Žofínský prales National Nature Reserve

The Žofínský prales (Žofín Primeval Forest) NNR was declared in 1933 and lies in the Jihočeský kraj – South Bohemian Region. The core of the NNR territory had already been proclaimed a reserve by the landowners in 1838 together with the nearby Hojná Voda (now a National Nature Monument), which makes it the oldest protected area in the Czech Republic. Žofínský prales NNR lies in the central section of the Novohradské hory mountain range on a side ridge running NE from the peak of Mt. Stříbrný vrch (936 m) at elevations between 735 and 830 metres and covers an area of 102.71 ha. The reserve includes a complex of primeval growths of herb-rich beech forest and waterlogged spruce stands with significant plant, bird and insect species. The entire territory of Žofínský prales NNR has been included on the National list of Natura 2000 sites as a part of the proposed Žofínský prales – Pivonické skály Site of Community Importance. 

The geological basement is of medium-grained porphyritic granite which belongs to the Moldanubian pluton. Weathering has broken the granite down into well permeable loamy-sandy soils passing to sandy-clayey-loamy soils in depressions. The soils are relatively deep with a considerable content of rock fragments and are relatively rich in minerals. Small streams flow through the NNR territory and carry runoff through flat-bottomed gulleys to the Tisový potok stream which flows along the northern and eastern edge of the reserve. In the north-east of the reserve the Tisový potok flows through a deeply incised valley with exposed rocky slopes several metres in height.

The reserve belongs to a mildly cold district of a cold climatic region. Mean annual air temperatures are between 5 and 6 ºC and the area receives between 800 and 900 mm of precipitation yearly.

The subject of the protection in Žofínský prales NNR are the remnants of primeval montane mixed forests as well as waterlogged spruce stands in wetter areas. The most widespread vegetation types are mesotrophic herb-rich beech forest (Asperulo-Fagetum), eutrophic beech forest (Hordelymo-Fagetum) and beech stands with small-reed in water influenced areas (Calamagrostio villosae-Fagetum). Significant areas are also covered with waterlogged spruce forest with horsetails (Equiseto-Piceetum) and the vegetation of springs and spring channels.

A number of rare plant species are bound to the primeval mixed forest ecosystems. These include trefoil cress (Cardamine trifolia), coral toothwort (Dentaria bulbifera), nine-leaved toothwort (Dentaria enneaphyllos), the meadowgrass Poa remota and others. The abundant population of trefoil cress (Cardamine trifolia) is significant from a phytogeographical viewpoint as it has its strongest core population in the Czech Republic here. In addition to the forest communities, the extensive and probably naturally forest-free spring surroundings are very valuable and unique within the realms of the Czech Republic. These areas have remained forest-free due to the suitable geomorphological and hydrological conditions and due to the fact that the reserve‘s water regime has never been modified.

Žofínský prales NNR is one of the most significant bryological localities in the Czech Republic and 181 moss species have been documented here. Žofínský prales is also a significant site from a mycological viewpoint and research in 2004 – 2005 identified 430 species of Macromycetes, including the tooth fungus  Hericium flagellum.

The fauna is represented predominantly by submontane invertebrate species and 177 types of Rhizopoda, 120 species of Nematodes, approximately 100 species of springtails, 12 worms, 96 kinds of Prostomatida and 35 species of Millipedes and Centipedes all live on the NNR territory. A large number of rare and endangered beetles also live here, including the stag beetle Ceruchus chrysomelinus.

The reserve is also a notable biotope for forest bird species and the black stork (Ciconia nigra) and the boreomontane species: three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) and many others nest here regularly.

The primeval forest serves as a unique study area for many fields of biology and is only accessible for professional excursions on a limited basis. There is no public access as no tourist trails lead through the NNR territory. The reserve is surrounded by a fence to restrict the game animals from entering the reserve and to prevent the rejuvenating forest growths of silver fir (Abies alba) and beech (Fagus sylvatica) from being grazed by deer or wild boar.