Větrníky National Nature Reserve

Větrníky NNR was declared in 1925 and includes a mosaic of steppe grasslands and tall mesic and xeric scrubapproximately 3 km north-east of the village of Letonice in the Jihomoravský kraj – South Moravian Region. The area of the NNR is 27.89 ha at elevations of 350 – 394 metres above sea level. The subject of the protection is the extensive complex of habitats with xerothermal steppe vegetation of predominantly Pontic-Pannonian or Sub-Mediterranean types.

Větrníky NNR belongs to the Větrnická vrchovina hill country, which is a part of the Bučovická pahorkatina hilly land (Demek, 1965). The area is a relatively flattened hill country built of sediments of basal Badenian sediments (gravel, sand). Notable tectonically and lithologically controlled elevation can be found here, and reaches its highest level in the north-eastern section on Větrník hill at 394 m. The protected area, which lies on the south-western slopes of Větrník, was modelled by periglacial processes (effects of snow and landslides) during the Pleistocene and evidence of the landslides can still be seen today. Loess accumulations of varying depths can be found in parts of the reserve (Kalášek J. et al, 1963). The basic soil types in Větrníky NNR are leptosols and cambic leptosols with varying skeletal content (Hraško J., Němeček J., Šály R., Šurina B., 1987) which formed on Tertiary (Neogene) calcareous sands and clays or on rocks of the Carpathian Flysh. The chemical reaction of the soil is predominantly neutral.

The predominant vegetation on the territory are xerothermic broad-leaved dry grasslands of the Bromion erecti alliance and the Astragalo austriaci-Brachypodietum pinnati association dominant tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum). Other species which are well represented on these grasslands are greater knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa), lesser meadow-rue (Thalictrum minus), the fennel Peucedanum  alsaticum, the parsley Peucedanum cervaria, lucerne  (Medicago falcata), meadow clary (Salvia pratensis), lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum),  clustered bellflower (Campanula glomerata) and yellow scabious (Scabiosa ochroleuca). The feather-grasses Stipa tirsa and Stipa pulcherrima are quite common in some parts of the reserve. In the northern part of the territory the grasslands are mixed with low xeric scrub of the Prunetum fruticosae association with the dominant cherry Cerasus fruticosa, which forms hybrids with dwarf cherry (Prunus cerasus). Other shrubs which grow here include scattered dog rose (Rosa canina), hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). The herb layer is formed of the parsley Peucedanum cervaria, swallowwort (Vincetoxicum hirunaria), the broom Cytisus procumbens, lesser meadow-rue (Thalictrum minus), yellow pheasant’s eye (Adonis vernalis), greater knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa), the yarrow Achillea pannonica, burning bush (Dictamnus albus) and others. In the western part of the reserve the community of tall mesic and xeric scrub (mostly Pruno-Ligustretum association) is spreading in area. Here the predominant species are blackthorn, alder buckthorn (Rhamnus catharticus), hazel (Corylus avellana), spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus), hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata) and guelder rose (Viburnum opulus).  Rare species which grow in the herb layer include greater pasque flower (Pulsatilla grandis), small pasque flower (Pulsatilla pratensis), the bellflowers Campanula bononiensis and  Campanula cervicaria, the St. John’s wort Hypericum elegans, purple flag (Iris versicolor), the feather-grass Stipa tirsa, the toadflax Thesium dollineri and many others.

Větrníky NNR is a very important locality for steppe insect species and especially Orthoptera. Several significant species of grasshoppers and locusts, including Platycleis albopunctata grisea, Metrioptera bicolor, Phaneroptera falcata, Calliptamus italicus, and Stenobothrus nigromaculatus and found here. Historically this was the only locality in the Czech Republic where the grasshopper Gampsocleis glabra was found, although it hasn’t been recorded here since the 1950s.

In the past the territory was mainly used for grazing, although smaller areas in the flatter part of the reserve were also ploughed up. Later the territory was left unused and the scrub spread out at the expense of steppe vegetation. Management of the territory since the late 1990s has focussed on removal of shrubs, cutting the steppe grassland areas and sheep grazing as well as suppressing non-native animals which were introduced here by hunters. Removal of scrub and preventing its spread is still necessary and other management measures must be differentiated by time and area to create a mosaic of vegetation characters by use of directed cutting and grazing. A fundamental problem is caused by runoff from the surrounding agricultural lands and the most suitable solution would be to sow grasses around the reserve to the width of the buffer zone.