The area of Šumava and Bavarian Forest National Park is characterized as the largest forest region without human intervention in central Europe. On an area of 922, 84 km² it is an important refugium for endangered biotopes, plants and animals and a popular recreational area for humans. Nowhere else in Central Europe such a large area of forests and mires can grow and develop without human interference. With the slogan “let nature be nature” both parks are cooperating to enable the development of wild virgin forests.
Bavarian Forest National Park was founded in 1970 as Germany’s first national park because of the high close to nature-state of the area. Situated in a middle mountain range along the borderline to the Czech Republic it comprised an almost completely forested area of 13.300 hectares. The enlargement of 1997 has increased its dimensions to a total area of 24.218 hectares. The woodlands of the Bavarian Forest National Park were longtime spared from human intervention until the exploitation of wood started in the late Middle Ages caused by the demand of the developing glass industry. In the course of the 18th century the shortage of fire wood and timber in the towns led also to the exploitation of the remote forests. Despite of the human impacts some virgin forest relicts remained untouched and acted as last refuges for lots of endangered species.
Šumava National Park was founded in 1991 and is the largest national park in the Czech Republic. The highlands of the park were longtime not affected by human activities. The first humans visited these areas in hope of finding some precious metal. Later more and more human activities influenced the condition of the woodlands in the mountain area, first by cattle-breeding, later by the growing glass industry. Similar to the Bavarian Forest the inhabitants started wood economy in the early modern era. After World War II the local community of German origin was banished and the construction of the Iron Curtain resulted in a growing nature area in a former agricultural zone.
The Nature in the Bohemian Forest
Peatland forests and open bogs belong to the ecologically most valuable habitats in the Bohemian Forest. The high, precipitation rich plateaus of Šumava National Park are located at the center of the mire distribution across the mountain range. On the Bavarian side the waterlogged valleys and the ridges are home of large areas of peat bogs.
The nature of Bavarian Forest National Park consists of 99 % of woodland and 1 % of surface with transition and upland moors or scree. The forest ecosystems and their species composition vary according to altitude: there are alluvial spruce forests in the cold valley bottoms, mixed mountain forests on the hillsides and mountain spruce forests in the high-lying areas. Large areas of the two types of spruce forests were heavily affected by bark beetles in the 1980s and 1990s and after the storm Kyrill (2007). So the landscape is widely shaped by dead spruces or juvenile forests. The nature of the Šumava National Park consists of 80% of woodland, 19% of non-forest areas like pastures, mires and mountain meadows and 1% of water area. The park area is covered mainly by extensive forest ecosystems with a mosaic of different relic habitats and some valuable semi-natural grassland formations, completed by the remnants of historical human activities.
Cross border cooperation
Since the foundation of Šumava National Park both national parks started an intense cooperation in many fields of work.
Some of the fields are:
- building an common information point in Bučina
- introduction of a public transport system in 1996 which is linked beyond the border
- Natura 2000 habitat mapping in both national parks
- running the “Glass Ark” project (a cross-border art project)
- developing the Project “Europe’s wild heart”
- establishing of cross border hiking trails after the Czech Republic joined the Schengen treaty
- providing information in two- to three languages in both parks and related institutions
The first Transboundary Certificate was handed out in 2009 for five years. After the revitalization of the cooperation both national parks were certified again in 2015.
In the future both national parks plan to extend and intensify their cooperation. Multimedia information should be available at least in two languages in all the visitor centers and a homogeneous information supply should be given on both sides of the border.
Text by Bavarian Forest and Sumava NPs