Karkonoski National Park
The symbol of the Park is a high rock with the 14th century Chojnik Castle at its top.
The northern part of the Karkonosze, the highest part of the Sudeten massif, is under protection as the Karkonoski National Park, with an area of 5,579 ha. It was set up on January 16, 1959 to protect the unique environment, including interesting geomorphological forms and rich fauna and flora. The Park protects many rare species facing extinction, among them endemic and relic species. There are 30 animal, 18 vascular plant, 14 moss and 27 lichen species included in the Polish Red Book. Apart from the strict reserves, a 11,265 ha buffer zone has been established to cover the lower and higher forest zones. Karkonosze are among the World Biosphere Reserves in Poland.
Karkonoski National Park protects the higher parts of the Karkonosze Mountains, including Mount Sniezka, the highest peak of Sudeten Mountains, which reaches a height of 1,602 m above sea level. The topography of the Park is exceptionally diverse and entails lakes in post-glacial depressions, steep cliffs, lively streams forming numerous cascades and waterfalls, and sub-crown plateaux. The most characteristic features of Karkonosze landscape are flattened bare tops with a large plateaux below postglacial cirques, and picturesque groups of rocks.
The character of the flora is dependent on the elevation. The lower mountain forests are made up of beech while the upper portions consist of spruce, with dwarf pine appearing at the higher elevations. The uppermost reaches, which belong to the alpine zone, are enriched with a large variety of moss and lichen species.
The flora of the Polish Karkonosze entails about 900 species of vascular plants, 452 mosses, about 400 lichens, and about 80 myxophyta. The Karkonosze flora includes many protected relict and endemic species, which underscores the uniqueness of this region's wildlife. Among the bryophyta such species include Gymnomitrion obtusum, Tayloria acuminata, Bryum arcticum, and Cynodontium fallax. Among the endemic vascular plants one could mention 39 taxons with such species as Saxifraga moschata ssp. Basaltica, and Campanula bohemica. Among the glacial relics of the arctic-alpine type, one could count Rubus chamemorus, Linnea borealis, Salix lapponum, Carex magellanica, and Pedicularis sudetica.
At the foot of the mountains, the Eurosiberian species, typical of decidous forests, dominate the local fauna. At higher altitudes mountain species are found. The Karkonosze have many relic species, representatives of turbellarian worms, molluscs, and insects (Torula quadrifaria, Cochlodina dubiosa corcontica, and Rhithrogena corcontica). Among the vertebrates one can encounter both lowland and mountain species of limited occurrence, such as Salmo trutta, Triturus alpestris, and Salamandra salamandra. The Park is home to about 100 bird species such as Prunella colaris, Anthus spinoletta, Cardualis flammea, Turdus torquatus, Tetrao urogallus, and Tetrao tetralix. There are about 40 mammal species, among others Vulpes vulpes, Cervus elaphus, Capreolus capreolus, and Ovis musimon, Corsican muflon, which is the most interesting among the park's inhabitants, since its introduction 80 years ago.
Despite the extensive human exploitation of the Karkonosze wildlife and forests since the 15th century, many ecosystems, especially those mountaineous ones, have retained their natural character. However, the easily accessible lower parts of the mountains have been significantly changed. The main anthropogenic threats for the Karkonosze wildlife are air pollution (mainly SO2) and tourism. The closest tourist centers are Karpacz and Szklarska Poreba. Both are located on the park's border, and both are very popular as summer and winter vacation spots. Adjacent to this park is the Krkonose National Park on the territory of the Czech Republic.
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