Meanders of the rivers Odra and bottom part of Olza
Border meanders have existed for centuries but kept attention mainly in connection with the devastating floods in 1997, when one of the meanders ruptured. Among the river manager duties belong amendment of ruptures and when the ruptured meander was fixed, currently the ecological conditions were assessed and the study showed how significant and unique this area was. However, this importance was proven thanks to close cooperation with the World Fund of Nature (WWF). Similar and detailed surveys clearly show that this area has an exceptional landscape value, variety of natural habitats allow occurrence of wide number of rare and endangered plant and animal species, and is unique in terms of natural river dynamics. Therefore the territory was included into the European Natura System 2000 as a special area with need of conservation not only on the Czech side of a border, but also in neighbouring Poland.
The natural monument “Border meanders of the river Odra” on the territory of Bohumin and Karvina was opened in May 2007. Several kilometres long section of the river Odra from the border crossing in Stary Bohumín to Bohumín Kopytov and till the confluence of the rivers Odra and Olza was proclaimed a protected area by the Moravian-Silesian Authority. The area of over 126 hectares represents a unique natural phenomenon, which has already become extinct within the European rivers. On the whole section along the river Odra between Bohumin and its local part Kopytov, the river preserved its natural dynamics of river-basin activity processes.
It’s manifested by the formation of many gravel sediments and forelands, separated parts of meanders, which emerge blind shoulders and pools. In this way the river still slightly changes the state border. The meandering river Odra has already prepared not only one surprise. From time to time Odra washes up a mammoth tooth or vertebra, that thousands years ago apparently went through the river basin. In 2004 in the local part of Kopytov a boundary stone from the time of Maria Theresa was found. The territory of the right bank of the river Odra, Kalisovo lake and wetlands of cutoffs from the northern edge of Stary Bohumin till the confluence of the rivers Odra and Olza are important not only for their unique fauna, but its flora as well.
Space for the river
For the needs of current protection of an international protected area of meanders of the river Odra and harmonization of economic and natural interests, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) worked a conceptual study called "Space for the river." This concept was inspired by the example of France where, under the name "Espace dé liberté” were respected two main principles - to avoid reinforcing of the banks and prevent the exploitation of gravel from the river’s basin and flooded areas. The main objective of this concept is to provide enough space for river and conservation of its important natural river-basin processes while preserving existing. A civic association under the same name “Border meanders of the river Odra” was established, which cooperates closely with the public administration, municipality, professional organizations and institutions, land owners, schools and the general public. This cooperation has even cross-border implications, in particular with the countries where the river Odra flows through.
People keen on nature can walk along the banks of the river Odra and certainly will be satisfied and pleased by it. Unique creeks of the border meanders are the home to many animals and plants. Some unique flora grows here - there can be found 7 plant habitats typical for flooded areas. Connection of some species with the local ecosystems is unique not only in scopes of the whole country, but also in these European ones. These natural resources provide favourable conditions for the existence and reproduction of many species. The area around the meanders is a home to 40 mammal species, including several rare and protected species. Among protected species belong the European beaver, but it is quite difficult to see it. Generally it is not a problem to find traces of their colony. Beavers are active especially at twilight and at night and generally it is not a problem to find traces of its activity such as beaver wood-shavings and nibbles. If visitors become lost in remote areas of these meanders, they even may come upon a beaver dam. Other of animals living there is the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra).
Border meanders of the river Odra, particularly sluice of Hermanice – Struzka, are part of one of the most important bird areas in the Czech Republic. Ornithologists have recorded more than 188 kinds of birds in this area, many of them are reproducing themselves here, and 60 species are nesting there. Among the most attractive and the most beautiful coloured birds belongs the Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). These types of birds build its nest in the steep banks of the river. In the same way are also nesting the Sand Martin birds (Riparia riparia). These use for their nests sandy slopes of rivers, where they dig half-meter-long tunnels. On the banks of rivers and on islands can be seen Little Ringed Plover bird (Charadrius dubius) and Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos). For the Czech Republic, this location is exceptional because of the nesting of the Common Merganser bird (Mergus merganser). In the meanders reeds can also be found 4 species of endangered predator birds such as the Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), Honney Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) and Duck Hawk (Circus aeruginosus).
Regarding protected reptiles, mainly the Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) and the Ring Snake (Natrix natrix) are found there. Both have an interesting way of self-protection. Lizard leaves its tail in place of danger if it feels endangered, which after a short period of time grows up back, the ring snake pretends to be dead in case of danger and emits some smelling liquid that should discourage every attacker. Regarding the category of amphibians are also included the Crested Newt (Triturus vulgarit) and Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus ),Yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata), Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina bombina), Common Toad (Bufo bufo), Green Toad (Bufo viridis), Marsh Frog (Pelophylax ridibundus), Green Marsh Frog (Pelophylax esculentus) and European Tree Frog (Hyla arborea). This last mentioned is particularly interesting with its ability to change its colour according to temperature, humidity, lighting and other internal factors, such as pain or hunger. It can choose from the colours such as yellow, grey, olive, brown or black. Currently 31 kinds of fish are living in waters of Odra and Olza. To the ultimate fishing experiences may be included catching of local predatory fish such as: catfish, pike, sand-eel, perch and silver salmon. Among the precious pieces are included European Amur Bitterling (Rhodeus sericeus), European weatherfish (Misgurnus fossilis), Common minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus) and European Ide Fish (Leuciscus idus).
Regarding the protected invertebrates, among the most valuable rarity belong a bulky Wolf Spider (Arctosa cinerea ). This spider doesn’t loom net as most other spiders, but it hunts its capture during its wanders along alluvia. In total about 62 species of spiders were found there. Among very rare beetles belong the Vermilion Beetle (Cucujus cinnaberinus) and the Hermit Beetle (Osmoderma eremita) that live primarily in old burrows and rotten trees. Among the rare insects also belong Ground Beetles (Carabus). Floodplain wetlands provide a home to 28 species of dragonflies with a number of rare species, including Southern Dragonfly (Sympetrum meridionale) and other species such as Dragonflies (Gomphus), Green-eyed Hook-tailed Dragonfly (Onychogomphus forcipatus), Horned Dragonfly (Ophiogomphus cecilia) and the River Clubtail (Gomphus flavipes). 41 kinds of butterflies live in the rivers neighbourhood, including the daily and brightly coloured species e.g. Yellow Swallowtail (Papilio machaon), Poplar Admiral (Limenitis populi), Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) and Lesser Purple Emperor (Apatura ilia). Another species appearing in this location is the Large Copper (Lycaena dispar). One of the biggest European butterflies, the Giant Peacock Moth (Saturnia pyri) whose wingspan can be up to 15 centimetres, has appeared there.
Border meanders of the river Odra are situated in a large, flat bottom land of the river Odra above the confluence with the other large river – Olza. Without human intervention most of habitat would be covered with deciduous, especially flooded forests that tolerate their periodical flooding. In the border meanders its dominant woody species is the crack willow, white willow and black poplar.
In the surveys for the maintenance plan concerning the natural monument “Border meanders of the river Odra” made in 2004, 297 kinds of plants were recorded there. But this is not a final number because thanks to frequent floods in this area, new species will still penetrate into the meanders. Some of them will find a suitable environment and their populations may be further developed, on the other hand the existence of others is just accidental and temporary. For the existence of valuable ecosystems in low lying meandering section of the river Odra, the most important is to prevent the meanders from man-made building alterations or interference into the natural water regime e.g. by the construction of channel out of the meanders. This is the only way how not to cause disappearing of this, although small in size but by its importance one of the most unique localities on the territory of the Czech Republic and Poland. From especially protected aquatic plants here occurs a micro-population of the Water Chestnut (Trapa natans) and Brittle Waternymph (Najas minor), the White Water Lily (Nymphaea candida). In the mud alluvia can be found the Bulrush (Schoenoplectus lacustris), Flowering Rush (Butomus umbellatus ), and the Rice Cutgrass (Leersia oryzoides).
Recommendations for visitors in the meanders
The main reason for protection of the natural monument “Border meanders of the river Odra” is still preserved segment of the river with its unique river-basin creative processes. Similar parts of the rivers are quite unique and rare in Central Europe.
For the nature conservation in the best condition and status, a plan for the period 2006-2017 was developed, that should regulate some human activity. The city of Bohumin wants to use these meanders for sport and recreation activities. Both rivers Odra and Olza should become a part of the international waterman trail. In addition, the civic association “Border meanders of the river Odra” plans to build an educational trail, thanks to which the meanders visitors should become more familiar with the natural interests and that should motivate them to the nature protection.
All meanders visitors should be aware that they are only temporary guests there. Therefore a few guidelines for outdoor behaviour in meanders are recommended. When crossing the border meanders on a boat is important to behave as quietly as possible, because the noise can frighten nesting birds. Of course another basic rule should be obvious as well, that nobody will throw any sorts of rubbish. In terms of nature conservation is not allowed any camping in the meanders.
The specific characteristics of meanders are alluvia and gravel banks. Exactly there the rarest species of fauna can be found. The nests of Little Ringed Plover bird (Charadrius dubius) and Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) are simple holes in fine gravel and eggs and young are completely masked. So that’s why it’s a matter of high importance not to go up the banks and pass through the alluvial areas, especially in spring, and inadvertently destroy eggs or chicks. Places with fine sand are important for reproduction of the Wolf Spider (Arctosa cinerea ), a rare species within the Czech Republic. In the meanders of the river Odra the unique site of their location is close to a ruptured meander – in this most valuable area shouldn’t be held any public cleaning work especially during the vegetation period as it brings more harm than benefit. There shouldn’t be any educational trails toward this sand dune.
Most watermen, tourists and fishermen have a positive approach to the nature and its conservation and respect these general recommendations. Instead of bans, therefore, is more stimulating to encourage the nature fans and admirers to behave thoroughly in the floodplain of the rivers Odra and Olza so that next generations could enjoy the well-preserved beauty of the river and landscape.