The Roztocze National Park – Nature and Humans
Roztocze is a picturesque range of hills stretching from Kraśnik to Lvov. It is clearly distinguished as a geographical unit situated on the natural border area of the states, regions and cultures, whose natural harmonious landscapes with diverse forests are of the greatest value. These forests greatly contributed to the creation of the Roztocze Natural Park in 1974, which was formed to protect the largely natural woods, often of primitive character.
In terms of nature, Roztocze is an orographic upland border belt, which weakens the impact of the characteristics of oceanic climate and reinforces its continental features. It is a typical upland area, the landscape features of which explicitly refer to the geological structure. Functioning as watershed of I and II order, it has a very low density of the river network, but high abundance of groundwater, especially in carbonate rocks of the Upper Cretaceous and the presence of numerous efficient sources. The region is characterized by a large variety of soil types in the regional structure and by the individuality of the real plant communities as the region located between the Carpathians and Podole.
Roztocze may be considered a cultural borderland region due to the following facts: consolidate naming of the oldest towns and physiographic objects, preserved remains of defensive forts and the western extent of the Orthodox and Greek Catholic. The cultural landscape has also well established socio-economic characteristics of the region.
Roztocze is a region which in the past centuries witnessed both the change of natural environment and the development of cultural environment. Information about the dynamics of the change can be obtained, inter alia, based on old maps from the last 200-250 years from the area of Poland. The increase of anthropopression was accompanied by the need to protect the natural environment, which, adopted by Zamosc Ordinate (1589-1944), has a long tradition in Roztocze. The first steps were related to the creation of ''Zwierzyniec'' ( game reserve) in 1589, which did not however have the nature of hunting grounds, but was a complementary element the Ordinate residential complex. The next activities came with the rationalization of forestry, protecting species, eg. Charles Szwob regulations from 1806 on the protection of game animals, and later the protection of the area, started in 1934 by setting up legally controlled reserve on Bukowa Góra. The Roztocze National Park set up in 1974 was the result of the above steps.
The Roztocze National Park features a clear relationship between the structure and the terrain. Structural conditions are revealed in characteristics of both large forms reflecting tectonic assumptions of the area, and in the characteristics of meso- and microforms revealing tectonic as well as lithological assumptions. Furthermore, structural characteristics are revealed in the modern tectonic activity of the area. It affects uneven lifting of structural blocks, which in turn influences, among other things, the deformation of longitudinal profiles of riverbeds and river terraces and the distribution of rock outcrops in some of the river beds. .Numerous forms of erosion and denudation genesis can be found there. These include leveled surfaces the hill island mountains rise above, as well as the dry valleys and loess ravines. Characteristic forms of the accumulation genesis - increasing alluvial fans, are found at the outlets of dry valleys and gorges. The forms of the accumulation genesis also include the dunes diversifying the landscape of wide flat valleys, or vales.
The varied geology, terrain, along with the water and plant diversity affected the soil-forming processes and the soils themselves. The Roztocze National Park, in terms of typological area, stands out twelve types of soils (Classification of Forest Soils of Poland) of very uneven spatial distribution.
Park area is characterized by a very rare network of surface waters and huge resources of groundwater. This is primarily due to high permeability and bedrock water capacity with the capability of retention of relatively high precipitation. Surface water occupy only 52.6 hectares, which represents 0.62% of the total area. Groundwater occur in the leek-slotted Upper Cretaceous rocks, formed as marl, rocks and spongolite and in sandy sediments and Quaternary gravels filling fossil river valleys. In areas of river valleys the Cretaceous water combine with alluvia filling water creating a common circulation and drainage, the so-called ‘’Roztocze water’’ level. The climate of the Roztocze National Park belongs to the temperate, transitional climate type, with a little more continental characteristics than in other areas of Poland. This is one of the coolest areas in the Lublin region. The average annual temperature varies from 7.4 ° to 7.5 °C, and in the upper parts it is approx. 1-2 degrees lower. The sum of the annual precipitation is 600-650 mm. The park has a moderately high insolation, where average annual totals with the sun vary from 1550 to 1600 hours. The park is characterized by considerable topoclimatic variation, which is connected with diverse terrain affecting the variability of the exposure and large height differences of land and plant species composition determining the height and vegetation coverage density.
Forests covering about 95 % of the Park are the dominant and at the same time its most valuable part. They are very differentiated and almost all the native species (more than 30) can be found in their stands. Dominating taxa are typical for the European Central Lowlands, but the specificity of Roztocze forest communities is defined by beech tree and European silver fir. These are the basic building components of stands of the most valuable forest communities in the Park and in Roztocze - fertile Carpathian beech and upland fir forest. The forests have retained a high degree of naturalness due to the specific location, continuity of duration, being a part of "Zwierzyniec" of Zamosc Ordinate, and the tradition of nature conservation reaching the beginnings of 20th century. The naturalness manifests itself, among other things, in the course of undisturbed natural processes; different age, construction and structure of forest stands; the large presence of large, old trees; mosaic of different size gaps in the tree canopy layer, diverse micro terrain (hills and small valleys formed by fallen trees); the presence of standing and lying dead wood logs; undisturbed soil structure; the presence of species of old-growth forests, which prove the continuity of their duration in a given area. The Park forests are not isolated, but belong to a large complex called Forests Janów and Roztocze. For these reasons, they are extremely valuable both for nature conservation and science.
Roztocze specific location within important on European scale geobotanical boundaries and ranged species makes the flora and fauna of the RNP rich and diverse. Species and plant communities characteristic of the foothills and lowlands occur next to each other; representing various, often distant geographic regions (ie. the Atlantic, Boreal, Western Siberia, Pontic-Pannonian and Mediterranean elements); which are relics of past eras; or have endemic character.
The RNP vegetation diversity is manifested primarily by a variety of plant communities occurring in the area, which in turn is a result of the variety of habitat conditions. In total, 20 groups of forest vegetation were determined in the Park while the herbaceous vegetation is represented by phytocenoses of over 30 groups and by a similar number of communities.
The flora of vascular plants of the RNP has more than 920 species, representing a number of geographic characteristics. Confirmed presence includes 21 species of vascular plants under strict protection and 43 partially protected species, among which there are five taxa of Polish Red Book of Plants.
The area of the RNP and its buffer zone are known for 237 species of bryophytes. This represents approx. ¼ of our native brioflora, including 24% of the flora of liverworts, 26% of mosses and 25% of flora of hornworts. Because of the large forest cover of the Park, its main component (over 60%) comprises typical forest species, characteristic of the fir, spruce and pine forests. Taxa associated with the bottom of the forest and rotting wood of conifers are of the dominant character. Protected and / or endangered brophytes (24 strictly protected, 21 partially and 19 endangered) constitute almost ¼ of the Park brioflora .
Although, the area has a depletion of lichen flora compared with historical data the, it still has more than 150 species. A large variety of forest complexes makes epiphytic lichens prevail in their composition. A typical element of the RNP forest is a constant presence and a large accumulation of tree blocks and windfallen trees and trees on the forest floor in varying degrees of decomposition. They are a habitat for a large group of epixylic lichens, while the ground species have a much smaller share of lichen biota of the Park.
Mycota of the RNP counts approx. 1,000 species, with the basidiomycetes forming their largest number. 10 taxa are covered by partial protection.
Animal world with over 3630 species - next to well-preserved forests – is the most important value of the Roztocze National Park.
A relatively small area of the Park, which constitutes mainly a bastion of the forest fauna, comprises also species of wetland, mosaics of non-forest habitats and those associated with the proximity of human settlements. A special peculiarity of the Park lies the co-existence in its area of animal species with a wide geographical spread of species typical for remote areas of southern and northern Europe and Eurasian border. Many animal species find in the Park one of the most important refuges in Poland - especially those related to natural character forests. This highlights the key role of the Roztocze National Park as the institution responsible for the protection of endangered species at the national level.
The fauna of invertebrates of the Roztocze National Park is about 10% of the national fauna species, with more than half of invertebrate taxa are the taxa representing an average of 30-60% of Polish fauna. They are grouped within nine higher systematic species: protozoa - 37 species, nematodes - 33 species, annelids - 49 species, mollusks- 76 species, arthropods - 3080 species, crustaceans - 49 species, arachnids - 339 species, wire worms - 11 species, insects - 2,680 species. Vertebrates are represented in an outstanding manner on the background of the national fauna and represent 46% of its resources in the Polish scale, whereby divided into different phylums, the number of species and the percentage is as follows: lampreys - 1 species (25%), fish - 30 species (24%), amphibians - 13 species (67%), reptiles - 9 species (70%), birds - 227 species (50%) and mammals - 59 species (52%). Among animals, 325 species are covered by species protection (250, by strict and 75 by partial protection), 76 species are listed in the Polish Red Book of Animals, 81 species are protected under Natura 2000, 20 species are included on the list of endangered animals of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and over 130 are protected by international conventions: Bonn, Berne and Washington's.
"Konik polski" (Polish primitive horse) is the emblematic animal of the Roztocze National Park. The name of the animal was introduced to the literature of hippology by prof. Vetulani (1897-1952) in 1925. Thanks to his efforts, the last descendants of tarpan wild horses were rescued, creating probably the first in the world maintenance breeding. Polish primitive horses became unique, they were the only truly native Polish breed of horses. Their breeding in the Roztocze National Park began in 1982 with the four mares and one stallion placed in Ostoja - the horses came from Racot Stud. Initially 44 hectares were allocated for the purpose of Ostoja, today the area includes approx. 234 hectares. In 1996 the Breeding Centre of Konik polski was established in Florianka. Within 30 years, the RNP achieved impressive results by breeding 263 foals. The main objective of the breeding farm is, apart from the fixation of primary biological traits, to cultivate the broadest number of lines of breeding mares (35 in Poland) and stallions (5). The horses ("koniki") bred for sale found most of the buyers in Poland, 22 individuals marked the beginning of nature reserves in the Biebrza National Park, as many as 42 were sold to Germany, Finland, Spain, and three (two mares and one stallion) were supplied to Jaworowski Natural National Park in Ukraine in 2009.
Polish lowland sheep flock of Uhruska variety was in 2010 introduced to the Park for supporting the active protection of selected non-forest habitats and for the sake of maintaining and improving the viewing values of forest enclaves . These sheep are subject to genetic resources conservation program, therefore keeping the animals is also part of the action for the protection of agricultural biodiversity. In addition, since 2012, in order to restore the biodiversity of grasslands, the Park has hosted on its meadows local varieties of red and white-backed cattle.
The Roztocze National Park was established primarily to protect the old, natural forests, which are a remnant of the primeval forest growing on the former grounds of Roztocze. These forests are home to many rare on the national and European scale species: plants, animals and fungi. The aim of the park is also the maintenance of unique and disappearing landscape of Central Roztocze, distinguishing itself from other landscapes in Poland and Europe. Buffer zone was set to carry out the statutory objectives effectively, to preserve wildlife passages, the potential for reducing the negative impact of external factors on the nature of the Park.
This is a continuation of the noble idea of protecting native wildlife and traditional landscape of the Polish countryside, which was initiated a few centuries ago by Zamosc Ordinate (1589-1944), a group of enlightened citizens and lovers of Zwierzyniec, Lublin scientists, naturalists, historians, archaeologists and artists, among which one, as a tireless advocate of nature and Roztocze landscape, the initiator of creating the Roztocze National Park, Aleksanra Wachniewska (1902-1989) deserves a particular attention.
The Roztocze National Park, as the location on the border between the countries, regions and cultures, relates in its activities to the conservation of religious themes identified in Islam, Confucianism, Jainism and Buddhism. We are particularly close to the Christian vision of ecology presented mainly based on ecological homily given by Pope John Paul II in Zamosc on 12. 06. 1999, in which he praised the natural beauty of Roztocze and encouraged his listeners to respect it to the benefit of future generations.
The Park, in collaboration with local communities, universities, central and local government is available for science, education and tourism. Educational Museum Center located in the historic part of Zwierzyniec is the key element of tourist services. Since 2009 it has been presenting a multimedia exhibition of nature: "In the land of fir, beech and tarpan", annually visited by approx. 30 thousand tourists. Educational and tourist offer is rich and addressed to different audiences, both tourists (approx. 120 thousand people per year) and the local community. Exhibition activities, publishing together with actions related to the access of tourism and creating original tourist products are particularly noteworthy. The park is dominated by hiking and cycling tourism. Over 50 km of hiking trails, paths and cycle routes are available for the visitors. The tour route hubs organized in adapted historical buildings host terrain educational and tourist base (Chamber of Forest and Gamekeeper's Cottage Komanówka in Florianka, Cottage Krzywe and Wojda in the northern part of the Park).
Since 2011, the park has been operating, the ninth in Poland, Base Station of Integrated Environmental Monitoring carrying out the activities related to the monitoring of natural and cultural environment and making the Park available for science.
The Roztocze National Park (8482.83 ha) with its buffer zone (38095.87 ha) is located in the central part of the region and is the core of the ecological system of conservation of Roztocze. The Polish part in 80.4% of the area is covered by protection. It includes all forms of protection provided by Polish law, while 78.2% are the areas included in the protected European network Natura 2000. The system is growing rapidly. Apart from this, the work on the creation of the Transboundary Biosphere Reserve "Roztocze" UNESCO has begun It is planned to create The Stone Forest Geopark in Roztocze. Non-statutory activities aim at, among other things, establishing best practices in the promotion and rational management of natural and cultural values of the region. The Park is planned in both projects to function as the main link, a key area of protective measures, and will also be the subject participating actively in the management of the biosphere reserve and geopark.
So far activities of RNP and community show that it is possible to preserve natural and cultural heritage and to secure the harmonious coexistence of nature and man.
Text: Tadeusz Grabowski