Rašeliniště Jizery National Nature Reserve

Rašeliniště Jizery NNR (The Jizera Peatbogs) was declared in 1960 to protect the unique territory on the upper reaches of the Jizera river in the Jizerské hory Mountains PLA and in the Liberecký kraj – Liberec Region. The Jizera flows through a wide shallow basin at an average elevation of 850 metres above sea level and also forms the state border between the Czech Republic and Poland. The Jizera and its surroundings enjoy the highest level of state protection in both countries. The NNR on the Czech side of the border covers 189.11 ha in two segments (Velká Jizerská louka and V Močálech) which are joined by a buffer zone of 120.49 ha. The subject of the protection is a complex of ecosystems which are little influenced by man, comprising active raised bogs, extensive growths of pine scrubs, waterlogged spruces, peat meadows and sand and gravel banks along the meandering Jizera river. The protected area stretches out for 11 kilometres but is only around 100 metres wide in places. The NNR includes the spring area of the Jizera river on the slopes of Mt. Smrk and reaches to the vicinity of Mt. Bukovec near the Jizerka settlement.
 
The upper Jizera river basin is an extreme climatic locality. The mean annual precipitation can be as high as 1600 mm, with deep snow cover and it is not uncommon for temperatures in winter to fall below -30ºC. The main geological factor in the area are the massive deposits of the Jizera river which are of Holocene age. These deposits are formed of porphyritic medium-grained granodiorite of the Krkonoše – Jizera massif and also mica-schists, two-mica gneisses and quartzites transported from the Vysoký Jizerský hřbet ridge. The majority of the territory is covered with Histosols, including the active raised bogs with a peat layer up to 3 metres thick in places. The Jizera river with its minimal gradient has formed many meanders with abandoned arms and has modelled the gravelly bed into gravel banks and point bars.

All of the lands in the NNR are registered as forest lands but in fact more then 100 naturally forest-free plots have been recorded here. A major part of the reserve is covered with bog spruce and waterlogged spruce stands where the upper layer is at an advanced stage of breaking up in places. However, rich natural rejuvenation is ensuring the renewal of these probably natural spruce stands.  As well as scattered rowans (Sorbus aucuparia) on open areas, we can also find Carpathian birch (Betula carpatica) on open areas and forest fringes. Approximately 40 ha are covered with pine scrub growths, which is the most extensive area of this vegetation in the Jizerské hory mountains. What is exceptional is the occurrence of the dwarf juniper Juniperus communis ssp. alpina on the Velká Jizerská louka meadow as no other community like this is found in the Czech Republic.

In addition to typical forest plant species in the NNR, the unique flora bound to peatbogs and waterlogged montane meadows also occurs here. Significant species which occur here include the white hellebore (Veratrum album ssp. lobelianum), arnica (Arnica montana), spignel (Meum athamanticum), milkweed gentian (Gentiana asclepiadea), lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica), hare’s-tail cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum), common cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium), round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), marsh andromeda (Andromeda polifolia), the cranberry Oxycoccus palustris, crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), few-flowered sedge (Carex pauciflora) and bog whortle-berry (Vaccinium uliginosum). Of interest is the occurrence of oblong-leaved sundew (Drosera intermedia) and the dwarf birch (Betula nana) – which has only been confirmed from the Polish side of the river.

The fauna in the Jizera peatbogs is also of note. Relict fauna with many tyrphophilous invertebrate species lives on the peatbogs, especially beetles, spiders, butterflies and dragonflies. The snipe (Gallinago gallinago) nests in open areas while the scarlet rosefinch (Carpodacus erythrinus) and the redpoll (Carduelis flammea) nest in the scrub growths. In recent years the crane (Grus grus) has nested here and the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) nested here until very recently but has probably disappeared from the area now. The open sandbanks are the home of the large wolf spider (Arctosa cinerea), which only survives at three localities in the Czech Republic. The little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius) and occasionally the common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleuca) nest on the sandy islands and banks.

Forestry management of the territory is focussed on supporting the natural tree populations and protecting their gene fund. Most of the territory is left almost without human intervention and around 100 ha are proposed for inclusion in an official non-intervention zone (to be left to natural development processes).
 
The Velká Jizerská louka is currently an area without human presence. However, until recently the village of Velká Jizera (Gross Iser) stood on the Polish side of the border. After the Battle of Bílá hora and the religious reformation the Bohemian – Silesian border was also the religious border and when Bohemia was forced back to Catholicism, several German-speaking (Protestant) refugees from Bohemia made their homes in this forgotten land.

Despite the extremely harsh conditions and climate here, the settlement prospered and in the first half of the 20th century more than 40 houses and farms stood here. Nevertheless the Second World War brought the end of Velká Jizera as the inhabitants were expelled to Germany at the end of the war and their homes on the border were demolished by the Polish Army in 1953-56. Among the overgrown foundations of these houses we can still see the building of the new school, which is used as a tourist chalet.

The NNR territory is not open to the public, because there are no paths leading through it and the bogs are practically inaccessible. It is possible to visit the Polish side and learn about the area or gain inspiration. Border crossings for pedestrians and skiers are open at the confluence of the Jizera and Jizerka rivers and on the summit of Mt. Smrk.