Czech Republic: Forest Restoration in the Krkonoše Mountains of Northeast Bohemia


Krkonoše National Park in northeastern Bohemia, Czech Republic has been the focus of ongoing restoration efforts since the early 1990s. As part of the Sudeten Range shared by Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic, the Krkonoše Mountains were severely degraded by heavy industrial pollution resulting from intensified local industry under the Soviet Union. Because the damage was so extensive and the effect on ecological processes so lasting, large sections of forest have continued to decline even after the mitigation of major sources of pollution in the region. Therefore, much research and many resources have been directed at better understanding the ecology of these forested mountains and at taking decisive steps toward the conservation of their incredible biodiversity. While early attempts at restoration, through the planting of Norway spruce (Picea abies), resulted in even greater acidification of the soil, current projects are focusing on more targeted measures to protect specific plant species and enhance habitat for endangered fauna.

Quick Facts

Project Location:
Krkonoše National Park, Czechia, 50.68894919999999, 15.657069200000024

Geographic Region:

Country or Territory:
Czech Republic

Temperate Forest

Temperate Forest - Mixed

Area being restored:
2700+ hectares

Organization Type:
Governmental Body


Project Stage:

Start Date:

End Date:

Primary Causes of Degradation

Mining & Resource Extraction, Urbanization, Transportation & Industry

Degradation Description

This ecologically diverse area has been seriously degraded by human activity for centuries. Logging has occurred since the Middle Ages, straining forest resources; industrial pollution in more recent times has caused deep-seated disturbance; and tourism continues to have a detrimental impact.

Intensive logging in the forests of the Krkonoše began in the 15th century. Continuing into the 17th century, intensive logging continued, and logged areas were slowly replanted with Norway spruce (Picea abies). As a result, only six percent of the original beech (Fagus sylvatica) and one percent of the original beech-fir-spruce (Fagus sylvatica; Abies alba; Picea abies) forests still exist in remnant patches in the western part of the park (Emmer et al, 1998).

Industrial pollution under the Soviet Union began in the 1950s with the advent of large-scale communist industrialization programs in Poland, the Czech Republic and East Germany. Energy-intensive industries relied on locally available high-sulfur coal, and the resulting pollution, particularly sulfur-dioxide, earned this region its distinction as the “Black Triangle.” By the early 1990’s, the ecological devastation from pollution was so severe that trees were killed over entire hillsides, and 8000 hectares of higher-altitude forests died as a result of acid deposition and related problems (i.e. insect infestation and windthrow). Furthermore, as the forest overstory began to die back, the aggressive grasses Calamagrostis villosa and Deschampsia flexuosa came to dominate the herb layer, crowding out rare species and reducing overall biodiversity (Emmer et al. 1998). In fact, 60 percent of the forests in the northern part of the Czech Republic showed signs of decline around this time. Although air pollution has decreased in the entire country by 50 percent since the 1980’s (Fronk, 1999), the residual effects of past air pollution continues to degrade soil quality and contribute to long-term forest decline (Schwarz et al, 1997).

Besides logging and pollution, the Krkonoše Mountains also face ecosystem stressors stemming from the six to eight million people who visit Krkonoše National Park each year (Goczol-Gontarek, 1996). One of the main impacts of tourism is the construction of trails, ski runs, and ski lifts to accommodate the more than 1000 kilometers of ski and hiking areas in the park. Tourists also trample vegetation, increase air pollution from automobiles, contribute to water pollution and produce solid waste.

Reference Ecosystem Description

Krkonoše National Park contains a unique mosaic of habitat types, which include: alpine grasslands, subarctic peatbogs, stands of sudetic dwarf mountain pine (Pinetum mughi Sudeticum), glacial corries, flower-rich mountain meadows, and conifer and mixed forests (UNESCO, 1996 ). Many rare and endemic plants exist in the park, such as the basalt saxifraga (Saxifraga moschanta ssp. basaltica), Karkonosze bellflower (Carpanula bomemica), cloudberry (Rubus chamemorus), and arctic saxifrage (Saxifraga nivalis) (Goczol-Gontarek, 1996). In all, more than 1,250 taxa of vascular plants have been identified in Krkonoše, amounting to almost half of the Czech Republic’s original flora. Many times more taxa of non-vascular plants (sporophytes) have been identified, and inventories of these groups are undoubtedly still incomplete.

Four distinct altitudinal vegetation belts can be defined in the Krkonoše Mountains: submontane (400 to 800 m), montane (800 to 1,200 m), subalpine (1,200 to 1,450 m) and alpine (1,450 to 1,602 m).

In the submontane belt, natural deciduous and mixed forests are formed mainly by European beech (Fagus sylvatica), sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), ash (Fraxinus excelsior), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), and grey alder (Alnus incana). The herb layer is characterized by vernal plants, including ramsons (Allium ursinum), tuber-hollow fumitory (Corydalis cava), wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa), yellow wood anemone (A. ranunculoides), dropping bittercress (Dentaria enneaphyllos), coralwort (D.bulbifera), and Turk’s cap lily (Lilium martagon).

The montane belt consists of an herb layer dominated by ferns – alpine lady fern (Athyrium distentifolium), male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas), and hard fern (Blechnum spicant) – and graminoids, such as villous smallreed (Calamagrostis villosa) and wavy hair-grass (Deschampsia flexuosa). On damp sites, tall-herb vegetation includes hairy chervil (Chaerophyllum hirsutum), white and Kablikova’s butterburs (Petasites albus, P. kablikianus), and large bitter-cress (Cardamine amara).

The subalpine belt has a shrub layer dominated by Swiss mountain pine (Pinus mugo) and an herb layer dominated by mat-grass (Nardus stricta), villous smallreed (Calamagrostis villosa), various sedges (genus Carex), and low ericoid shrubs: bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), cowberry (V.vitis-idaea), bog whortleberry (V.uliginosum), small cranberry (Oxycoccus microcarpus), and crowberry (Empetrum hermaphroditum). Endemic and relic species, such as hawkweeds (Hieracium spp.), sudetic lousewort (Pedicularis sudetica), and cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus) are also abundant.

Finally, the alpine belt is home to the famous Krkonoše endemics: Sudetic rowan (Sorbus sudetica), Bohemian bellflower (Campanula bohemica), basalt musky saxifrage (Saxifraga moschata basaltica), rock burnet saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga rupestris), and almost thirty species of hawkweeds (genus Hieracium).

The region’s glacial cirques are home to a unique and diverse host of vegetation. The uppermost solitary summits of the Krkonoše (Snezka, Studnicni hora, Lucni hora, Vysoke Kolo, Kotel) are covered by a scanty but prominent vegetation of herbs, bryophytes, and lichens: such as three-leaved rush (Juncus trifidus), daisy-leaved speedwell (Veronica bellidioides), spiked woodrush (Luzula spicata), endemic alpine hawkweeds (Hieracium alpinum agg.), and the lichens Thamnolia vermicularis and Rhizocarpon geographicum. Cirque slopes are covered by a varying pattern of tall-herb and fern meadows, with monkshoods (Aconitum firmum, A.gracile), hedge-garlic adenostyle (Adenostyles alliariae), blue sow-thistle (Cicerbita alpina), and numerous ferns. Slope springs are home to chives (Allium sibiricum), marsh felwort (Swertia perennis), alpine bartsia (Bartsia alpina), willow-herbs (Epilobium spp.), and least primrose (Primula minima). Finally, the cirques’ bizarre crooked forests are comprised of Carpathian birch (Betula carpatica), Silesian willow (Salix silesiaca), Swiss mountain pine (Pinus mugo), rocky cherry (Padus petraea) and, rarely, the endemic Sudetic rowan (Sorbus sudetica).

Project Goals

The current management goal is to preserve remaining biodiversity and restore the natural ecosystem.


The project does not have a monitoring plan.

Description of Project Activities:
Until recently, the Czech forest management institute, Lesproject, attempted to restore the declining forests by planting Norway spruce (Picea abies). Unfortunately, this management plan exacerbated the acidification problems caused by acid rain through borealization, or the process by which conifer needles increase the acidity of the litter, retarding decomposition and reducing nutrient cycling (Emmer et al, 1998). As the pollution-stressed conifers lost needles, the soils became even more acidic (Emmer et al 1998). The current park management (KRNAP) changed forest restoration practices as a result of ecological research. In all four zones of the park (as established in accordance with UNESCO Biodiversity Reserve guidelines), a high priority is given to salvage management of endangered species. The plants most in danger of extinction are cultivated and then replanted in restored areas (Schwarz, 1996). A high priority is also given to planting trees that decrease the acidification of the soil, such as beech (Fagus sylvantica) (Schwartz, 1996). Within the park zones, different restoration goals are established depending on the severity of the ecosystem damage (Schwartz, 1996). In zone one (4152 hectares) and zone two (3046 hectares), the goal is to preserve areas that are only slightly damaged and to replant damaged areas with native trees and plants. These two zones comprise the most sensitive high-altitude areas of highest biodiversity. In zones three and four (the lower elevations in the park and the buffer area outside the park), the goal is to preserve water quality, restrict land use and manage the meadow herb layer (Schwartz et al. 1997).

Ecological Outcomes Achieved

Eliminate existing threats to the ecosystem:
Restoration activities in Krkonoše National Park are the culmination of much planning and scientific research. By 1993, more than 90 research projects had been conducted in the park and its buffer zones--from air pollution monitoring to models of forest and ground-layer growth under pollution stress to management techniques for root cuttings, cloning, and herb coverage (KRNAP, 1997). Between 1992 and 1996, this ongoing work had resulted in the reforestation of over 2700 hectares of forests, or 34 percent of the damaged area (Hrebacka, 1997).

Factors limiting recovery of the ecosystem:
See Strategies for Long-term Management

Socio-Economic & Community Outcomes Achieved

Long-Term Management

The park management can improve the restoration program by critically analyzing the restoration success, amending the soil, improving relations with the local citizens and diversifying funding sources.

The results of the restoration efforts are not systematically evaluated. For example, during the winter of 1995 and 1996 a large number of trees died on both the Czech and German sides of the mountains (CTK, 1997), yet this is not noted in the park management documents. A critical analysis of the success and failure of the plantings needs to be completed to guide restoration in the park and other similar Eastern European parks.

The park administration can also improve the restoration success by concentrating on soil restoration. Acid rain is not as acute as prior to 1990, and it is unlikely that the type of unconstrained emissions will increase again in the area, due to the change in governments in the early 1990’s. However, the soil has been so acidified that the natural regeneration of forests may not be possible within a reasonable timeframe without significant soil amendments, donor soils or intensive soil management. Although the park management does promote the planting of trees that will improve soil quality, there is a lack of published information on other ways to improve soil processes.

Furthermore, the project will not succeed in the long term without support from the local citizens. Problems between the local authorities and park administration are apparent. For example, in 1995 the park administration was not able to establish a Council of KRNAP, as required by FACE funding. The council requires four of five representatives from local towns, and the local authorities were not interested in joining (Hrebacka, 1996). A disagreement over the construction of a ski resort cable car in 1994 divided the local citizens and soured opinions of the park management. Overcoming these disagreements and cultivating local support is crucial for long term success of the restoration projects.

Finally, funding sources need to be diversified. Although the ecosystem problems in the park are due to international pollution problems and it makes sense to have international funding to complete the restoration. However, a relying on international funding can prove problematic in the future when funding may not be available. The park management should look at additional ways to diversify the funding for ecosystem restoration and monitoring.

Sources and Amounts of Funding

2,000,000+ USD The park obtained funding for restoration from the Ministry of Agriculture until 1994, at which time the Ministry of the Environment became the responsible agency. Since 1992, national funding has been augmented by funds received from international programs. KRNAP, the park’s managing body, implements a Global Environment Facility (GEF) project and receives significant funding from the Dutch FACE (Forest Absorbing Carbon Dioxide Emission) foundation. The FACE Foundation is an association of Dutch power engineering companies that charge consumers an extra 0.00018 USD/kilowatt hour to fund international forest restoration projects (Schwarz et al, 1997). In 1996, the foundation contributed 16 percent of the Forest Management Department’s total budget (Hrebaka, 1997). To date, KRNAP has received a total of more than 2,000,000 USD through the GEF project.

Other Resources

Krkonoše National Park

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Directory

Primary Contact

Organizational Contact