The human influence on nature in Český Krumlov

The miraculously well preserved diversity of nature in the Český Krumlov region has its origins in the favorable geographical, geological, hydrological, meteorological and other inorganic natural conditions, but also in people's influence on the nature and landscape in this region.

Hills can be as terraces changed into system of fields, foto: Václav Dolanský

The nature's condition and its diversity are a definite reflection of the direct activities of people in the land. Up until the end of the 19th century, the majority of the population lived on agriculture and lived in direct contact with nature nearly throughout their lives - at work in the fields, meadows and in the woods.

 Chvalšinský pond changed into drain gully, foto: Václav Dolanský
Agriculture caused partial deforestation of the land and other changes (e.g. drainage and irrigation of land, building of settlements, ponds etc.). Consequently, the natural environment became more diverse - it was enriched with new kinds of animals and plants which could not live and grow in the original deep forest formations. Agriculture in the Český Krumlov region has never been of a " mass- agricultural-production" kind, as the soil and temperature parameters simply prevented this from happening. On the other hand, people in the region were remarkably diverse and skilled farmers and peasants, considering the utilization of the very modest conditions offered by the Pošumaví nature. (In micro-climatically favorable conditions, people grew crops which we would not expect in this geographical location and altitude; e.g. grapevine was grown on the sunny slopes above Vltava in Český Krumlov and Zlatá Koruna, but also on the terraced southwestern slopes of the Svatotomášské range around the Jasanky and Rychnuvek villages.) Other hardy local (regional and Austrian region imports) varieties of fruit and vegetables were grown and people bred local breeds of domestic animals. It is a pity that these living reminders of the not-so-long-gone times are irreversibly disappearing.

Forestry is another branch of human activities which represents an essential influence on the condition of the nature and character of the land.

Woods have been naturally present in this region for the last 10,000 years. Their composition slowly and gradually changed as a result of climatic and other conditions (we learn this e.g. from pollen analysis of samples from peateries), and this process still goes on; due to graphiosis elm trees nearly disappeared, temperature and humidity changes and chemism of atmosphere greatly damaged fir trees, while ash trees are thriving. The most recent factor to change the woods to today's form was human beings. Not only because people brought new kinds of tree species into the woods (e.g. larch trees are originally from somewhere else), but it was mainly their work in the woods that brought about the changes.

After calamity extraction rests only a little from forest, foto: Václav Dolanský

Woods in our region were left in their original condition for a long time (according to European standards) because their impenetrability was considered as very important in the role of defense against enemies. But colonization eventually crossed the line of defense castles even here and advanced into the deep forests. The first settlers (possibly only temporary) were probably gold diggers advancing especially towards the rivers. The next wave was probably caused by the development of the glass industry. Glass makers went to seek basic materials in the border mountains - vast amounts of wood they used to produce potash and as fuel in their works was soon evidenced by large glades. The deforested areas, however, were utilized for agricultural purposes only sporadically, so the land was gradually reforested. During the 18th century, the next wave of agricultural, grassland and timber colonization began , and even the upper parts of the border mountains fell victim to the wave. There was a great demand for wood, so new legal regulations were needed to halt the total devastation of the woods (the Schwarzenbeg Wood Regulations in 1715, Theresian Wood Patent from 1754). At the turn of the 18th and 19th century, there was a forester called Frantisek Matz in service in the Krumlov Castle. It is to his credit that clearcutting was changed in the Český Krumlov region into the cultivation of fir trees as a monoculture after clearings. Matz understood, however, that woods are not only "wood plantations" and that they have many more irreplaceable functions (soil protection, water resources, clearance, retention, forming of the landscape and recreational). In all Schwarzenberg woods, he enjoyed a following of his reasonable approach in the Matz School of Forestry which was established in Zlatá Koruna.

Area with military and natural protection in Český Krumlov region
1. Area with military protection
2. Area with natural protection

In the eastern part of the region, the Buquoy family were the biggest owners of woodlands. They understood woods as living organisms and a precious part of the land - to prove this, the Count George de Longeval-Buquoy declared, as early as in 1838, the Žofínský and Hojnovodský forests the first parks in Bohemia and all of Central Europe.

It is understandable that each owner administered his woods differently; private, common, cloister, the Swarzenberg and Buquoy woods, they all looked different. Varying administrative methods is another reason for the diversity of woodlands and forests in the region and they can be seen in individual areas even today.

Villages "behind lines" parished, nature took everything back, Hůrka, foto: Václav Dolanský

Surprisingly, military-political reasons played an important role in forming the land and nature in the Český Krumlov region. As a result of pseudodefence causes, "border zones" came to existence in the post-war years in several waves. These were border areas several kilometers wide guarded by soldiers with dogs, thus preventing anyone from entering the sector. Isolated zones of land of various widths separating this country from Western Europe, quite by accident, became perfect parks unparalleled in modern-day Europe: hundreds of square kilometers were uninhabited, the system provided only the absolutely necessary agriculture and forest management - the rest was left in the "hands of nature".

Among other valuable areas protected due to military purposes is also the vast Boletice military area, ranging from Kajov to a Šumava town called Volary and from Chvalsiny to the Lipno reservoir. Rules similar to the former border zones apply to this area and surprisingly, for many species of rare animals and plants, it is a paradise on earth.

countryside at military area Boletice, foto: Václav Dolanský

The last, but very important factor for maintaining the good condition of the land is national nature protection. By establishing large and small area reserves, protection is provided to all habitats which are valuable and interesting for reasons of general science and land preservation and which would have disappeared under the pressures of civilization without this legislature a long time ago.


Further information :
Description of Natural Conditions in the Český Krumlov Region


© Sdružení Oficiálního informačního systému Český Krumlov, 2000
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