Cross border project aims to restore wetlands in Šumava and Bavarian Forest

Foto: Správa NP Šumava

A conservation project aiming to restore some 2,000 hectares of degraded moors and wetlands is currently underway in the Šumava mountains in southern Bohemia. The five-year project, called Life for Mires, is also taking place on the German side of the mountains, in the Bavarian Forest National Park.

A significant part of the Šumava National Park and the Bavarian Forest were once covered by mires and other wetland habitats. However, more than a half of them have been destroyed over recent decades due to drainage and peat extraction.

Photo: Jitka Englová / Czech Radio

Now, Czech and German conservationists are working to restore the wetlands, since they can play a significant role in mitigating climate change. By accumulating water, they have a significant effect on the landscape, lowering the air temperature while increasing its relative humidity.

Melanie Kreutz from Bund Naturschutz Bayern is responsible for the wetland restoration in the Bavarian Forest National Park.

“It is important to have these bogs and wetlands in the landscape because they store both water and carbon dioxide. The plants that grow in the moors do not disintegrate again because there is a high water level. They are stored in the peat, in the bog – and so is the carbon dioxide.

“Our primary goal is to bring the water back into the landscape, because the bogs in the national park have been drained heavily in recent decades and have lost their natural character.”

Iva Bufková,  Lukáš Linhart,  photo: Jitka Englová / Czech Radio

On the Czech side of the Šumava National park, conservation works have already got underway in the area between the towns of Železná Ruda and Prášily, by the Křemelná River. Biologist Iva Bufková from the National Park Administration:

“The area has around 30 hectares and about one third is covered by springs. In the past, it was divided by a dense network of drainage canals. Altogether, they were at least three kilometres long.”

As a result, the area has dried out and underground water sources have been depleted. Now, conservationists are blocking the drainage canals to retain the water in place and keep it from flowing away. They are also working to renew some smaller streams.

Photo: archive of Šumava National Park

While in the peatbogs they are building dams with their own hands, in other cases, they use heavy technology, including excavators, explains another Šumava National Park employee, Lukáš Linhart:

“The best thing is to work as fast as possible. As long as there are no valuable biotopes and the place is accessible, we can make use of heavy technology.

“All we need to do is simply fill the drainage canals with dirt. We can see that the nature quickly reclaims the place and the water regime in the area starts to be restored.”

By 2024, some 40 different locations of the Šumava National Park and the Bavarian Forest should be restored within the Life for Mires project.

Photo: archive of Šumava National Park