Restoration of habitats
in the Doupov Mountains
Restoration of habitats
in the Doupov Mountains
The history of this site began with a giant landslide that happened a very long time ago. Probably tens of thousands years before our time.

The Ohře River has been carving the terrain and deepening the valley separating the Ore and Doupov Mountains for so long that a line of steep slopes on its right banks collapsed.

This massive landslide left behind about 150 hectares of a cascading landscape with piles of rocks, hillsides, and many depressions, some of which have spontaneously turned into lakes and wetlands, while others have been converted by humans into ponds.

Our site, which covers just over a tenth of this large area, has three water reservoirs—two ponds and one wetland.

under the western edge of the Hradiště Military District, which occupies almost half of this mountain range,

We are in the Doupov Mountains,
10 m
above the right bank of the Ohře River, in an area called Middle Poohří, which extends roughly from Klášterec to Stráž (above the Ohře River),

1 km
15 km as the crow flies from Karlovy Vary, near the small village of Jakubov (part of Vojkovice) in Northwest Bohemia.

15 km
What does the location contain?
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.

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.

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.”

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.

The natural site above Jakubov could become an important center of biodiversity in the wider area—a refuge for a large and diverse range of species. In short, it has enormous potential, which it’s currently not fulfilling. This is an area that has suffered from very rapid and extensive changes.

Restoration project
A great transformation took place in the 1950s. The fields ceased to be cultivated and became mostly meadows, and ponds were created on the original wet meadows. The slopes became overgrown with trees, which turned into a young forest.

This resulted in completely new habitats and opened the way for gradual spontaneous restoration, but at the same time many exceptionally diverse natural habitats were lost, in particular the grasslands and hillsides. Originally full of flowering herbs, they suffered the greatest losses. Almost no trace of their biodiversity has survived.

Aerial photographs from 1938 and 2022. Sources: Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic, Cadastre of Real Estate
Filip Lysák, ecologist, author of the restoration project
In 1938, it looked very different. It was a neat yet rugged agricultural landscape, where people tended fields on its flatter parts with deeper soil and maintained meadows and pastures in the wetter parts and on its slopes. This mosaic was complemented by dirt paths, border hedges and fruit trees, solitary trees, and corpses with deposits of stones from the fields and meadows.

“Natural habitats are the keepers of biodiversity. They are formed over a long period of time, from centuries to quite often millennia. However, if improperly managed by humans, their demise can be very swift. The renewal of these areas takes decades, and only if the original plant and animal species have somewhere to return form, if there are still enough preserved spots in the location.

Our aim is therefore to set the right conditions for the site to restore the once rich biodiversity as soon as possible.”

Project patron
Project patron
FlixBus is one of the international Flix company’s brands. It has managed to establish the largest network of long-distance buses in Europe and is rapidly expanding all around the world. The company currently serves more the 5,600 destinations in 43 countries.

Flix is a pioneer in affordable transportation that connects smaller communities with larger cities and global capitals. It also offers a climate-friendly alternative—travelling by bus produces 5 times fewer carbon emissions per person than driving. For passengers who want to take this even further, the company also provides the option of offsetting the emissions from their trip.

The most significant step is its commitment to the gradual decarbonization of its entire fleet. By 2040, Flix wants to offer carbon-neutral travel in Europe, which would entail the complete replacement of its buses and the use of alternative power systems, which it has been testing for a long time.

We have prepared a restoration project that is meticulous, bold, and overlaps with the wider surroundings. That being said, we were able to do this thanks to the support of our partner—FlixBus.
CZK 1,000,000
The company donated
to support the project.
project patron
“We want to make life better for our customers. Refugium and the revitalization of the landscape above Jakubov is a great example of how we can help in an area where our buses stop.
Pavel Prouza, managing director CZ/SK/HU at FlixBus
We’re happy to help Refugium, which, like us, wants to make sure businesses effect real positive changes with a clear impact on the environment around us. I’m confident that the restoration project will succeed. Together, we’ll see the return of original species to the habitat that existed before humanity’s negative interventions.”
FlixBus is involved in the Czech Republic in various ways, but one of its important activities is supporting organizations and communities connected to the specific places where its green buses go. It’s not just the big transport hubs, 50% of the destinations served by Flix in the Czech Republic are communities with a population of less than 20,000.

In 2024, Klášterec nad Ohří became one of its newest stops. The town is located on the border of the Karlovy Vary and Ústí nad Labem regions, close to the Doupov Mountains, which are home to our site.

One of the project’s three main objectives is the restoration of wetlands (including ponds and the creation of wetlands and pools).

In practice, this will have a positive effect on the Ledviny pond, which is overgrown with broadleaf cattails that are pushing all the other vegetation out. We will also focus on restoring the Upper Wetland, whose dam is damaged. This has caused the wetland to dry up earlier than usual and become completely arid in the summer months, killing off all the amphibians in the process. Furthermore, the plan is to eliminate the cattails along with partial dredging.

In the floodplain of the stream that connects Ledviny and the Lower Pond, we plan to create four smaller pools. This will help restore the original wet meadow.

Wetlands and pools
Steps towards restoration
Steps towards restoration
As mentioned above, the meadows have taken a beating over the last 100 years. Previously, the area comprised traditional meadows and pastures, ranging from dry stony knolls and mesophilic and intermittently wet meadows to permanently waterlogged wetlands. This diversity is gone, but we’d like to bring it back.

The restoration of the different types of meadows will take various forms. Some places will be reseeded with green hay from the better preserved spots and mowed in a mosaic pattern, while in others it will first be necessary to reduce the spread of woody plants.

Moreover, this part of the project will include the restoration of a wet meadow, using a traditional and very simple irrigation system and adding also the previously mentioned pools.

Meadow restoration
In most cases, the diverse features that used to abound on the site cannot be restored in their original locations as these parts have already been transformed into a forest.

We want to move the landscape mosaic elsewhere. We’re going to create it in the area that was worst hit by the communist era—the Large Meadow. Not so long ago, it held fields, but today it’s species-poor and monotonous.

We will plant solitary trees and shrubs there, which we will supplement with locally sourced stones. This will create glades that will become an attractive refuge for reptiles, small mammals, birds, and invertebrates.

Landscape mosaic
Crucian carp
(Carassius carassius)

(Leucaspius delineatus)

Aesculapian snake
(Zamenis longissimus)

Northern crested newt
(Triturus cristatus)
Some of the targeted
protected species:
Aesculapian snake
Northern crested newt
Crucian carp
The area is full of water reservoirs and much of the aid is directed towards aquatic animals. The flagship species of the project are two critically endangered fish species: the crucian carp and the sunbleak.

These once abundant, so-called weedy fish species are now on the verge of extinction. They don’t thrive in over-fished, intensively used backwaters, and have a limited habitat in which to survive in today’s environment. In places with more suitable conditions, they are in competition with more dominant invasive species such as the Prussian carp or the stone moroko.

We’re fortunate that the Ledviny pond has maintained a genetically pure population of crucian carp, and we hope that the same holds true for the sunbleak (we will confirm its first sighting in 2024).

The restoration project thus includes a closer follow-up survey of the fish population in Ledviny Pond. It will be carried out by the hydrobiologists from the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences, with whom we will subsequently cooperate to implement appropriate care not only for Ledviny, but also for the Lower Pond. This could become another safe haven for the local sunbleak and crucian carp populations.

Amphibians are another group of animals that will benefit significantly from the planned changes. The Upper Wetland, which is entirely shallow and warm, offers the largest refuge for them in the area. The restoration of the Upper Wetland consists of several interventions, the most significant of which will be the repair of the dam that has been damaged, causing the wetland to dry out early in the summer months, which in turn kills off most of the amphibians. We hope our efforts will shore up the existing populations of newts, frogs, and toads.

Another species we’re paying close attention to is the Aesculapian snake, the largest and most endangered snake in the Czech Republic. There is only one site in which it exists in Bohemia—the Ohře River valley between the Doupovské and Krušné mountains. Scientists have yet to confirm the presence of this species in our location, but the locals have shared many stories about the snake. Moreover, we know that we are within its range, i.e. in the zone of its possible distribution. In cooperation with the local Zamenis association, we’re planning a number of measures that should help the arrival, or rather the return, of the Aesculapian snake.

Due to their natural wealth, the Doupov Mountains not only have the status of European Site of Community Importance (EIA), but also of an important bird area. They are home to many critically endangered species. The ones that breed here include the common kingfisher, black stork, European honey buzzard, western marsh harrier, Eurasian eagle-owl, European nightjar, and the corn crane. Impressive species of raptors, like the lesser spotted eagle or the white-tailed eagle, roam here. We regularly spot them in our location as well. The Ledviny pond and its surroundings teem with common kingfishers, which hunt smaller fish, such as the crucian carp and sunbleak. The planned restoration of the Ledviny and Lower ponds will benefit kingfishers and other protected bird species.

Where flowers bloom, life grows. With the restoration of the flowery meadows, we hope to increase the number of invertebrate species. We will support them not only by expanding the stands of flowers, but also by landscape features such as woods or solitary fruit trees (their survey and planting is being done in cooperation with the Meluzína ecological center). We will carry out invertebrate-friendly care, including mosaic mowing done in stages, which will give the insects a chance to gradually move to safety.

We thought long and hard about when restoration makes sense and when it doesn’t; when it’s more appropriate to intervene and when it’s better to take a hands off approach and let the site develop on its own. In the end, we opted for a more conservative approach—to intervene only where there’s still something left to save. Where changes are already too far gone, we will respect the quality that is spontaneously emerging and will continue to emerge unimpeded. The implementation of the project could be exactly what the site needs to take it in a new direction.”

Filip Lysák, ecologist, author of the project
“It’s a ‘soft,’ meticulous project without extensive interventions or earthworks that fully respects the location’s history.

Research partners of the project
Want to join our restoration projects?
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+(420) 605 052 706
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