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Fauna and flora
The characteristic feature of the Bieszczady natural environment is – different than in the neighbouring mountains – the layering of the altitudinal zonation. In the Bieszczady mountains there are three layers:
- lowland layer of foothills and valleys of up to 700-800 m above the sea level
- montane level reaching a height of up to 1150 m above the sea level
- alpine level, which is a pasture, i.e. the accumulation of subalpine and alpine flora, spread from the upper line of the forest to the highest peaks.
The flora of Bieszczady has about 900 species, including 300 species of lichens, around 250 species of mosses, 20 species of slime molds and a large number of fungi species. There are 27 species of endemic plants here, too.
The Bieszczady fauna boasts 25 species of fish, many species of amphibians (including the fire salamander and Alpine Newt), and reptiles (including the sand lizard, vipera berus or the common European viper, smooth snake and Aesculapius snake), about 200 species of birds (including Alpine Accentor, water pipit, golden eagle, black vulture, eagle owl (species threatened with extinction), rock thrush, and increasingly more common near the rivers – the black stork), and finally, 51 species of mammals (including brown bear, bison, lynx, wolf, wildcat, and red deer).
The region of Bieszczady consists mainly of forest, which covers over 70% of the area. The predominant species is the beech, which accounts for approximately 48% of all trees, followed by fir, grey alder and pine, the latter mostly planted artificially.
Other species that can be found here are the spruce, hornbeam, sycamore, larch and birch.
What proves the uniquness of the Bieszczady nature are the many forms of the legal protection of these areas. The Bieszczady mountains are a part of the International Biosphere Reserve “Eastern Carpathians”, and a lot of the area was incorporated into the Bieszczady National Park. Additionally, in the National Park’s buffer zone there is the San Valley Landscape National Park and Cisna-Wetliński Landscape National Park.
Bieszczady National Park
Bieszczady National Park is the third largest national park in Poland, located in the podkarpackie voivoideship, near the borders with Slovakia and Ukraine. It is the only place amongst the Polish mountains with such unusual altitudinal zonation where montane level transforms into subalpine zone, called pastures.
Main qualities of the Park are:
- the natural forms of landscape of the Eastern Carpathians
- the parts of the Carpathian primeval forest
- unique plants on the pastures
- well-preserved raised bogs
- East-Carpathian and Alpine plant species
- rare and endemic species of invertebrates
- conservation areas of large mammals and birds of prey
- the traces of material culture
Bieszczady National Park is relatively frequently inhabited by the species that are now considered endangered or rare in other parts of Europe. Native populations of large predatory mammals: bear, wolf, and lynx are particularly valuable elements of the local environment. Among the large herbivores the deer beats other species in terms of numbers. Its population was estimated to be 5-7 individuals per 100 ha.
In the late 1960s, the bison was reintroduced in Bieszczady. This species easily adapted to the local conditions and currently the bison numbers in Bieszczady reach 300.
In Bieszczady there are also roe deer and wild boar. And the unequivocal success of the Park was reintroduction of the beaver to the area. The Park also carries out the conservation breeding of the old, now dying out Hutsul horses.
Bieszczady are characterised by a specific altitudinal zonation. It lacks the alpine level’s spruce forests and mountain pine. This is why three zones have been distinguished: the foothills (up to 500 m above the sea level), lowland layer (up to 1150 m above the sea level) and the pastures level. The highest peak of the Polish Bieszczady is Tarnica (1346 m above the sea level). The Park is located over 600 m above the sea level and because of that it contains the greater land of valleys, lowland layer and the pastures level, spreading at 1150 m above the sea level to the highest peaks. Lowland layer is occupied mainly by the forests of beech and fir, beech and sycamore, alder spruce and fir. Above the upper limit of the forest the pastures are spreading, ending with very picturesque smaller rocks and large rocks rubble fields.
Bieszczady National Park protects the parts of the East-Carpathian wildlife in the Polish Bieszczady. Following a detailed valuation of natural resources, the Park zone and its buffer zone were established. Strict protection zones cover approximately 70% of the Park, and the rest is a zone of active/ buffer and/or landscape conservation. Lanscape National Parks in the buffer zone are a natural barrier protecting the Bieszczady National Park. It is a vast area of high natural value, where the extensive human management is allowed.
The current mission of the Park is – except the protection of the most precious natural resources – the creation of a policy for sustainable development on a much larger area, including the Slovak and Ukrainian parts of the International Biosphere Reseve “Eastern Carpathians”.
Bieszczady National Park is located on the Eastern external border of the EU, and thanks to its unique beauty it attracts growing interest from the citizens of the entire European Union, which in its natural resources has no such interesting areas.
San Valley Landscape National Park
San Valley Landscape National Park covers an area of 28 718 ha and protects the picturesque valley of the river San between its source and the Solina lake. Natural richness of the park is due to the high level of forestation – approximately 80%. The Park is dominated by the lowland layer because most of the land is located over 500 m above the sea level.
The Park was created to protect one of the most beautiful Polish rivers – San. The forest area is mostly made up of large montane complexes of Carpathian beech, of which half is hundred years old (and older) forest wilderness.
The forest landscape is also diversified: beautiful meadows and raised bogs, as well as areas of the spontaneous vegetation succession in the abandoned Boyko villages add to the variety of the region.
The Park protects seven nature reserves: Zakole (5,25 ha), Tarnawa (34,40 ha), Litmirz (13 ha), Łokieć (10,28 ha) Dźwiniacz (10,51 ha), spring Śnieżyca in Dwerniczek (4,94 ha), S. Myczkowski Hulskie and the Krywe (511,73 ha). Within the Park are preserved numerous relics of the past, including Boyko Orthodox church in Smolnik near the San river, Orthodox church in Chmiel, ruins of the Orthodox churches in Hulskie and Krywe, and the remains of the graveyards with historic gravestones.
„Dźwiniacz” Nature Reserve - this bog nature reserve’s total area equals 10,51 ha. It is located near the upper San river, in the former Dźwiniacz village, near another nature reseve: “Łokieć”. It is a well-developed raised bog with a closed ecosystem, 55 plant species and 11 species of moss. The peculiarity here is a few patches of bog forest with a dominant spruce and rare plants, such as sundew and clumps of marshes.
„Litmirz” Nature Reserve - bog nature reserve with a total area of 13 ha, located near the Litmirz stream, where it meets the river San, in the former village of Tarnawa Wyżna. The raised bog is protected, along with richness of plants and spruce-beech forest, where the phenomena of vegetative reproduction of the spruce occurs. Great landscapes and wilderness replacing the depopulated villages after the World War II dominate in this area.
„Łokieć” nature reserve – peatbog nature reserve of total area of 10,28 ha, located in the upper bend of the river San in place of the former Łokieć village (now Dźwiniacz Górny). In the area of the raised bog there are 56 vascular plant species, and 7 species of mosses are under protection. Additional attraction are the sedges formed into rings, and a belt of haircap moss of high density, surrounding the bog.
„Tarnawa” nature reserve – of total area of 5,25 ha, it consists of two peatbogs divided by the stream on the meadows, near the upper San river, in the former Tarnawa Niżna village. The smaller bog has no trees, but the larger one, beautifully raised, has the only natural accumulation of the Scots pine in Bieszczady. In the swamp forest there is a rich peatbog flora with birch and spruce, and the real curiosity here is a round-leaved sundew.
„Zakole” nature reserve – of total area of 5,25 ha, it is located in a narrow bend of the upper San river, floating around Łysania, near the Smolnik village. From here one can start a trip around the peatbog reserves located in the upper San valley in the San Valley Landscape National Park. Raised bog owes its charm to the picturesque surroundings and precious flora that can be found here – the latter includes tussock cottongrass, marsh, bog billberry, cranberry, and bog rosemary.
„Hulskie” nature reserve – total area of 189,87 ha; it is one of the most interesting forest reserves in Bieszczady. It protects the best-preserved old trees of the Carpathian beech. The nature reserve is named after Stefan Myczkowski.
„Krywe” nature reserve – its total area is 511,73 ha. The landscape reserve with a partial ban of entering, to protect and preserve a part of the San valley in the Otryt mountain range with many plants’ accumulations and rare species of plants and animals, including Aesculapius serpent – the rarest of the Polish reptiles and the biggest snake species in Poland.
„Spring Śnieżyca in Dwerniczek” nature reserve – the nature reserve’s total area is 4,94 ha. A very rich growth of the spring snowflake of the Carpathian variety has been set up under the legal protection here. Spring snowflake grows on the meadows. The main protection reason for this nature reserve is this being a floral reserve of herbaceous plants and shrubs, and the type of environment here is of coniferous forests and mountain foothills.