Tuesday 11th July 2023 will be dedicated to organised excursions to valuable natural and/or restored semi-natural habitats with interesting butterfly (and other organism) communities. During registration, the following options can be selected (with an additional fee of 70 EUR). Each excursion is restricted to fit into a single bus, the full excursions will be removed from the registration form. For the case of most of the options being already reserved, other excursion options can be announced.
Rewilding for biodiversity: Large ungulates in abandoned military areas
European landscapes used to be inhabited by numerous large mammals which has created habitats for many other species, including butterflies and other insects. Rewilding is the modern trend of large ungulates returning into the landscape to restore natural disturbances and related habitats, including their threatened biodiversity. In the large abandoned military training area near Milovice, Central Bohemia, herds of European Bisons, Exmore Ponies, and Tauros cattle contribute to large-scale restoration of natural shrubby grasslands. To support early-successional habitats and species, the grazing is locally supported by offroading, fire, and other management. As a result, the area hosts rich communities of butterflies (including critically endangered Phengaris alcon f. rebeli, and endangered Spialia sertorius and Iphiclides podalirius), with numerous species of endangered dung beetles, bees, grasshoppers and other insects, birds, and plants.
We will visit two separate reserves grazed by the three species of ungulates, each representing different habitats, and we will also see the abandoned non-grazed parts of the area to see the effects of rewilding. We will also shortly visit the early-successional habitats of an offroad training circuit, and (if there is enough time) on the way back we will shortly visit one of the few remaining natural wetland in the area, Hrabanovská černava. There will be no difficult terrain (except some slippery parts during rainy weather), although the whole day hiking can be physically demanding, and hiking near to the large ungulates can be disturbing for someone. Parts of the visited localities are under strict protection with no possibility to collect biological samples.
European Bisons and Exmore Ponies in the rewilded area (left), Phengaris alcon f. rebeli (upper right), a detail of flowering grasslands (middle right), and a dung beetle (lower right). Photos: Česká krajina (Miloslav Jirků, Michal Köpping, Lucie Ambrožová)
Fragmented biodiversity refuge: Species-rich grasslands in an agricultural region
České Středohoří is a charming landscape of ancient volcanic hills surrounded by agricultural landscapes. The hill sides are often covered by natural habitats, ranging from dry steppe grasslands to shrubs and forests, representing important refuges of biodiversity in the otherwise intensive agricultural area. Therefore, some of these hills have been actively managed to maintain regionally important populations of endangered butterflies and other insects, plants, and other organisms. Besides the nice viewpoints, the hilltops also attract many insect species for mating and other activities.
We will visit a few sites in the Raná reserve and its surroundings to see results of successful conservation projects specifically focused on populations of endangered Chazara briseis (the last autochthonous population in the Czech Republic), Iphiclides podalirius, Polyommatus thersites, Spialia sertorius and others. We will also see many other insect and plant species, with a bit of luck including European sousliks. If there is enough time, we will visit also some mesic grasslands on the way back to see diverse habitats of butterflies and other organisms. Although not high, climbing the steep hill slopes can be physically demanding, especially in the hot summer weather as some of them offer virtually no shadow. Parts of the visited localities are protected with no possibility to collect biological samples.
Landscape of České Středohoří with ancient volcanic hills (left) with a detail of their species-rich grasslands grazes by sheep and goats (right); endangered Chazara briseis (upper centre), Iphiclides podalirius (middle centre), and Spialia sertorius (lower centre).
More than the city: Biodiversity hotspot in Prague
Prague belongs among the oldest historical capitals in Europe. Besides its amazing history, it is known for its outstanding biodiversity, often much higher than in common landscapes of Central Europe. The high species richness of many organisms, including butterflies, in the city resulted from the complex geomorphology and the related large diversity of habitats, together with existence of numerous small protected areas across the city. Altogether, 115 of the 161 butterfly species recorded in the Czech Republic were found in Prague. Currently, you can still meet up to 92 butterfly species in the city.
During this excursion, we will visit the Prokopské údolí, one of the most diverse natural area in Prague. It is characterized by dry calcareous grasslands, rocky slopes, mesic shrubs, and beautiful views of the city and the Vltava River. On the slopes we will find the largest Czech population of Hipparchia semele, the steppe specialist Polyommatus coridon, or (if we will be lucky) one from the rarest Czech butterflies, Pseudophilotes vicrama. In addition, we will also visit the newly restored grasslands used as pastures for Przewalski's horses (in collaboration with Prague Zoo) and where the successful reintroduction of endangered Polyommatus thersites has been realized recently. The excursion will end up in the local brewery from where the participants will leave individually by public city transport. This excursion will be shortest in term of the hiked kilometers, nevertheless climbing of some slopes require at least a basic fitness. Most of the visited sites are protected with no possibility to collect biological samples.
Dry grasslands of the Prokopské údolí (left and right) with reintroduced Polyommatus thersites (upper centre), and endangered Hipparchia semela (middle centre) and Pseudophilotes vicrama (lower centre). Photos: Tomáš Kadlec, Tomáš Jor, Marek Vojtíšek.
Traditional landscape: Restoration of a karstic area
Agriculture in the Czech Republic underwent dramatic changes during the 20th century. Traditional landscape of a small-scaled mosaics of grasslands, pastures, fields, bounds, alleys, and hedgerows has been transformed to large, intensively farmed fields during the communistic era. Only some regions, less attractive for agriculture, were either abandoned or afforested. These resulted in serious declines of biodiversity in agricultural landscape, well documented in butterflies as a flagship group. During the last decade, a lot of effort has been given to the restoration of small remnants of species rich marshlands, grasslands and steppe habitats scattered in the ‘sea of farmland’ in the Czech Republic. Karstic areas represent such typical refuges for numerous endangered butterflies and other organisms.
We will visit the Týnčany karst in Central Bohemia, a small and largely overlooked karstic area with the active management for endangered butterflies. Since 2011, most of the shrub encroachment has been removed and the area has been managed by extensive grazing of domestic goats, sheep, and horses. Typical species-rich calcareous grasslands have been restored and populations of many endangered butterflies recovered. Two endangered butterflies, Melitaea didyma and Polyommatus dorylas, were successfully reintroduced in the area. Among other species, we will have a good chance to meet Polyommatus coridon, P. daphnis, Satyrium acaciae, or Spialia sertorius. On the way, we will visit a private shooting area with a large population of Phengaris alcon f. alcon. There will be no difficult terrain, although the whole day hiking can be physically demanding. None of the visited areas are protected, collecting of biological samples (with the exception of species protected by law!) will be possible.
Restored calcareous grassland in the Týnčany karst (left), reintroduced Melitaea didyma (upper right), Phengaris alcon f. alcon (middle right) and disturbance management to support its host plant (lower right). Photos: Ondřej Sedláček.