landscape mosaic

landscape mosaic
Our site near Jakubov lies in the Doupov Mountains, in a cascading landscape formed by the Ohře River and a massive landslide that took place in ancient times. It’s a mosaic of three water reservoirs, dry and wet meadows, overgrown hillsides with piles of stones, and deciduous forests.

Today, these diverse natural habitats are already home to many endangered animal groups. However, they have the potential to become even more diverse and function as regionally significant refuges for insects, amphibians, birds, and critically endangered species of fish.

landscape mosaic
The site is located near the village of Jakubov, in an area called Central Poohří, which is also the name of the strip of land stretching along the Ohře River from Klášterec to Stráž (nad Ohří).

Less than a kilometer west of our lands is the right bank of the Ohře River, which is carving a path through the landscape, and a few meters east of one of the ponds is the border of the Hradiště Military Training Area. This occupies most of the Doupov mountain range, which is where our site is located.

16 hectares
2 ponds
1 wetland
Large meadow
Ledviny meadow
Degraded hillsides
The oldest of the water reservoirs on the site, Ledviny (Kidneys), lies directly below the detachment wall of the landslide, just a few meters away from where the slope once broke away. A steep, wooded hillside rises above Ledviny, which is where its spring originates.

It was originally a wetland or lake, which was dammed in 1951. Since then, Ledviny has been a pond, but was never intensively used for fishing likely due to its cold water, shade, and poor accessibility.

This abandonment was to the benefit of Ledviny. It guaranteed the preservation of once common but now critically endangered fish species—the crucian carp and sunbleak. Ledviny is also a refuge for the common kingfisher and favorite spot of the white-tailed eagle.

With its dark, clear water, the pond is also valuable from a botanical perspective. Most of its surface is covered by broad-leafed pondweed, while below the surface and in its shallowest parts you can find the increasingly rare blunt-leafed pondweed.

The steep slope above Ledviny is also the place where naturalists Jan and Kristýna Matějů managed to record the presence of the critically endangered European wildcat on a camera trap in the spring of 2022.

Jan Matějů
The Lower Pond is the youngest body of water on the site. It was likely created in 1974 out of a former wet meadow. It’s fed by seepage water from both Ledviny and the Upper Wetland, so it’s a safe bet that it shares some of their qualities.

Lower Pond
Until recently, however, it was used for intense carp farming and so the diversity of other fish and plant species suffered.

The pond, next to which was an illegally built cabin (now removed), was drained in the fall of 2022 and left without any water in it for two winters and one summer.

This allowed for the revegetation of the bottom of the pond. Since the spring of 2024, the Lower Pond has been refilled and awaits “new opportunities.”

This wetland is relatively new. In 2022, when we took over the land, it was only a small, fully drained pond. First, we had to partially repair the dam and then we restored the water level, trying to maintain it at a maximum depth of 0.5 meters.

Upper Wetland
Shortly afterwards, our assumptions were confirmed. This shallow reservoir, lined on one side by an old stone wall and “decorated” with several fallen trees, became a paradise for all the amphibians in the location.

Stable breeding populations here include the smooth newt, alpine newt, and northern crested newt as well as the common frog, marsh frog, and common toad. On a local scale, the place is extremely important for the life of amphibians.

Degraded Hillsides
A smaller, roughly one hectare-long flowery meadow on Ledviny Pond’s west side. It lies on a distinctive rounded mound of stones and dirt, deposited here after an ancient landslide.

From spring to fall, the better preserved half of the mound is covered in blooming flowers, from the taller primroses to the buttercups in fall. Around 80 plant species can be found in the mound, including the black rampion, the zigzag clover, and a hybrid of the dwarf and cabbage thistle. It’s the most species-rich meadow in the whole site.

The area between the ponds and meadows can collectively be described as overgrown or overgrowing hillsides.

Each has a slightly different character—in some places a gentle slope bisected by a shallow valley, while elsewhere a relatively steep, rocky slope.

Slightly to the side, at the lowest point of the site, lies a drier overgrown hillside, wedged into a forest. In the infestation of trees and shrubs, you can still see remnants of grassland with more valuable xerophytes.

A much poorer meadow in terms of biodiversity, which we’ve named the Large Meadow, is on a slightly sloping terrain. From its highest point, you can observe the whole area. Not long ago, the meadow was used as a field.

After the Velvet Revolution, the fields were grassed over and the Large Meadow has been mowed intensively for the last 30 years.

It’s a species-poor meadow, with predominantly sown plants. Slowly but surely, plants that are more typical of the preserved meadows in the area are beginning to appear.

Our 16-hectare natural site lies in the Doupov Mountains, a protected area within the NATURA 2000 system. Thanks to that, the Jakubov landscape mosaic is protected both by the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the Special Protection Area (SPA) status. This alone suggests how valuable this piece of nature is.

The Doupov Mountains are a relatively small mountain range in Northwest Bohemia composed of tertiary volcanic material, with the highest peak, Hradiště, at 934 m above sea level.

“For many years, they remained out of reach not only for natural history researchers, but also for any visitors.”

Jan Matějů and Petr Hradecký, Doupovské hory, 2016

In the 20th century, a 280 sq. m. military zone was created in the Doupov Mountains. The largest military base in the Czech Republic, it occupies almost half of the mountain range.
“Military activity, however, doesn’t necessarily entail damage to nature by technology. In fact, the landscape was spared what we already consider normal in its neighboring areas: the merging of fields and meadows into large tracts, the reclamation of wetlands, and the use of chemical fertilizers.

The land in the military zone, formerly a cultivated landscape, turned into an area where renewed natural forces triumphed over human influence and where many interesting and rare animals and plants that would not have survived outside of it were preserved. The natural wealth of the Doupovské Mountains is enormous.”

Jan Matějů and Petr Hradecký, Doupovské hory, 2016

RNDr. Jan Matějů, Ph.D.
Curator of the natural history collections of the Karlovy Vary Museum, lover of the Doupovské Mountains. In addition to monitoring select species, he collaborates with the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic on the implementation of the European Ground Squirrel Rescue Program in the Czech Republic.
Alongside the above-mentioned endangered amphibian, bird and fish species, the Doupov Mountains, and especially the part near the Ohře River, are home to the Aesculapian snake, the largest and most endangered snake in the Czech Republic. Colloquially called “Eskulapka”, the Aesculapian snake only lives in one site in Bohemia–the Ohře River valley between the Doupov and Krušné mountains.

Scientists have yet to confirm the presence of this species in our location, but we know we are within its range, i.e. in the zone of its possible distribution. Moreover, the locals have shared many stories about seeing this animal. In cooperation with the Czech leading experts focused on this species, Radka Musilová and Karel Janoušek from the Zamenis association, we’re preparing a number of measures that should help the arrival, or rather the return, of the Aesculapian snake.

Although the site near Jakubov is already a piece of land with rare natural properties, it has the potential to become a truly important center of biodiversity for the wider area, a refuge for a large and diverse spectrum of species. Sadly, this potential currently remains unfulfilled due to a number of old damages and a lack of necessary management.

One of the project’s main objectives is the restoration of wetland habitats, including the Ledviny pond and the smaller Upper Wetland, as well as some of the meadows, whose water regime has been broken and we plan to fix it.

Moreover, the project aims to restore the biodiversity of the meadows that have, as mentioned above, taken a beating over the last 100 years. The management of the different types of meadows will take various forms, from regular mowing in a mosaic pattern to the reduction of the spread of woody plants.

Last but not least, we will focus on the restoration of the natural landscape mosaic. We will plant solitary fruit trees, which have a long history in the region, and also shrubs, which we will supplement with locally sourced stones, creating small shelters for various species.

This is why an extensive restoration project is being developed. Under the leadership of experienced ecologist Filip Lysák, it aims to “reconfigure” the way these 16 hectares owned by Refugium function, in essence pointing them in the right direction to help them prosper within a few years.

The “Restoration of habitats in the Doupov Mountains” project is supported by the FlixBus company, which has donated CZK 1,000,000 to its efforts.
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