peat bogs
peat bogs
Plots near the Lipno Reservoir, in a popular area, yet hidden from the throngs of tourists. Strips of land long destroyed and neglected by humans, yet full of natural wealth, with an enormous potential for restoration—these are our sites in Šumava.
Šumava PLA,
peat bogs
Our first acquisition in Šumava consists of two plots of land near the village of Přední Výtoň. They lie south of the village, a short distance from the Lipno Reservoir and the Austrian border. Apart from the fact that they are roughly the same size, both are located right by natural springs.

15,6 hectares
Peat bog
Wet meadow
Spruce forest

However, while the first plot drains into the Vltava River and belongs to the drainage basin of the North Sea, the second is “supplied” by the Danube River and therefore belongs to the Black Sea. Located a stone’s throw apart, each lies on a different side of the main European watershed.

This plot, which is closer to the village, includes a peat bog. Although it isn’t large by Šumava standards, it’s relatively deep. Its development over the last few centuries is a rather sad story, but we’re optimistic about its chances to achieve a happy ending.
First location
“The earliest available maps prior to 1850 show the presence of a forest. Once the land was deforested, peat was extracted first manually and then occasionally mechanically. The devastation of the land finally occurred in 1979, when its surface was drained by a pipe. But even this heavy drainage didn’t result in the area being farmed. In fact, it lay fallow. The natural value of the site has therefore largely been destroyed and cannot be restored without human help.”

Filip Lysák, ecologist, member of Refugium’s environmental council

Unfortunately, even parts of the peat bog that hadn’t previously being mined haven’t actually remained untouched. Due to extensive intervention, they haven’t been able to retain enough water.

And now for the promised happy ending: even today, there are still some spots on the land that have managed to preserve their biodiversity—water has returned to the pits left over from when peat was extracted and the restoration of peat-forming processes has begun. At Refugium, our main goal is to help with this regeneration.

Peat bogs are a special type of wetland. They are made up of dead plant remains (including peat mosses) that don’t break down easily and therefore accumulate in waterlogged, boggy soil due to a lack of oxygen. Over thousands of years, thick layers of peat, many meters deep, can accumulate.

All the while, peat bogs store carbon. Over the course of their lifetime, plants take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their bodies through the process of photosynthesis. The peat then retains carbon permanently, which is why peat deposits are often referred to as carbon sinks.

Why is it
However, if the peat bogs are disrupted, whether by mining, targeted drainage, or drying out due to climate change, this balance breaks down and the accumulated carbon is released into the atmosphere. Nitrous oxide is also released, the effects of which on the climate are far more severe than those caused by CO2.

To put this in perspective—Scotland’s peat bogs hold 1.7 billion tons of carbon, equivalent to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that Scotland produces in a period of 140 years.

Peat bogs in the northern hemisphere cover only about three to five percent of all dry land, but they hold about a third of the global carbon stock.

Peat bogs play a vital role in the fight against climate change and many environmental projects around the world are focusing on restoring them. The EU’s draft Nature Restoration Law pays close attention to them.

“This will greatly affect the peat deposit, but without a difficult process we can’t expect a recovery. There’s no questioning the diagnosis.

During revegetation, we may also create a series of water platforms that will offer new habitats for animals and improve the overall water retention system. We would then like to leave the area alone to let natural processes take over so that the peat bog can begin to grow again.

We’re planning to mow only in the northern part of the site, as the area appears to have the potential to re-establish a species-rich sedge or peat sedge meadow.”

Renewing the peat bog was the main reason we purchased the land in Šumava. Now our task is to create and implement a revitalization project, which should return the peat bog to its natural state. We need to design it in such a way as to achieve the complete saturation of the peat deposit with water. Only then can we expect fundamental change—turning a dried up peat bog into a revived landscape.
Our plans
Filip Lysák, ecologist, member of Refugium’s environmental council

The second plot lies closer to the Austrian border near a small hamlet called Vejrovna. It’s less interesting than the heavily destroyed peat bog in terms of its restoration potential and presence of protected species, but it’s more diverse in terms of habitat.
Second location
It consists of a mosaic of drained meadows with preserved meadow vegetation, heavily waterlogged stream floodplains with vernal pools, peat meadows that include heavily degraded areas, and patches of land with valuable vegetation. Besides the meadow habitats, there are parts overgrown by deciduous trees and a forest full of sturdy spruces, here and there replaced by lush green beeches.
As previously mentioned, in this case, too, some parts of the land were drained during the Communist regime. The site was also damaged through lack of care—where manual mowing ceased, wetland willows and woody plants proliferated, and a large section of the original meadows has been reforested with spruce trees.
Nevertheless, a few islands of rare vegetation can be found on the land today. For example, the presence of Succisa pratensis is a good sign.
In a smaller section, it would be good to reduce the number of trees and mow the peat meadows in a traditional way. In the woodland area, we’re thinking about reducing the tree density and restoring the species composition to encourage the natural rejuvenation of the beeches that grow here.

But the largest section of the plot will remain untouched, i.e. it will continue to be an emerging wilderness.”

This area also presents interesting conservation challenges. In parts, the water regime can be revitalized to restore vernal pools and peat meadows. Here, the removal of the pipe drainage system and drainage ditches would be a great improvement. Small pools may also be created in the future.
Filip Lysák, ecologist, member of Refugium’s environmental council
They have to cope with very unfavorable conditions, however, ranging from permanent waterlogging, the lack of nutrients, to a generally cold environment with wide fluctuations in temperature. Due to these extreme conditions, peat bogs are home to many rare plant and animal species not often encountered elsewhere.

Peat bogs are remarkable. Thanks to specific types of cells called hyalocysts, they can hold a huge amount of water, which rises through them. They also have the special ability to grow back continually, while their lower parts die off, accumulate, and form peat.

So far, we’ve focused mainly on the importance of peat bogs in terms of their carbon retention properties, but we mustn’t forget that they are remarkable natural habitats with highly specialized species from both the plant and animal kingdoms.
Common heather
(Calluna vulgaris)

Hare’s-tail cottongrass
(Eriophorum vaginatum)

Roundleaf sundew
(Drosera rotundifolia)
Plants of the Šumava
peat bogs:

Hare’s-tail cottongrass
Roundleaf sundew
Common heather
Moreover, Šumava peat bogs are the home of many rare species of invertebrates. They often play an essential role in the food chain, and both adults and larvae are tied to the plants that grow in peatlands. Peat ponds are also teeming with life. Invertebrates hunt for dragonflies and damselflies, which are some of the species that live exclusively in the peat bogs.

Although vertebrates don’t exclusively live in peat bogs, they thrive in and fully use them. Worth mentioning are the viviparous lizard, the common viper, and the common grouse (Lyurus tetrix), which find food and shelter in the peat bogs and use the flows in the open areas.
The elk pastures on the southern bank of the Lipno Reservoir are part of the land in our portfolio.

"This is one of the reasons why we want to manage the plots as sensitively as possible, with less intensive interventions and conservation management efforts. The aim is to let them grow into a new, and with our help hopefully a healthy and functioning, wilderness.”

Elk pastures
Filip Lysák, ecologist, member of Refugium’s environmental council

Šumava is much more than just peat bogs. The area between the Lipno Reservoir and the Austrian border is one of the two small habitats of the European elk (Alces alces) in the Czech Republic.

The largest member of the deer family, it’s a typical animal for Northern and Eastern Europe, still found in Central Europe in the Middle Ages. Today, scientists estimate that a few dozen elks currently live in our country.

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