Tourism and Biodiversity in the Šumava Biosphere Reserve

Large and beautiful

Mountain forest – the world for itself

The Šumava Biosphere Reserve includes a substantial part of the Northeast-facing portion of Bohemian Forest, almost at the geographical centre of Europe. The main mountain ridge straddles the border between Czech Republic and Germany or, in the southernmost part, Austria.

For most of its 90 km length, the Šumava BR is about 10 km in width, though in parts it is 20 km wide. More than 450 km2 situated higher than 1,000 m, the highest point represents the summit of Plechy (1,378 m). The Šumava BR (and National Park) represents the largest continuous area of this altitude in the Czech Republic.

The unique heritage of Ice period and “Iron Curtain”

Water in Vltava meanders flows peacefully like thousands years ago

From the conservation standpoint, the values of the Sumava Biosphere Reserve must be bilaterally viewed in the frame of the entire Bohemian Forest, and in the European context.

The area of Bohemian Forest, almost 200,000 ha size, is in the most extensive continuous forest of Central Europe. Almost 80,000 ha lack well-travelled roads and highways, and thus remain as ecologically integrated system.

The extend of forest cover is high, reaching more than 60% in the BR and 81% in the more homogenous National Park, with many remnant primeval and natural forests, similar to virgin ecosystems.

The total area of mire ecosystems and adjacent wetland and waterlogged communities is the largest in the Czech Republic. Due to their presence, Šumava can be called a “northern island” in the heard of Europe.

There are many biogeographically isolated and relic plant and animal populations surviving form the early Holocene because of favourable landforms and habitats, such a glacial cirques, glacial lakes, frost cliffs, scree fields and peat deposits. For these reasons, the Šumava BR has been listed in the “Ecosystem Red Data Book” and “Invertebrate Red Data Book” published by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

Šumava is the sole place in Central Europe where middle mountains were left for several decades without management. This has permitted spontaneous secondary succession toward forest, resulting in a unique pattern of seminatural woodland and various successional stages of treeless ecosystems. Thus, the region became a unique “natural laboratory” of spontaneous natural dynamics of non-forest ecosystems, particularly of wetland sites, with high biodiversity and outstanding landscape.

Under the dead tree canopy new life has started – a chance for nature

A long-term effort

The natural values and beauty of the Sumava Mountains led to early efforts to legally protect this landscape. In 1858 the primeval mountain mixed forest of Boubinsky Prales became the third nature reserve in Bohemia. Today, it is one the best known reserves in Europe. In 1963, the SŠumava Protected Landscape Area, 163,000 ha in area, was declared, becoming the largest large-scale reserve in the former Czechoslovakia. One important impulse to the final success was UNESCO´s inclusion of the Šumava Protected Landscape Area in the international network of Biosphere Reserves in February 1990; after certain adjustment of the boundaries, more than 167,000 ha thus became a counterpart to the Bavarian Forest BR. Finally, the Šumava National Park was declared in 1991, thus giving the most valuable 68,500 ha highest conservation status under the Czech laws.

 

Tourism and Šumava belong together

Most of visitors arriving to the Šumava Mountains are attracted by beautiful Šumava´s countryside. Most of them come to visit the National Park, some of them because of fashion. All of them want a service.

The tourism went through many changes in the Šumava Mountains during the last decade. Number of tourists has increased rapidly (e.g. almost 2,000 000 visits per year in NP) and their interest caused the development of accompanying services. Many old neglected buildings have been saved for pensions, cottages, small hotels or other form of services.

Just in NP 500 km hiking trails, 400 km bicycle trails bring an enjoyment to people visiting the largest national park of the Czech Republic.

Horseriders. Photo: Michael Bartos

Winter season plays an important role in a regional offer. Mild and snow-rich area provides a fantastic background for “soft” kinds of winter tourism, e.g. cross-country skiing or walking. People seeking for peace and quiet can find them on 300 km ski tracks leading mainly in beautiful winter scenery of NP. Ski slopes with elevators and cableways can be found outside of NP, in regional ski centres in PLA. The importance of winter season for local tourism business has increased rapidly.

A big challenge is represented by a revival of culture-historical aspect of the region. In spite the fact that most of old traditions were tattered after World War II, many of old local skills has appeared both to fulfil a gap in local tourism market and to satisfy natural needs of self-realisation. Many of regional projects are focused to revive small workshops, feasts, and traditions.

 

 

 

 

Contact: Michael Meyer at Ecological Tourism in Europe (ETE) | tel: +49-228-359008 | fax: +49-228-359096 | e-mail: m.meyer@oete.de