Pouzdřanská step – Kolby National Nature Reserve

Pouzdřanská step-Kolby NNR was declared in 1988 and covers an extensive complex of steppe slopes with neighbouring forest stands which lies 1 km north of the Pouzdřany railway station in the Jihomoravský kraj – South Moravian Region. The main reason for protecting the area is that this is a significant locality with steppe flora and fauna with the accompanying complex of thermophilous oakwoods and oak-hornbeam stands of a Pannonian type.
 
The reserve lies on the eastern, southern and western slopes of Pouzdřany hill and a part of the upland plateau on the hilltop. The mineral basement is formed of Paleogene claystones and sandstones of the Flysh Belt. Rocks of the Pouzdřany unit can be found in the west of the reserve, while the east of the reserve is a part of the Žďánice unit. The surface has a non-contiguous cover of accumulations of loess and loess loam. The small dry gulleys are filled with colluvio-fluvial loam-sand sediments. Pararendzina and leptosol cover the largest areas in the forest-free part of the NNR. The soil types in the forested Kolb section are mostly luvisols with luvic cambisol in some places.
 
The Pouzdřanská step is one of the most important localities for steppe vegetation in South Moravia. On the southern slopes of Strážné hill large areas of feather-grass steppe of the Festucion valesiacae alliance can be found with the dominant species the feather-grass Stipa pulcherrima, the fescue Festuca valesiaca and June grass (Koeleria macrantha). This vegetation is accompanied by greater pasque flower (Pulsatilla grandis), Bohemian small pasque flower (Pulsatilla pratensis subsp. bohemica), the dwarf iris Iris pumila, the violet Viola ambigua, eastern sea kale (Crambe tataria), the viper’s grass Scorzonera austriaca, the moon carrot Seseli varium, the milk-vetches Oxytropis pilosa, Astragalus austriacus, Astragalus onobrychis and Astragalus exscapus. On the grasslands with the dominant dwarf sedge (Carex humilis) we can also find the feather-grass Stipa joannis,  the broom Corothamnus procumbens, the knapweed Jurinea mollis, the yellowhead Inula ensifolia, goldilocks aster (Aster linosyris) and the mugwort Artemisia pontica. On the northern slopes we can find thermophilous grasslands of the Cirsio-Brachypodion pinnati alliance with tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum) and the fescue Festuca rupicola which are accompanied by Lathyrus lacteus of the pea family, the viper’s grass Scorzonera hispanica, the milkwort Polygala major, military orchid (Orchis militaris), snowdrop windflower (Anemone sylvestris), the aster - Aster amellus and others. The rare Pannonian endemic species- Pancic’s mugwort (Artemisia pancicii)also grows in one part of the reserve. The low growths of the European dwarf cherry (Cerasus fruticosa) are also typical for the reserve and the rare white broom Chamaecytisus albus also occurs in parts of the reserve. On the wastelands we can find yellow-horned poppy (Glaucium flavum), annual thymalaea (Thymelaea passerina), yellow bugle (Ajuga chamaepitys) and the mountain ironwort (Hesiodia montana subsp. comosa). In the forest fringes (Geranion sanguinei) we can find bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanquineum), Hungarian iris (Iris variegata), burning bush (Dictamnus albus) and Jerusalem sage (Phlomis tuberosa). White oak (Quercus pubescens) can be found on the forest fringes and in places bladder-nut (Staphylea pinnata) and wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana). Tree species we could encounter in the forested part of the reserve are hornbeam and field maple with an undergrowth including the fumitory Corydalis pumila, Omphalodes scorpioides of the borage family, the melic grass Melica uniflora, bastard balm (Melitis melissophyllum), martagon lily (Lilium martagon), purple gromwell (Lithospermum purpurocaeruleum) and others.
 
The Pouzdřany steppe is a very significant locality for steppe insect species. The ground beetle Carabus hungaricus has been found here, along with a range of oil beetles e.g. Meloe decorus and Meloe uralensis, the jewel beetle Sphenoptera antiqua, the dor beetle Sisyphus schaefferi, the cetoniid Tropinota hirta, the lined flat bark beetle Notolaemus unifasciatus and the praying mantis (Mantis religiosa). The steppe cracker grasshopper (Saga pedo) was seen here for the last time in 1974. Significant butterfly species in the reserve include Baltic grayling (Chelis maculosa), olive skipper (Pyrgus serratulae), the burnets Zygaena laeta and Zygaena carniolica, dusky meadow brown (Hyponephele lycaon), the geometrids Scotopteryx coarctaria and Dyscia conspersaria and the noctuid (black-neck moth) Lygephila ludicra, the caterpillars of which feed on the steppe plant species. From an ornithological viewpoint the most interesting feature is the nesting of the bee-eater (Merops apiaster) in the walls of the old terraces and hedges which divide the vineyards from the reserve.
 
The slopes were terraced in the past and used to grow fruit trees, grape vines and licorice – the remnants of which can still be found here. Several large colonies of wild rabbits were also located here but their numbers fell in connection with the mixomatosis epidemic and there are no rabbits here now. On one hand rabbit grazing seriously damages the steppe vegetation but on the other hand in increases the diversity of localities. The steppe was regularly burnt in the past and this still happens occasionally. Several false acacia groves grew on the steppe area and as they spread, they forced out the steppe vegetation. In places small-reeds are spreading to the feather-grass steppe. Nutrient-rich runoff from the surrounding agricultural lands is a serious problem in the NNR and has probably contributed to the decline in some insect species (e.g. oil beetles) in recent times. Most of the false acacias have now been removed and replaced with natural oaks. Management methods include occasional sheep grazing and parts of the steppe grasslands are regularly cut. Attempts are being made to reintroduce wild rabbits to the reserve.