Wetlands restoration in Slovakia
Wetlands are important
Wetlands are a critical part of our natural environment. They are the vital link between land and water. They provide a huge benefit in supporting important biodiversity and in addition, they also provide a wide range of benefits to people.
In Slovakia the leading organization dealing for 25 years with wetlands restoration is NGO Broz (Bratislava regional conservation association). Their work focuses on the protection and restoration of valuable wetlands ecosystems. This NGO focuses primarily on the area surrounding the Danube river and restores wetlands river sidearms, forests and meadows on the Slovak side.
Loss of the wetlands
Slovakia is a country located in the middle of Europe and is known pretty much because of its mountains in the north. Much less people know the Danubian lowland that extends at the very south edge of the country. It is part of the country which carries many signs of impacts by man in the last century.
In the past, this part of Slovakia was heavily deforested, and only narrow strips of forest survived along the rivers. After deforestation, land was intensively drained and turned into grasslands and agricultural land. In the following phases, managers turned the extensive grasslands to arable land. During this process, a majority of tree alleys were also cut down. All this happened within just a few decades. The result of that process was an enormous loss of wetlands.
Loss of biodiversity
Smaller fragments of wetlands survived only along the rivers which continue to exist after massive channeling. Larger parts of wetlands survived along the Danube River with many side arms periodically covered by water. Biodiversity depended on wetlands, surviving only in these small fragments.
Today in this place, the largest monocultures of agriculture field in Europe spread from horizon to horizon. Rapeseed and corn monocultures do not provide habitats for any of the animals or plants which were so common in this land in the past.
Unique opportunity to restore wetland
Only recently came a unique opportunity to restore a small territory which has been for many years intensively used for agriculture. The local conservationists got a chance to create a kind of show case and model how this kind of man-made land can be at least partially restored and revived.
The project will focus on a 42-hectare piece of land with the objective of re-creating damaged and meliorated wetland. The project focus is to revive the island of life in the middle of the vast intensively used fields. The intention is to bring back not only water but also life. All this is going to happen in the middle of heavily used agricultural land, among the drained and intensively used fields.
Value of selected area
The selected area is unique due to the presence of a rare glacial relict, namely the Central European root vole (Microtus oeconomus mehelyi). Besides that, there are also many other species of plants and animals. The goal is to protect and return not only water to this fields, but also the abundant life that is dependent on the water environment.
The project is based on the experience that life quickly came back in any habitat restored in this area. Once discovered by insects or amphibians, the race for life begins. Literally.
The speed at which the new wetlands, thickets, and blooming strips full of life reveals the power of nature. The project also illustrates the desperate need to restore these elements in the countryside.
A chance to save a wetland
This project is a great chance to restore the piece of land, not very successfully meliorated and neither very successfully used for agricultural production. This project is likely the very first, and with small steps it shows how restoration can bring back life to the wetland as it used to be for thousands of years.
This piece of land is ecologically connected with nearby Natura 2000 site and was originally part of a large wetland system – Čiližské wetlands. However, the area currently does not have any protection statute. Therefore, farming is not limited at all. That means that until 2021, when the NGO BROZ leased this piece of land, there had been a corn monoculture. The current opportunity to purchase the land is a chance to return these 42 ha of historic wetlands back to the Danubian nature forever.
Restoration depends also on surrounding land
The success of this restoration project very much depends on the ecological connectivity and ecological quality of the surrounding land. Reed-sedge swamps, home to the Central European root vole (Microtus oeconomus mehelyi), are located nearby. This little root vole is an endemic species, surviving in this area since the last ice age. It is a small, charismatic animal. It lives only on wetlands and feeds on a wetland grass species – a sedge.
The restored piece of land will support and improve the population of this rare animal. The fragmented wet areas around restored land are suitable habitats also for many other species, seeking refuge in an agricultural landscape. It is home to many amphibians all year round, many birds that come to hunt – e.g., herons, white storks, rare black storks, and others. Important is also the presence of dragonflies, and aquatic invertebrates, a foundation of the habitat’s food chain.
Importance of dry islands
The dry islands with natural semiwild ecosystems, scattered in the surrounded unfarmed land, are crucial for solitary insects and important pollinators. They play an important role in larger ecosystems, yet, the monocultures lack suitable spots for them to live. Moreover, biomass including the underground roots in unfarmed zones is important for soil bacteria. Such zones serve as survival reservoirs. From here, the good bacteria can spread to neighbouring fields and improve the soil structure.
Unfarmed zones are biodiversity islands. The more of them and the closer they are to each other, the better for the restoration and health of land where restoration is planned. The closest wetland, called Bahno, is 4 km away with the size of 15 ha.
Everybody with interest to support this project can do that here.
This project is a unique opportunity to protect the 42-hectare and re-create piece of wetland in the intensively used agricultural land. The result will be a newly created small wetland, about 50 – 100 ha in a formerly man-used farming land. This project returns not only water but also life to the vast intensively used fields.
Our previous experiences confirm that any habitat correctly restored quickly abounds with life. Once discovered by insects or amphibians, the race for life begins. Literally.
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