Western Carpathians - the Mountains on the border of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia represent an area with a unique natural value. Large forest units and near-natural farming based on sheep herding create conditions for a number of rare species that have already disappeared from other areas. On Czech side of the area, the Beskydy Mountains are protected as a Natura 2000 site, where species of wolf, lynx and bear are the main subjects of protection. However, detailed monitoring carried out in recent years has shown that populations of all three species of large carnivores are declining, and their extinction can be expected in coming years. To clarify this problem, a map of barriers formed by major transport infrastructure and by continuously built-up areas was created. The analysis made in cooperation of experts from all three countries showed that the area of the Beskydy Mountains is almost isolated from populations in the Central Carpathians. The last passages in the northern part of the region are threatened by construction of highways and rapidly advancing further development. The map showed similar problem in other areas of the Western Carpathians as well – this originally continuous area is divided into isolated islands, where the populations are too small for a long-term survival. The Silesian Beskydy Mountains in Poland can be mentioned as an example of such an isolated area. Fragmentation is progressing very quickly, nearly isolated populations can already be found also in the Kysuce Mountains or Mala Fatra National Park in Slovakia. The barriers are made up not only by highways, but very often also by smaller roads in mountain valleys, which are followed by further development. The map identifies key migration corridors and 67 critical points - places where permeability of the corridor for large carnivores is threatened by an expanding barrier.
A new project aimed at a spatial definition of biotopes of specially protected species of large mammals such as lynx, wolf, bear and moose was finished in the Czech Republic this year. These biotopes include both places of permanent occurrence of these species and their migration corridors. Although the corridors are not permanently occupied, these species are not able to survive without the corridors in a long term. Identification of corridors was based on actual data regarding the occurrence of target species. Where occurrence data were insufficient, habitat suitability models were used to identify migration corridors. A comprehensive layer of biotopes of target species was produced as the main product of the project. Since the biotopes of protected species are legally protected from destruction, the new layer will be obligatorily implemented in spatial plans of all levels. Thus, the biotope of target species will be protected from both newly built transportation infrastructure and from new development. In this manner, the new layer of biotopes of specially protected species should provide basic ecological connectivity of the entire territory of the Czech Republic, including the Western Carpathians.
large carnivores, barrier effect, habitat fragmentation, migration corridors