Origin and evolution of anthropogenic forest-free areas

Condition up to the mid 20th century

 

The majority of the forest-free areas in Šumava National Park were created in different time periods due to the colonisation of human activity to the detriment of the original forest vegetation. The late 17th and 18th century were the peak periods of pressure on the deforestation of large parts of higher Šumava due to the latest wave of colonisation (development of glass manufacturing and timber harvesting). The length and intensity of the use of the deforested areas was a decisive factor as to whether or not the partial or total deforestation of woods remained until the present day, or whether the existence of forest free areas was only temporary. Their true character depended on the type of intervention maintained in such areas. It is therefore apparent, that the vast majority of the forest-free areas do not display a status induced by long-term historical human influence.
Farming, with specific, traditionally extensive small scale agricultural activity and handcraft production, has always played a large role in shaping the countryside. The long-term economic activity has created a culturally diverse, harmonious and ecologically balanced landscape with many valuable features that were subjected to this sort of utilisation.

 

Post-war period

In the wake of the Second World War, the majority of the borderland region of Šumava was deserted, which had a direct impact on the use or non-use of the agriculturally cultivated forest-free areas. After the destruction of the settlements and the settlement infrastructure, creation of the border zone, the Dobrá Voda and Boletice military training zones and the "Iron Curtain" , the agricultural land was largely left unused and left to its natural course.

Large-scale agricultural production

 

Displacement of the border zone after 1945, on one hand, and start of mass agricultural production, intensification and the specialisation of agricultural activities, with the absence of a hired labour relationship towards a particular location on the other hand, caused a disturbance in the balance of the cultural landscape ecosystems. A particularly negative effect was caused by ameliorations in the form of large-scale drainage, extensive recultivation and liquidation of the linear greenery, stone terraces and drifts, field tracks, excessive use of fertilizers and pesticide use, as well as the excessive concentration of livestock, with all its consequences. These intensively used locations experienced a fundamental change in terms of the depletion of the diversity of both plant and animal species.
At the same time, however, a sharp decline in the population and the transition to the management of large areas, leaving remote and inaccessible areas to self-regulation, prevented the disappearance of plant and animal species, sensitive to anthropogenic influences. By contrast, other species requiring regular extensive interventions have disappeared due to the same reasons. Due to succession, a significant reduction in forest-free areas occurred to the benefit of the forest ecosystems, which are very important in terms of biodiversity.

 

Establishment of National Park Šumava

At the time of the establishment of Šumava National Park, virtually all the land was managed by the state farms and military organisations. The farming was particularly associated with the village enclaves and historical sites, with the exception of the former Dobrá Voda military training zone which was used for extensive grazing of Hereford cattle. Land cultivation was organised from inland centres. Due to a shortage of labour and often low work quality, the care of the agricultural land was of a very low standard and differentiation in terms of nature conservation was virtually nonexistent. Inappropriate land consolidation and ploughing led to increased erosion and further ecological damage. The livestock operations were not different. The structure and organisation of the agricultural activities proved to be completely inappropriate in terms of landscape conservation and care of the National Park.

Current status
Crop production in the mountain area is almost exclusively focused on volume production of fodder and pastures for cattle. in addition to fodder for cattle, the cultivation of more resistant varieties of cereals (rye, oats, barley), in order to obtain feed and straw, are being grown in more favourable farming conditions in the Chlum, Záhvozdí, Želnava, Nová Pec districts.
Livestock production is mainly focused on cattle breeding without milk production. The most common cattle breeds are Hereford, Galloway, Aberdeen-Angus, Highland Cattle and others. There is also a cattle breeding with combined yields in the border areas of Šumava NP. Amateur horse breeding complements the agricultural production, with horse breeds such as Haflinger (horse riding, agro-tourism), or the limited breeding of work horses (working in the forest). Sheep farming is still only partial.

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