Jizerskohorské bučiny National Nature Reserve

The Jizerskohorské bučiny NNR (Jizerské hory beechwoods) is not only the largest small-scale specially protected area in the Jizerské hory mountains, but is one of the largest NNRs in the Czech Republic. The reserve is composed of 6 segments with a total area of 950.93 ha, which are joined by a buffer zone of 1750.41 ha. The whole territory of more than 27 km² in area belongs to the first zone of Jizerské hory PLA. The current NNR was declared in 1999 after the merger and extension of the original seven NNRs which were declared on the northern slopes of Jizerské hory in 1960 (Špičák, Stržový vrch, Poledník, Štolpichy, Frýdlantské cimbuří, Paličník, Tišina). The protected area stretches out along a belt about 15 km in length from Oldřichov v Hájích to Bílý potok pod Smrkem in the Liberecký kraj – Liberec Region and includes forest stands on the steep north-facing slopes of the Jizerské hory mountains at elevations between 420 m (350 in the buffer zone) and 1006 metres above sea level. The subject of the protection is the largest complex of near-natural deciduous forest with a predominance of beech in the Czech Republic, which provides suitable habitats for the life of many rare plant and insect species. The great difference in elevation (c. 600 metres) and the varying expositions of the individual segments are the causes of the great variations in climatic conditions. The mean annual temperatures vary by up to 4ºC and precipitation totals also vary considerably, but even the lower elevations receive around 1000 mm annually and the whole area can be classified as very rich in precipitation.

The basement rocks are of the Krkonoše – Jizera Massif and here they are formed predominantly of porphyritic medium-grained granodiorite. Feldspar phenocrists, aplitedykes, pegmatites and basic xenoliths also occur in places. Weathering and erosion on the extreme slopes led to the formation of minerals into various morphological landforms. Here we can find numerous rock ribs, isolated rock pillars with characteristic orthogonal jointing and rock plates with tabular jointing along planes of exfoliation. Talus fields and boulder accumulations are commonly found on the slopes. Some of the rocky slopes (Štolpichy, Frýdlantské cimbuří) are of a near-alpine character. The slopes are covered with a network of deeply incised stream valleys (Malý and Velký Štopich streams, Černý potok, Hajní potok...), which fall as mountain torrents in cascades over boulders and waterfalls. The soil cover in the NNR is predominantly of rankers with lithosols, podzols are found in the east and cambisols at lower elevations.

A great variety of plant communities can be found here. Acidophilous montane beechwoods are found at higher elevations and acidophilous beechwoods with wood-rush at lower elevations. On shaded slopes and in wetter areas we can find beech-sycamore stands, spruce stands with rowan and spruce stands with ferns are found on rocky slopes at higher elevations and at the foot of the slopes we can find fragments of herb-rich beechwoods and fir stands. The forest vegetation belts from the 3rd to the 7th level are represented here. The predominant tree species is beech (Fagus sylvatica) with an admix of sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), Norway maple (Acer platanoides), wych elm (Ulmus glabra), large and small-leaved limes (Tilia platyphyllos and Tilia cordata), silver fir (Abies alba), Norway spruce (Picea abies), with rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and a wide range of other trees including rare examples of juniper (Juniperus communis) and yew (Taxus baccata). The herb layer in these forests is not particularly rich but considering the size and variability of the territory we can find a large number of exceptional communities and rare species here. Examples include perennial honesty (Lunaria rediviva), martagon lily (Lilium martagon), blue sow-thistle (Mulgedium alpinum), holly fern (Blechnum spicant), nine-leaved toothwort (Dentaria enneaphyllos), fir club-moss (Huperzia selago), purple coltsfoot (Homogyne alpina), mezereon (Daphne mezereum), common Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum multiflorum), whorled Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum verticillatum), large white buttercup Ranunculus platanifolius), clasp-leaf twisted-stalk (Streptopus amplexifolius) and many others.

The fauna in these forests is also very rich. Many invertebrates are at home in the beech forests and some eye-catching examples are the butterflies: tau emperor (Aglia tau), purple emperor (Apatura iris) and poplar admiral (Limenitis populi), the stag beetles Sinodendron cylindricum and Platycerus caprea and the longhorn beetle Prionus coriarius. Strong populations of the broad-fingered crayfish (Astacus fluviatilis) live in the streams and in the Na Hrázi fishpond and populations of minnows (Phoxinus phoxinus) and brook lamprey (Lampetra planeri) also live here. A typical inhabitant of the beechwoods is the fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra). Rare and interesting bird species which nest here include black stork (Ciconia nigra), honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus), red-breasted flycatcher (Ficedula parva), stock dove (Columba oenas), black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), Tengmalm’s owl (Aegolius funereus), eagle owl (Bubo bubo) and pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum). In recent years the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) has returned to nest in the area. The beechwoods are the home of common forest mammal species including deer and predators. We can also find the beech marten (Martes foina) and badger (Meles meles) here and insectivores including the Alpine shrew (Sorex alpinus) and several bat species.

The NNR is a part of the Jizerské hory SPA – Bird Area and is proposed as a Site of Community Importance under the Natura 2000 system. Management of the territory is focussed on using “gentle” forestry methods to move towards a structurally rich and internally diversified forest complex with the long-term vision of leaving the forests to natural development processes without human intervention. A large part of the core territory is already left to natural processes today. A locality covering 74 ha in the Poledník segment is used to monitor natural processes after leaving the area to develop without intervention.
 
Despite the difficult terrain and the very difficult access, the forests in the current NNR were cultivated and logged in the past but without devastating changes to the structural and species composition of the stands (unlike the situation on the Jizerské hory montane plateau). Active forestry in the area was restricted after the end of the Second World War and logging was practically stopped at the end of the 1950s. The remnants of steep and dangerous logging trails have remained to the present day as a reminder of the loggers work. For example the “sledge runs” where timber was collected and sent down the slopes at great risk to life and limb. Memorials to the loggers are still hidden in the deep forests as mementoes of their hard work. The so-called “Štolpišská alpine road” is an exceptional piece of mountain construction. This road was built at the end of the 19th century as a cart trail through the wild valley of the Černý Štolpich stream with bridges and granite supporting walls which have been sensitively repaired and it now serves as a hiking trail. A number of marked tourist trails allow access to the territory and we can enjoy the views from well-maintained viewing platforms on the rocks. In this way visitors can visit the most beautiful parts of the Jizerskohorské bučiny NNR without damaging the environment. Visitors are also informed about the nature and history of the area at the stops on the Oldřichovské háje a skály and Jizerskohorské lesy themed nature trails.