Rašeliniště Skřítek National Nature Reserve

The Rašeliniště Skřítek NNR (Skřítek peatbog) covers a territory of 166 ha, making it the smallest of the NNRs in the Jeseníky mountain PLA. The peatbog was first declared a State Nature Reserve in 1955 and lies on the Skřítek saddle by the road between the municipalities of Sobotín and Stará Ves u Rýmařova at elevations between 830 and 876 metres.

The Skřítek peatbog represents a transition mire of the spring type. The central section of the reserve is of a tundra character, looking like parkland where the wetter areas are interspersed with small pools and spring resurgences, with elements of bog spruce forest of the Sphagno-Piceetum and peaty meadows. The formation of the peatbog here is the result of the spring resurgences in the northern part of the NNR and the reduced outflow of water from the flat mountain saddle. The fringes of the reserve are close to a cultural spruce forest in character. The Swiss mountain pines (Pinus mungo) which were planted artificially in the southern section of the reserve are a non-native tree species and should be removed.

The territory has relatively low species diversity (less than 200 vascular plant species) with homogenous vegetation communities, but represents a mosaic of valuable vegetation types which depend on the high groundwater table and peat formation as well as including rare and protected plant species. The areas with higher species diversity are those around the forest springs, the sedge growths where there are hardly any trees, the formerly cultivated meadow on the southern edge of the reserve and paradoxically the areas with introduced tree species.

Significant species which grow in the herb layer include marsh felwort (Swertia perennis), the leopardsbane Doronicum austriacum, common monkshood (Aconitum plicatum), false helleborine (Veratrum album ssp. lobelianum), the cranberry Oxycoccus palustris, hare’s-tail cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum) and common cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium), lesser twayblade (Listera cordata), common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii ssp. fuchsii) and broad-leaved marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza majalis).

From an ecological viewpoint, the most valuable fauna elements on the Skřítek peatbog are the invertebrates. Ant species from the Formica family, boreal spider species such as Latithorax faustus, Mengea warburtonii and Sideria nodosa, the boreo-alpine Trochosa spinipalpis and representatives of the Pirata family and the emerald dragonfly Somatochlora arctica and the darter Sympetrum danae are all included among the glacial relict species.

The Alpine newt (Triturus alpestris), common frog (Rana temporaria) and in recent years the common toad (Bufo bufo) all live on the territory and the viviparous lizard (Zootoca vivipara) has an abundant population here.

In addition to the common bird species, Tengmalm’s owl (Aegolius funereus) and black stork (Ciconia nigra) also nest here. Hazel hens (Bonasia bonasia) have been observed repeatedly.

By comparing older and current maps, aerial photographs and film we can see that the forest-free area of the peatbog is getting smaller quite quickly. As the reserve’s main function is to protect the succession stages and the concrete species which are bound to this process, it is necessary to sensitively remove some of the opportunist tree species which are gradually taking over the peatbog pools and forest-free enclaves. If we were to leave the territory entirely to natural processes, there is a risk that the peatbog biotope and the plant and animal species (especially insects) which depend on it would be lost forever. The long-term management target is to create a mosaic of species-rich, non-forested communities maintained by man and non-intervention forest growths (with minimal or no human intervention) which have a suitable age and height variety and a natural tree species composition.