Jeseníky Protected Landscape Area

Cultural and historical characteristics

The Jeseníky mountains were not extensively settled until the 12th to 14th centuries, when the first settlements were founded, forests in the foothills were cleared to make way for pasturelands and fields and long–term land use patterns were established. 

The progress of colonisation was halted in the foothills of Hrubý Jeseník and the early settlers left the central mountain range to its own devices, so that the natural forests, especially at higher elevations, remained without fundamental human influence. Even though these early colonists felled large areas of forests the extent of forested territory was approximately the same as it is now.

The landscape character of Hrubý Jeseník began to change in the 15th and 16th centuries with the development of ore mining around Rýmařov (Ruda, Horní Město, Stříbrné Hory, Nová Ves), Zlaté Hory, Světlé Hory, Rudná and in other places. The metal works used up large quantities of timber and the upper tree line was lowered, providing lands for agriculture and especially mountain pastures. Higher elevations were still covered with impenetrable, primeval forest with populations of predators such as brown bear (Ursus arctos), wolf (Canis lupus) and lynx (Lynx lynx). Feudalisation continued concurrently with colonisation and from the original royal property, the territory was divided between 6 noble estates. Notable landowners in Jeseníky were the Lichtensteins, the Order of Teutonic Knights and the Archbishops of Wroclaw.

Planned forestry management was introduced on all estates in the Hrubý Jeseník mountains at the end of the 18th century in connection with the implementation of the “Theresian Forestry Regulations” which were issued for Moravia and Silesia in 1754. By this time the forests were in a terrible condition as a result of poor management and mountain grazing of cattle. The natural (primeval) forests were already devastated in many areas, although they remained on the Loučenský estate. The upper tree line was reduced by 100 m and more from the natural level around 1 350 metres above sea level and urgent solutions were called for. Artificial reforestation became common at first by sowing seeds, but later by planting seedlings, which became the predominant method from 1800 onwards. Forest management at the highest elevations became an important issue during the 19th century and extensive clear cutting of mountain forests was halted. The first successful attempts to plant the highest elevations with trees date from around 1860, at the localities near Loučná, below the current Kursovní chata and near Branná, on the western slopes of Keprník at an altitude of 1 125 – 1 385 metres. Eliminating grazing and artificial reforestation halted the lowering of the upper tree line.

At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, attempts were made to increase the intensivity of forest use at the highest elevations by moving the upper tree line higher. This was done by planting formerly treeless areas with dwarf mountain pine (Pinus mugo) from the Alps, Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra) and Norway spruce (Picea abies) on the upper slopes of Praděd between 1883 and 1907. The dwarf mountain pine was also planted on the peak of Keprník during the same period, and the result was that the upper tree line was raised above its natural level.