinct here, including bear, wolf, black grouse and wildcat. The lynx (Lynx lynx) is a rare visitor to the PLA. The Labe river has the greatest species diversity of fish with more than 40 species present. Typical fish for the territory are barbel (Barbus barbus), vimba bream (Vimba vimba), zander (Stizostedion lucioperca) or eels (Anguilla anguilla). A reintroduction programme to return the Atlantic salmon(Salmo salar) to Bohemia and Saxony has been in operation since 1999, including the Kamenice river. We can also find brook lamprey (Lampetra planeri) in the catchments of the Křinice and Kamenice rivers.
Among 16 recorded species of amphibians we can commonly meet the common toad (Bufo bufo), marsh frog (Rana ridibunda), fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra), great-crested newt (Triturus cristatus) and Alpine newt (Triturus alpestris). If we are lucky, we might see agile frogs (Rana dalmatina) or moor frog (Rana arvalis).
Eight species of reptiles have been recorded in the region. Unfortunately European pond terrapins (Emys orbicularis) became extinct more than 100 years ago, and there are no sightings of dice snake (Natrix tesselata) in recent decades. The smooth snake (Coronella austriaca) is becoming more common. Throughout the whole PLA territory we can find common viper (Vipera berus), viviparous lizard (Zootoca vivipara) and slowworm (Anguis fragilis).
More than 100 species of birds nest in the area. Black storks (Ciconia nigra) regularly bring up their young in the area’s forests. Since the mid – 1990s, the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) has returned to the area. 7 species of owls have been confirmed as nesting in the area. In recent years the nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) has been sighted on burnt ground. Kingfisher (Alcedo athis) and dipper (Cinclus Cinclus) are common on the rivers. More than 50 species of mammals live in the area. On the Labe river we can again encounter European beaver (Castor fiber) and otters (Lutra lutra) can be found on all suitable water courses. The fat dormouse (Glis glis) is commonly sighted. 16 species of bat have been identified, including lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros), greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis) and parti-coloured bat (Vespertilio murinus).
From the great variety of invertebrates living in Labské pískovce we can mention the freshwater mussel Unio pictorum, the cave cricket - Pholidoptera aptera, the swallowtail butterfly (Papilio machaon), the ground beetles Carabus nitens, Carabus irregularis and Carabus problematicus, European rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes nasicornis) as well as more common invertebrates such as the broad-bodied chaser dragonfly (Libelula depressa).
The forests on the territory of the PLA have undergone a great transformation in their species composition in the recent decades, and in the case of all forest land owners. As society has changed, so has the function of the forest, changing its emphasis on timber production to focus on water retention, soil protection, promoting ecological stability, recreational and landscape formation. For these reasons and to prevent further forest calamities, large numbers of beech, oak, fir, elm and lime have been planted using seeds and saplings adapted to the local conditions. The local ecotypes of spruce and pine forest, which are adapted to the tough local conditions of the areas, are of great natural value. Because of this, gene banks for the local varieties of lowland spruce and Jetřichovice pine have been established at Doubice and for mountain Pine at Kristin Hrádek by the Děčín forestry service. The gene archives will help to conserve these species. By taking grafts and collecting seeds we can ensure a supply of native seedlings for forest renewal.
The richest forest area in the PLA, the right bank of the Labe river, is nominated to become a National Nature Reserve.
The administration of Labské pískovce PLA carries out activities to conserve and renew valuable natural or close-to-natural localities, to support endangered plant and animal species and to inform and educate the public. Examples of these activities are:
Guarding peregrine falcon nests against disturbance and theft of eggs and young
Caring for protected animal and plant species
Forming and renewal of small water surfaces
Measures to protect meadow and wetland communities
Caring for Tree Monuments and other significant trees
Caring for the gene fund of native tree species
Preparing, signposting and caring for Nature Reserves and Nature Monuments
Preserving and increasing the biodiversity in forest growths
Building and maintaining public information systems
Restricting the occurrence of non-native, invasive plant species.
Cultural and historical characteristics
Villages and small towns help to form the cultural landscape surrounding the wild natural scenery of rock towers, cliffs, deep ravines and forests. Most of the villages and small towns in the area were founded by colonists as strip villages in the forests, and they have a common form of long, narrow settlements along streams and roads or only a row of houses set back from the road. At the expense of forests, limited strips of agricultural land were cleared on either side of the central roadway.
Most of the traditional houses found here are typical for North Bohemian folk architecture, indicating the strength of tradition and people’s links to the land and region. The local folk architecture typically used local, natural materials such as wood, sandstone and a combination of timber, log cabin and timber-framed house styles, and two-storeyed rural houses appeared here from the 16th century onwards. A stone pedestal to spread the weight of the walls and roof is typical of the local housing construction. The houses reflect the employment, wealth and social position of the inhabitants. Differences in styles of housing can tell us if we are looking at a former gamekeeper’s cottage, forester’s house, mill, sawmill, farm or school. On the houses we can admire the craftsmanship. Decorated gables, balconies, pedestals, windows and doors come from the architectural styles popular at the time of construction, and identify certain houses with particular sub-regions e.g. Krásná Lípa or Jetřichovice.
For their exceptional architectural, urbanist and landscape value the settlements of Kamenická Stráň and Vysoká Lípa were declared Village Historical Reserves in 1995 by the Czech Ministry of Culture.
As well as human activity that we can see at first glance, man has also left many small monuments, such as crosses, chapels, memorials in the landscape. It’s impossible to find two small monuments which are identical as they vary so much from village to village and they show us how skilful the local craftsmen were. As the basic building material of the area is sandstone, it’s logical that many of these small monuments were built from this available and easily-workable material. We can find such structures by roads and paths, at crossroads, in the centre of villages or even placed on buildings. We can also find monuments scattered across the agricultural landscape or even in the forests, where they could remind us of some forestry accident or of the hunting of an unusual or exceptional game animal. There are legends and superstitions connected to some of these small monuments and they give names to the locations where they stand or serve as orientation points in the countryside. Some of these small monuments, such as the stone Kuntzův kříž (cross) from 1456 A.D., found to the north of Vysoký Sněžník are hundreds of years old. This cross was built as a cross of conciliation in the system of medieval morality and law, so different from the present day. On the basis of Christian views on forgiveness, this meant that a murderer could be forgiven by his victim’s family, under certain conditions such as erecting a cross. The legal right to sign a conciliation treaty was abolished in the 16th century, but the tradition of building stone crosses continued for much longer.
By the road from Růžová to Srbská Kamenice we can find the Riedelův Kříž. It is a roughly-hewn conciliation cross engraved with a sword and the year 1792, but the cross is probably older. The Merchant Riedel was murdered and according to the legend, two crows, who witnessed the murder, helped to prove the murderer’s guilt.
Nature protection in the Labské pískovce region can be traced to the first half of the 18th century when Count Jan Josef Thun introduced new rules on his Děčín estates, such as control over forest management, a ban on grazing in his forests and a ban on logging for part of the year, so the deer had peace and quiet to aid their reproduction. Later, other estates in the area adopted similar practices. Even if these rules were made to improve the hunting, they also had a positive effect on nature protection in the area.
From the beginning of the 20th century, efforts to protect the territory were motivated by a desire to protect the nature and landscape of the region. The notes of the conservationist Rudolf Maximovič from 1923 write of the interest of the Ministry to conserve the territory and to carry out scientific research as “the area undoubtedly has the character of a nature monument, suitable for declaring it a reservation”.
Three protected areas have existed in the Czech part of Labské pískovce since 1933. These were Edmundova soutěska (cancelled 1965), Pravčická brána and Tiské stěny (also cancelled in 1965).
The first suggestion for complex protection of the area in the form of a large-scale Specially Protected Area, Labské pískovce or České Švýcarsko can be found in the diploma thesis by Dr. Jan Čeřovský in 1953 entitled “Proposal to create a state protected natural area Děčínské stěny (cliffs)”. In 1963, the German publicist Reimar Gilsenbach made a notable proposal to establish a natural park in the Labe cliffs area. In his book “Sächsische Schweiz”, he first suggested a bilateral park in the Labe sandstone rocks region.
Labské pískovce PLA was first declared in 1972 on an area of 324 km². In 1985 Dr. Čeřovský suggested declaring Czech – Saxon Switzerland a bilateral Biosphere Reserve, which unfortunately still hasn’t been realised. After lengthy negotiations a law establishing České Švýcarsko as a National Park on an area of 79 km2 was passed in 1999.
Since 1993, preparations are being made to declare a Biosphere Reserve on the Czech territory. Efforts to include the Labe river canyon together with part of České Švýcarsko NP and part of the German territory in the UNESCO List of World Natural Heritage Sites are also under way.
In 2005 as part of the Natura 2000 system, Labské pískovce SPA – Bird Area was established and several proposed Sites of Community Importance were authorized.