Mountain glades in the Beskid Mountains constitute an important place of biodiversity. They are the site of occurrence of many rare plant and animal species, for the effective protection of which it is necessary to recognise the plant communities, which they occur in, and the mutual relations between them. Despite the quite uniform form of extensive pastoral management in the Beskid Mountains, a number of diverse and interesting plant communities has developed in the glade area. Many of them are the so-called semi-natural communities. The term refers to systems dominated by native species, however in need of a certain form of human activity in order to exist, such as mowing or grazing.
The chance to maintain and restore the habitats subject to protection under the Project is provided for by conducting extensive sheep grazing. The currently existing habitats of valuable species of plants and animals in open areas loose their special properties due to the cessation of pastoral activities and head towards the transformation into forest areas. Animals that forage intensively in the open areas contribute to the inhibition of the growth of seedlings of trees and shrubs which prevents afforestation of open areas. Additionally, herbaceous plants are eaten to various extents and on various levels which has a positive effect on the availability of hiding places and breeding sites for insects, invertebrates or small rodents.
During the implementation of the Project as well as after its completion, a gradual improvement in the state of preservation of the Carpathian Nardetallia was observed, which was the effect of the conducted active nature protection measures to a large extent. In most of the research plots, the share of positions, the general assessment of the state of preservation of which was assessed as appropriate, significantly increased, while there were fewer positions in an inappropriate condition. The proportionally largest change in the state of preservation took place in the second year of the Project. It indicates that conducting the protection measures improves the state of preservation in the long run only.
In the case of the mountain habitats of Trisetum flavescens and Agrostis used extensively, a significant improvement of the state of preservation, as a result of the conducted active nature protection measures, was recorded. In the case of this habitat, the biggest change in the assessment of the state of preservation was found between the second and third year of the Project. Campanula napuligera was identified on 8 surfaces. During the research in the years of 2014 – 2020, changes in abundance were observed, among others the decrease in the number of shoots in the Przegibek and Bendoszka glades, however the observed fluctuations were probably a natural component of the dynamics of the species in question and did not indicate any negative changes in the populations.
A series of various changes, being the answer of the invertebrate communities to both the conducted protection measures as well as the natural environmental factors, were observed within the fauna of invertebrates investigated within the framework of the Project. Positive changes in the species composition and structure of the fauna were stated in the vast majority.
It is worth emphasising that the stable population of the mountain Orthoptera species Miramella alpina was confirmed and a new position of this species was identified.
Based on the conducted environmental monitoring, it may be concluded that the protective measures had a clear and positive impact on the reconstruction of vegetation and fauna of the Silesian Beskid Mountains and Żywiecki Beskid Mountains. A clear turn of the species diversity of flora and fauna, including the appearance of species appropriate and typical for extensively used glades and mountain pastures, was recorded in the majority of the mountain pastures. However, in order to maintain the achieved natural effects, the long-term, extensive and as varied as possible use of the mountain pastures and glades is necessary.
The economic situation in the area of Beskid Śląski and Żywiecki at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries made the traditional pastoral economy less profitable. Admittedly, there is an agri-environmental programme supporting the use of open areas, however, a great division of species in those areas is a kind of barrier for farmers to make full use of the financial assistance. This has led to the cessation of grazing animals in many halls and mountain glades. It is worth noticing that valuable areas of grasslands and mountain meadows have developed through traditional grazing in the areas used for agriculture. Abandoning the pastoral economy has led to the development of forest succession, which is as a great threat to non-forest communities. For the purpose of improving the condition of habitats, the Complex of Landscape Parks of the Silesian Voivodeship proceeded to implement the LIFE Project no. LIFE12 NAT/PL/000081, which, through undertaking a number of well-coordinated actions in the long term, allowed to limit succession processes, and thus significantly contributed to the improvement of habitat conditions. Thanks to the LIFE12 NAT/PL/000081 Project, in the mountain pastures and clearings one can again see grazing sheep which as "natural mowers" contribute significantly to the improvement of conditions of non-forest habitats. The delivery of the LIFE12 NAT/PL/000081 Project under the name of „Protection of Non-forest Communities in the Beskidzkie Landscape Parks” occurred in the period from November 2013 till December 2018.
The major objectives of the LIFE12 NAT/PL/000081 Project were:
- Preservation and protection of biodiversity in the areas of Ostoja Nature 2000 Beskid Śląski (PLH 240005) and Beskid Żywiecki (PLH 240006) by means of restoring pastoral economy, removal of self-seeding trees and shrubs along with biomass removal, mowing meadow and turf vegetation along with biomass removal;
- Restoration of habitat types listed in Attachment I of the 92/43/EWG Council Directive: West Carpathian twin grasslands 6230-2*, (Polygono- Trisetion and Arrhenatherion);
- Active protection of plants listed in Attachment I of the 92/43/EWG Council Directive: bell serrated 4070* (Campanula serrata subsp. serrata), moravian monk 4109 (Aconitum firmum moravicum);
- Preservation and protection of animal species connected with non-forest communities listed in Attachment II of the 92/43/EWG: MAMMALS: wolf 1352* (Canis lupus), brown bear 1354* (Ursus arctos), Tatra pine vole 2612 (Microtus tatricus), BIRDS: capercaillie A108 (Tetrao urogallus), lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), eagle-owl A2015 (Bubo bubo), INVERTEBRATES: lumpy runner 4014 (Carabus variolosus);
- Implementation of agri-environmental programmes, in the areas of NATURE 2000, supported by the European Union including target requirements;
- Increasing social awareness and ensuring good practice in the management of the Nature 2000 natural resources. The educational part of the project was dedicated to the residents of the project areas, farmers, students, tourists and other interested parties;
- Environmental monitoring of communities subject to protection under the project: verification of the zero state and monitoring during the delivery and after the project completion.
As a result of the project activities, the following effects were achieved:
- Preservation of plants listed in Attachment II of the 92/43/EWG: bell serrated 4070* (Campanula serrata subsp. serrata), moravian monk 4109 (Aconitum firmum moravicum);
- Preservation and restoration of habitats listed in Attachment I of the 92/43/EWG Council Directive: West Carpathian twin grasslands 6230-2*, oat grass meadows and bent grass meadows mountain meadows used extensively 6520 (Polygono- Trisetion and Arrhenatherion);
- Protection of animal species connected with non-forest communities listed in Attachment II of the 92/43/EWG: MAMMALS: wolf 1352* (Canis lupus), brown bear 1354* (Ursus arctos), Tatra pine vole 2612 (Microtus tatricus), BIRDS: capercaillie A108 (Tetrao urogallus), lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), eagle-owl A2015 (Bubo bubo), INVERTEBRATES: lumpy runner 4014 (Carabus variolosus);
- Prevention of unguided tourist traffic in the Żywiecki Landscape Park and the Beskid Śląski Landscape Park;
- Increasing social awareness and ensuring the implementation of good practice in the management of natural resources;
- Maintenance of traditional land use forms;
- Implementation of agri-environmental programmes, in the areas of NATURE 2000, supported by the European Union including target species requirements;
- Preservation of the open landscape.
All of the crucial tasks in the Project were delivered and recognised as eligible by the European Commission, while their effects are visible in the field. In order to maintain those deliverables in the years following the completion of the Project implementation, it is necessary to undertake a number of well-coordinated activities, requiring the involvement of not only employees implementing the Project, but also local communities, thanks to which all the activities were successfully implemented and the ecological effect was achieved.
The first year of implementation of activities aimed at maintaining the effects achieved passed without any hindrance. As part of those activities, the Complex of Landscape Parks of the Silesian Voivodeship carried out active nature protection to the extent of the continuation of supervision over sheep grazing in all five design grazing complexes and double mowing of Alpine sorrel in the following pasture lands: Rysianka, Lipowska, Cudzichowa, Pawlusia. Additionally, external funds were raised for grazing operations that were necessary due to particularly unfavourable terrain and climatic conditions for grazing animals. In the year of 2020 in the pasture lands and mountain glades of Beskid Śląski and Żywiecki, expansive vegetation will be mowed once, and in places particularly threatened with secondary succession, self-seeding trees and shrubs will be removed.
The employees of the Complex of Landscape Parks of the Silesian Voivodeship make every effort to ensure optimal achievement of the intended goals, among others, by conducting constant monitoring of pasture lands and meadows, supervision of inventory or the publicity and dissemination of results, reaching out to a growing number of customers.
The After LIFE Conservation Plan is available here.