Environment expert: The fire in the national park will actually benefit nature

Fire in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park

The fire raging in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park is the worst in the country’s modern history. Over 1,000 hectares of forestland have been destroyed by the blaze, which is still not under control. How much damage has been done to the biotope and how long may it take to recover? Those are questions I put to environment expert Vojtěch Kotecký.

Vojtěch Kotecký | Photo: Barbora Linková,  Czech Radio

“I actually believe that the fire is more of a problem for the local people than for Nature itself. There was a smaller fire in the national park about 16 years ago and we know that Nature will regenerate very fast and instead of the monoculture that the national park inherited from the previous management it will evolve into a wild, biodiverse and rich forest. So I think Nature is not at risk here, people are.”

How long may it take for the area to recover?

Fire raging in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park | Photo: Ondřej Hájek,  ČTK

“Obviously, before we get to a fully developed forest it will take many decades, probably 100 years. But I think that the first evidence of a rich eco-system will be visible within about ten years’ time.”

What about the animal and bird species? Would they have had time to escape?

Peregrine Falcon | Photo: Carlos Delgado,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

“Obviously, there will be some losses, but I think that the most iconic species of the park, like the Peregrine Falcon or the Black Stork most likely escaped from the area affected by the fire.”

Should the area be left to regenerate itself or should man try to intervene by creating mixed forests – in view of the problems with the bark beetle?

Bark beetles | Photo: Šárka Škapíková,  Czech Radio

“There is probably no choice but to opt for natural regeneration simply because of the size of the area affected.  At the same time, it may make sense to intervene here and there and to support regeneration with targeted planting of specific native species, that is a choice that the national park management will have to make in the coming years. Nevertheless, this is not the first disaster to strike the national park, it is the first massive fire, but the park has been experiencing a large-scale bark-beetle explosion in recent years, which has led to widespread damage of the spruce forests. Therefore, the park already has some experience with regenerating a native and species-rich forest.”

Photo: Ondřej Hájek,  ČTK

How long do you think it may take for the park to be able to reopen to tourists?

“That is something I cannot really comment on, because it will probably depend on the decisions that firefighters will need to make about the safety of particular areas. And then, when these areas are accessible, the management of the national park will have to map the damage and ascertain what infrastructure is available and what needs to be replaced.”