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Country profiles: Czech Republic
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1. Pressure on the environment

Although atmospheric emissions have considerably decreased since 1990, air pollution still remains one of the major environmental problems in the Czech Republic. The new transport policy, characterized by the closure of large sections of the railway network, a reduction in the number of train services and the creation of favorable conditions for freight road transport and for private car use has resulted in the further deterioration of air quality. In addition the development of the road network has caused the fragmentation of the landscape and the disturbance of ecosystems (reference). Air pollution is one of the main causes of forest damage in the Czech Republic.

Another major problem is the high proportion of water courses with poor drinking water quality (70 percent of drinking water is derived from reservoirs that have high levels of nitrates and are often eutrophicated). During the 1950 and 1960s many hectares of field banks were ploughed up. Numerous small streams were channelled and hectares of land drained. Another major impact was the eutrophication and contamination of agro-ecosystems by fertilizers and pesticides. Fortunately the use of fertilizers and pesticides has decreased substantially during recent years (reference).

The unlicensed tips, dust and litter in cities and settlements cause problems for the local environmental authorities. Accumulated hazardous waste that requires treatment and removal and waste disposal sites that need remediation are also likely to remain significant priorities (reference).

2. State of the biota

Industrial air pollution and inappropriate silvicultural management (e.g. inappropriate species composition focusing primarily on conifer monocultures and inadequate pruning and thinning) have increased the vulnerability of the forests to extreme weather conditions, insect pests, fungal diseases, and other types of damage with the result that forests in the Czech Republic are among the most heavily damaged in Europe.

Habitat deterioration and destruction is the main threat to many wild plant species and plant communities. The impacts can be direct (construction of roads, dams and water reservoirs, regulation of rivers, changing natural or semi-natural habitats into cultivated plots, etc.), or indirect (transmitted) from a sometimes very distant source (long-range pollution and contamination, acidification, change of hydrological situation of whole regions etc.). Some species disappear due to the abandonment of traditional land-use, e.g. critical situation of the Spring Gentian (Gentiana vernalis) or two rare Pasque Flowers (Pulsatilla). The new threat is allochtonous invasive species that suppress the native flora and vegetation. A striking example is the fast spreading of Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum, GRID ENRIN).

The Czech Republic has a relatively high biological and landscape diversity, and important continental migration routes run through its territory, such as the main Eurasian bird flyways.

3. Response

After the political changes and separation from Slovakia, the Czech Environmental Inspectorate was created in an attempt to move environmental policy-making ahead. The establishment of the Ministry of Environment signalled the end of the formerly highly ineffective and sectorially divided environmental protection agencies. One of the first acts of the Ministry was the preparation of the State Programme for the Protection of the Environment (REC 1998).

There are six biosphere reserves and ten Ramsar sites. The protected areas cover approximately 13.8 percent of the whole territory. Besides the conservation of the habitats, scientific research takes place in the four national parks with the aim to restore degraded areas.

The national parks are the following:
1. Krkonoše (Giant Mountains) NP, established in 1963

2. Šumava (Bohemian Forest) NP, established in 1991

3. Podyji National Park (Thaya River Valley), established in 1991

4. Ceskosaske Svycarsko (Bohemian-Saxonian Switzerland) NP, established in 1999

4. Institutional background - links

Ministry of Environment
The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Institute of Botany
Institute of Hydrobiology
Institute of Landscape Ecology
Institute of Parasitology
Institute of Soil Biology
Institute of Vertebrate Biology

REC programmes


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© FAO   ::   Global Terrestrial Observing System - GTOS   ::   29 January 2003