Environmentalists plan to grow new "primaeval" forest in North Bohemia

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A group of environmental activists get together, scrape up some money and buy a piece of land that has some remarkable features: endangered animals or rare plants - and turn it into a private preserve. That is not so unusual anymore in the Czech Republic. But cases when conservationists and botanists decide to turn a completely ordinary piece of land into something valuable are much less common.

Photo: Nový prales
One such group of environmental activists, from the north Bohemian city of Liberec, has decided to buy a plot of the most ordinary forest land they can find. The activists are planning to gradually transform the plot into a primaeval forest - as used to exist in this part of Europe before the onset of extensive agriculture.

Jan Korytnar from the Liberec-based organisation Friends of Nature:

"Experts on geo-botanics can work out exactly what the original virgin forests looked like. So we know that the three main species of trees that should grow in our forest are firs, beeches and spruces. But there should also be maple trees, linden trees, ash trees, elm trees and yews. At the moment it is a monoculture spruce forest, but we will gradually remove some of the trees and in the gaps we will plant seedlings of all the other trees."

Photo: Nový prales
The plot of forest the Friends of Nature activists decided to buy from a private owner is seven hectares large. It is situated on the southern slope of Jested Mountain, at the altitude of some 700- 850 metres. The monoculture spruce forest was planted there in the 1960s, after the original farmland turned wild in the aftermath of the Second World War. Jan Korytnar says that spruce forests grow so tall and are so dark that not much else can grow in them. That should start changing now but, as Jan Korytnar says, people will have to wait for a long time before the woodland starts looking anything like a virgin forest again.

Photo: Archiv of ČRo7
"We realise that it will be our children's children at the earliest who will first see the virgin forest. But on the other hand, we are doing it for ourselves, too. Because in 50 years' time there will be century-old spruces and among them 50-year old firs, beeches and maple trees, which by then will have started producing their own seeds. And I hope I will live to see that. But there will be a lot to see in the meantime as well, because once some of the old spruces give way to other trees, there will be more light coming in to allow some natural seeding of smaller plants. The forest will be returning to a natural state."

The Friends of Nature organisation is planning to make a narrow path through the forest for visitors to see the changes the woods undergo as the forest returns to its virgin state.

If you'd like to find out more about the virgin forest that will grow on Jested, go to www.novyprales.cz