Complexity of strict protection in National Park Sumava

Recently, our colleagues Vlado Vancura and Nick Huisman visited National Park Sumava in the Czech Republic. One specific point of interest was a strictly protected forest. Strictly protected areas often have a good potential for Wilderness. In this case, the conditions of the strictly protected forest were rather surprising. A good example of the complexity for strictly protected areas in Europe. A complexity that we need to take into consideration if we want to protect Wilderness.

Please also read: Is Wilderness a threat to the traditional nature conservation concept?

Historical overlooked complexity

From a traditional perspective, nature protection in Europe has missed a complex approach. Protection tools usually focussed on either an individual species, or a specific habitat. As a result, we try to protect for example an old forest, while we often forget the wildlife and rivers. Or when we try to protect a wildlife species, we tempt to ignore habitat dynamics.

Over the past decades, the principles of nature protection have developed and became more complex. Managers are focussing more and more on protection of habitat including its biodiversity. Yet, overall acceptance for the close correlation to protect a habitat and its wildlife is still missing.

Strictly protected, from everything

Consequently, there are examples of management objectives that focus on a narrow spectrum of habitat dynamics. As a result, we are spending many resources to maintain something that nature is allowing to change spontaneously. And while we put our efforts in protecting this specific species or area, our conservation impact can negatively influence other species. It can even completely block other ecosystem dynamics.

This is also the case with the strictly protected forest in National Park Sumava. Although there is no human intervention inside the protected area, the impacts on wildlife and rivers are noteworthy. The tall wooden fence prevents not only humans, but all kind of bigger animals to enter the area. There are several fallen trees that create an access, but the significant majority is not accessible for boar, deer, foxes and wildlife alike. And while the river is freely flowing inside the fence, it is guided by concrete tubes just at the border of the fence.

Protect natural processes

Does it mean that this forest has no Wilderness potential? No, on the contrary. The management can consider to adapt their protection strategies that allow natural processes and dynamics in a broader spectrum. In that case, the potential for Wilderness would identifiable. The key point is to take the complexity into consideration as well as possible. Nature is constantly developing, Wilderness is an open-ended process that is governed by natural processes. This is the principle of the Wilderness definition that we use during the Wilderness Audits. A principle that governs the Wilderness in the partners of the European Wilderness Network.

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