INTERNATIONAL DAY OF BIODIVERSITY 2010
 

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Czech Republic: Prokop Valley Revival

Announcement

Prokop Valley

The Action Day

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Announcement

Original announcement of the event on this website (April 2010)


Prokop Valley

Prokop Valley is an area of extraordinary value for natural sciences, one of the most important natural territories in Prague, comprizing a karst area with a number of significant geological profiles, fossil site, rich steppe and forest communities. The protected area has various natural and artificial exposures of fauna from the Uppermost Ordovician to the Middle Devonian. Kační quarry with the graptolite Monograptus flemmingi and a number of other Silurian fossils are also worthwhile to mention.


In the 19th century the Prokop Valley, a rural area outside of Prague, turned into a backyard of the industrial neighborhood Smíchov. Limestone was excavated there, and an important railway connection to the west of the land cut the valley into two halves. The tycoons of the Austrian monarchy and later of the independent state of Czechoslovakia depleted the resources fast and the mines had to be closed in the 1950s. Nature could return to the steep cliffs, but a new danger arose soon: massive housing development locked the green island into a sea of grey concrete. The eastern access to the valley from the Vltava river has been closed by Prague's biggest highway knot. The connection to the river ecosystem was affected forever. The other main access is from the west. In a place, where the valley started to widen and the landscape would change into meadows and fields, a huge block of flats was built in the late communist era.


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The Action Day

Nevertheless, the first Czech Day of Biodiversity documented that the Prokop Valley still has enough to offer to a wide range of species, including homo sapiens. Especially the ornithologist team led by Dr. Jan Reznicek (member of the Czech Society for Ornithology and professor at Charles University) was able to confirm that the coexistence of nature and people makes sense. From the approximately two hundred bird species reported in Czech Republic, 136 are present in Prague – and up to 60 in the Prokop Valley. Dr. Reznicek demonstrated basic techniques of bird catching and ringing to dozens of amateur ornithologists who joined the action day. He also mentioned the sytem bird monitoring. To lure on a few exemplars of common chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) and European robins (Erithacus rubecula) using recorder voice – when most birds were already nesting – proved to be a challenge, but eventually succeeded. The variety of bird species was analyzed by every birdwatcher’s key tools: binoculars and a sharp ear. The presence of blackbirds, robins and titmice was no surprise, while an encounter with redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) surely belongs to the highlights of the Czech action day.


Volunteers from the Botanic Garden of the Charles University led by the professors couple Vera and Lubomir Hroudovi supervised a botanical workshop for children and their parents. The kids learned how to recognize common Czech weeds and blossoms present in the Prokop Valley and broader surroundings. They also guessed names of the herbs through a smell test. Mums and dads joined guided excursions to the foots of Prokop Valley limestone cliffs, the domicile of indigenous Festuca valesiaca, F. rupicola, Stipa pennata, Sesleria caerulea. The action day unfortunately proved that the rare savannah ecosystems typical for some parts of the valley has been disappearing, the root cause being not the lack of protection but on the contrary – lack of regular grazing. It is expected that the current population of Aster linosyris will disappear within a few decades.


The zoologists led by Mgr. Michal Fokt demonstrated evidence of rodents by their droppings. Let us mention for example the bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus). Thanks to the unexpectedly warm day they could also report a concentration of the butterflies Meleagria daphnis and its indigenous variant, claimed by some local patriots to be a separate species. Beautiful swallowtail (Papilio machaon), one of the biggest Czech butterflies, visited the area of the base camp. The local endemic snail Bulgarica nitidos could not be reported. Fokt’s team unsuccessfully searched for scarabeus (Onthophagus vittulus), which is living here in coexistence with susliks (the beetles and its larvae feed on suslik’s dropping). Unfortunately the numbers of susliks are diminishing from year to year, which also influences the appearacence of this rare scarabeus. Michal Fokt introduced some common species with interesting reproduction or feed habits or social behaviour, eg. snails.


A different perspective on biodiversity was presented by Radek Labuta (member of Palaia Society and also working for the National Museum). His lecture and guided tours along famous sites on the outskirts of the Prokop Valley focused on the dramatic climate upturns in past eras and their impact on the local ecosystem.


The excursions that focused on nature protection and how humans have influenced the Prokop Valley was led by Josef Matoušek, a member of the Society for protection of Prokop and Daleje Valley. The participants were advised how to behave in nature reserves and the outstanding problem of Prokop Valley protection.


Even though some of our youngest guests found the idea of Prague being on the bottom of a shallow Mesozoic sea very attractive, the message of the action day was very clear to both visitors and experts. Today’s satisfying state of Prokop Valley is a heritage of an era of sustainable development that ended in the early 19th century. The later siege of the valley by massive housing and transport infrastructure development made it unreachable for large herbivores and predators and unattractive to sustainable agriculture. If the citizens of Prague want to keep the unique bird life and savannah flora, they will need to either create green bridges to open countryside, or substitute the missing ecosystem components by their own activities.


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Members of the Action Day

  1. Botanical section: Mgr. Vra Hroudov from the Botanical Garden of Nature Science Faculty of the Charles University and RNDr. Lubomr Hrouda CSc. (professor at Charles University)
  2. Zoology section: Mgr. Michael Fokt (zoologist and photographer)
  3. Ornithology: RNDr. Jan Reznicek, Ph.D. (member of the Czech Society for Ornithology and professor at Charles University)
  4. Paleontology: Radek Labua (member of the Palaia Society; National Museum in Prague)
  5. Nature protection: Josef Matouek (member of the Society for protection of Prokop and Daleje Valley)

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Further information


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Video

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Gallery

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Photos: Filip Moško, Věra Hroudová, Lubomír Hrouda, Jan Řezníček, Radek Labuťa, Josef Matoušek