Nature protection

Present-day Nature

During the geological periods, the features of nature changed. In the Quaternary period, (Holocene) an ice age (glacial) alternated with interglacial periods. The last ice age was characterised by very low average annual temperatures – 3 to – 4 °C and low average annual rainfall of 100–200 mm. In our territory, the steppes and in the higher elevations the tundra with dwarf birches, mosses and lichens prevailed. In interglacial periods, in which we are now, average annual temperatures reach 13 °C and average annual rainfall is between 800–1000 mm. We consider the present-day nature to be the state since the last glacial period that is the last 10–15 thousand years.

The development of the nature devastation

Around the 4th millennium BC the first farmers turned up. They found it easier to grow plants in one place than to collect them in the wild and likewise to breed domestic animals near their homes than to hunt them in the wild. So people began to grow crops and thus interfere with natural ecosystems (see chapter – Ecosystems). People started to clear-fell and slash and burn forests in order to gain areas suitable for agricultural activity. Another great devastation of nature occurred at the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th century in the context of higher demands on timber production at the time of the Industrial revolution. At the same time, there was an intense afforestation of our territory going on and the establishment of the first forest monocultures. Probably the most extensive and largest devastation of nature, however, came after the World War II, when there was a significant increase in energy needs, huge waste production, etc.

International protection of nature

Nature conservation includes many activities that cannot be covered within a single state, or even within the European Union. The issue of watercourses can serve as an example. Rivers flow across imaginary boundaries and therefore there is the need for arranging their management. This resulted in bilateral or trilateral agreements. But this is often not enough. Current transport options allow movement across enormous distances in a relatively short time. Therefore, it was necessary to address some problems at an international level.

An example of an international convention is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – CITES, which addresses the protection of biodiversity at an international level.

An example of an international organization is UNESCO (United Nation‘s educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). It was established in 1946 in Paris. UNESCO has several areas of activity, including education, culture, communication and information, as well as natural sciences. UNESCO in the “Man and the Biosphere Programme” designates Biosphere reserves, which are large protected areas that conserve typical ecosystems in biomes and have four main tasks: to protect biological and cultural diversity in its territory, i.e. cultural and natural heritage, to be an example of sustainable farming in the landscape, to enable intensive ecological research, to monitor the factors of the environment, and to promote education and ecological education of the population.

Let’s mention an example of non-governmental organizations and civic associations that also operate internationally: The IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) which has a number of expert committees, of which the Species Survival Commission is the most significant, with more than 8000 members. It conducts field research and rescue programmes, but also produces Red lists of Threatened Species (www.redlist.org), which list animal and plant species, plant communities, habitats and habitat complexes that are either extinct, have disappeared or are endangered. The member states then create their own Red and Black lists of extinct, disappeared and endangered species of their territory. The Red List of Threatened Species of the Czech Republic (http://www.preslia.cz/P123Grulich.pdf) distinguishes 4 categories of protection: the most strictly protected – critically endangered species, highly endangered species, endangered species and species requiring increased attention.

Nature protection in the European Union

After joining the EU, some EU directives have been implemented into member states‘ legislation. The first important directive was the directive on the conservation of wild birds (Directive 2009/147/EC). The second directive was the directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Directive 92/43/EEC). On the basis of these directives, each EU country has mapped its territory to obtain an overview of the occurrence of protected plants and animals and valuable habitats (mapping within the Natura 2000 system). We define NATURA 2000 as a continuous European ecological network of Special Areas of Conservation, consisting of sites with natural habitats and species habitats, which will allow the conservation of relevant types of natural habitats and species habitats in their natural habitat in a state favourable to their protection or allow this condition to be restored.

Pic 129: Logo of Natura 2000 (zdroj: www.nature.cz)

In the territory of each state, Habitats of European interest (EVL in Czech) have been declared, they are significant either by the occurrence of protected species of plants or by valuable habitats, or combined, which is a valuable habitat, with the occurrence of protected plant species. Important bird areas have been declared on the basis of the Wild Birds directive.