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Monday, 8 October 2012

Are game parks the last chance for ancient pasture woodlands in the Czech Republic?


The game park in Lany (50°50'N; 13°55'E) is quite close to the capitol city of the Czech Republic Prague with more than 1,000,000 inhabitants. Even quite close to one of the largest and heavily naturally exploited areas in the Europe, is a part of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Landscape Protected Area, and is furthermore planned to be a part of a new National Park Krivoklatsko. 

Figure 1. Open and sunny conditions with solitary trees in pastures of Lany
The area (30 km2) of probably one of the largest European ancient woodlands was historically established for game hunting for nobility in the early Middle Ages. The Game Park managers have recently been keeping red, fallow and sika deer, mouflon and wild boar. The area of this ancient woodland is known to be a habitat of many threatened species including those highly connected with woodlands – i.e. saproxylics exploiting disparate dead wood habitats. From those well known, e.g. due to Natura 2000, are there stable beetle populations of the violet click beetle (Limoniscus violaceus), the great Capricorn beetle (Cerambyx cerdo), the hermit beetle (Osmoderma banabita) and the stag beetle (Lucanus cervus).

We have been focusing on diversity of saproxylic beetles and working in Lany from 2009. Our first results approved that Lany Game Park is the hot spot of whole Krivoklatsko – known as one of the hottest places of biodiversity in the Czech Republic.

Figure 2. Probably the finest woodland and grassland mosaic nearby the pond of Kougl

Figure 3. Sparce structures with favourable light conditions are also within woodlands with  lower pressure of game stocks
Figure 4. High game stocks are great competitors of late succession plants often causing the presence of shaded woodlands

The main conclusion of our long term research activities has showed that the open structures with scattered sun-exposed trees are one of the most suitable places for most beetles, including saproxylics. On the other hand, these sparse woodland structures are one of those most threatened, especially due to their low commercial attractiveness and thus game parks are probably the last places of conservation of ancient pasture woodlands.

References
Horak J, Rebl K (2012) The species richness of click beetles in ancient pasture woodland benefits from a high level of sun exposure. Journal of Insect Conservation DOI: 10.1007/s10841-012-9511-2.

Jakub Horak & Karel Rebl
jakub.sruby(at)gmail.com

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