Wizna swamp – how to manage water in the Natura 2000 area “Wizna swamp”

Bagno Wizna

The “Wizna Swamp” Natura 2000 area was established on November 14, 2008. based on the Ordinance of the Minister of the Environment of October 27 of that year, amending the Ordinance on special bird protection areas Natura 2000 (Journal of Laws 2008 No. 198, item 1226).

The Wizna swamp is a vast, 10-kilometer-wide, flat and mostly peaty depression of land. That’s about 15,000. hectares of marshy meadows located near the mouth of the Biebrza River to the Narew River, located in the western part of Podlaskie Province. The refuge area includes a large, reclaimed low bog (70% of the area), one of the largest in Poland. The area is used agriculturally: meadows and pastures occupy 90% of the area, while farmland and forests each occupy 1%.

Protection of the Natura 2000 area “Wizna Swamp” and maintenance works of water drainage systems

In the first half of 2020. In the “Wizna Marshes” area (PLB200005), works were carried out to deepen and unclog more than 30 drainage (drainage) ditches.

At the end of 2020, due to dredging and drainage ditch clearing activities undertaken in contravention of the Protective Task Plan (PZO), the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection (RDOŚ) in Bialystok issued a decision prohibiting ditch cleaning and drainage of the area.

The problem reappeared in early 2022. in connection with the dredging of some ditches in the protected area. The Wetlands Protection Center has applied to the Director of the Regional Directorate of Environmental Protection in Bialystok for the relevant decisions. They were to stop and not undertake activities incompatible with the protection of the marsh and order the restoration of the environment.

Actions and position of the Podlasie Chamber of Agriculture on the Natura 2000 area “Wizna Swamp”

June 2022. The Podlasie Chamber of Agriculture organized a meeting of farmers living and using meadows in the Natura 2000 area “Wizna Swamp” and environmentalists.

According to experts, the area must be protected and not drained due to the peat soils present and the important role of peatlands.

Farmers, on the other hand, are concerned that the lack of land drainage – the abandonment of drainage irrigation – will result in spills in areas used for farming, making it impossible for several hundred farms to operate. Forage from the area is food for dairy cows and heifers raised in the region. The milk collected (about 0.5 million liters of milk per day is obtained, or 182.5 million liters of milk per year) is delivered to three leading dairies: in Piatnica, Grajewo and Wysokie Mazowieckie. Farmers assured that they were ready to make some compromises and willing to clean up water management in the area. They have tentatively agreed to leave the less agriculturally attractive grasslands to nature, while the more productive ones will be used for fodder.

In order to decide on the details of the solutions, a hydrological expertise was developed in 2021/22.

According to the Podlasie Chamber of Agriculture, the area covered by the expertise is an area of high agricultural culture, where management is carried out in a sustainable manner. Farmers have been integrating grassland cultivation here for generations with the preservation of much of the wetlands and the protection of valuable bird habitat, as exemplified by the number and variety of species now found there. According to the Chamber, the solutions proposed in the expert report will lead to the elimination of agricultural production in the area, the liquidation of some family farms, an economically unfavorable impact on companies and establishments related directly and indirectly to the agricultural industry in the region, the province and even the country.

The Chamber of Agriculture disagrees with the proposal to keep the groundwater table below 25 cm permanently. In her opinion, this level should be kept at 60 – 80 cm below the ground level (a.s.l.), then the use of the deceleration thresholds proposed in the above expert opinion is reasonable and will contribute to the collection of rainwater in the detailed ditches, which will improve waterlogging.

In the context of the proposals contained in the expert report, the Chamber points out that:

  • The proposed solutions will cause the formation of ponds and ponding on the ground already at the slightest rainfall, which will prevent the harvesting of green matter at the optimum time, and will cause noble grass species to fall out and be replaced by swamp vegetation;
  • Leaving unmowed sections of plots near shelterbelts as intensive grassland bird habitat zones is unjustified – there is negligible habitat there (as shown by the expert report). In addition, such fragments are places for voles and rodents to live, which will increase the population of predators (ravens, hawks, etc.), as well as wild boars, which destroy the turf by bucking;
  • it is reasonable to maintain existing linear tree belts along the ditches, as they reduce wind erosion, provide birds with protection from predators and give them a place to live;
  • The change of management in the indicated meadows will not be beneficial for all birds, some of them, such as lapwing and corncrake, will be forced to migrate (birds will not lay eggs in water and will seek dry areas);
  • It is reasonable to leave vegetation at the mouth of a section of the riverbed for self-purification of water and should apply to the impact to Zone IV;
  • there is no analysis of the economic impact regarding the massive spread of the Pine Barberry, including in the case of non-agricultural use of grasslands.

In the face of the crisis, especially in the milk market and rising production costs, the Chamber of Agriculture considers it a priority to ensure the country’s food security. Therefore, he proposes to create two zones:

  • Number I (in place of the proposed zone IV) – maximally aimed at bird protection, biodiversity development tp. The recommendations and management rules planned for the entire area should only apply to land in close proximity to the river, which can be used for agro-environmental and nature conservation purposes.
  • Number II (covering the scope of zones I, II and III) – in which rational use of grasslands, in accordance with the principles of agrotechnology, is allowed, in particular:
    • keeping the water at a depth of approx. 60 cm above sea level, which will enable farming and use of the grasslands;
    • Optimal mowing dates, adapted to the needs of the development phases of plants;
    • the ability to perform all necessary agrotechnical tasks in accordance with the principles of good agricultural practice (rolling, spearing, reseeding, sowing organic and mineral fertilizers);
    • Regular and cyclical performance of ongoing maintenance of ditches every 5 – 6 years in the area in Zone II;
    • To bring about the modernization of levees and culverts and the regulation of watercourses flowing into the Wizna Marsh.

Activities and position of the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Bialystok

On December 18, 2013. An order was issued by the Regional Director of Environmental Protection in Bialystok on the establishment of a plan of protective tasks for the Natura 2000 area Bagno Wizna PLB200005 (Journal of Laws of Podlasie Voivodeship of 2013, item 4631), amended by an order dated December 05, 2018. (Journal of Laws of the Podlaskie Voivodeship of 2018, item 4892).

At the end of 2020. The Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Bialystok has issued a decision ordering to stop work and not to undertake activities involving the unblocking and dredging of drainage ditches until the plan of protective tasks for the Natura 2000 area “Bagno Wizna” PLB200005 is in force, i.e. the “Wizna marshland” PLB200005. By January 7, 2024.

In 2021. The Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Bialystok commissioned a document entitled “Hydrological expertise for the development of a water management model in the Natura 2000 area Bagno Wizna PLB200005″. Its purpose was to develop a model for water management in the Natura 2000 area “Wizna Swamp” in the existing hydrographic system, in view of the need to ensure adequate water conditions in the habitats of birds and other valuable animals and plants, minimize greenhouse gas emissions from the swamp, and relatively undisturbed agricultural use in the area, ie. mainly hay meadows.

According to the information received from the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Bialystok, comments submitted to the said. expertise, during public consultation, are currently being considered by the contractor.

The findings of the expert opinion on the water management model in the “Wizna Swamp” Natura 2000 area will be used to develop a new plan of protective tasks (PZO). The expert report is available on the website of the RDOŚ in Bialystok.

You may also be interested in: Europe’s largest wetlands in armed conflict.

Źródło: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32021R2115&qid=1684925616404#

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