Last update: 17.05.2019

Experience exchange trip to Poland

Representatives of organisations, taking part in implementation of Dviete LIFE+ project – Edmunds Račinskis, Ilze Priedniece, Zaiga Brača and Daiga Brakmane from the Latvian Fund for Nature, Benita Štrausa from Ilūkste municipality, Lelde Goba from Elm Media, as well as land owners Ārija Gruberte and Arnolds Savickis from Bebrene parish visited sites of river floodplain restoration in North-eastern part of Poland from May 28 till June 1, 2012. Three full days were spent in the field.

On May 29 project team met with Artur Wiatr, representative of the project LIFE09 NAT/PL/000258 ‘Restoration of hydrological system in the Middle basin of Biebrza Valley. Phase I’, being implemented in Biebrza National park. Firstly the administration building of the National park was visited, where its staff informed about nature protection activities in the park in general, including four ongoing LIFE-Nature projects. Artur Wiatr gave an introduction to the hydrological restoration LIFE+ project and its actions. Afterwards participants of the trip went to the project area. Aims of the Biebrza LIFE+ project are the following: to improve conditions for conservation of wetland habitats and to restore open grassland habitats in the NW part of Biebrza National park. Project actions include building of a weir on Woznawiejski Canal, thus restoring stream in Jegrznia river, flowing into Elk river (tributary of Biebrza). Elk river had been altered considerably to drain the floodplain, it is almost dried out in a section of 500 m now, because its waters are collected by an artificial channel. In the framework of the Biebrza hydrological restoration project also restoration of Elk river is planned.

It was possible to visit Biebrza floodplain meadows, restored by bush removal and mowing, suitable for breeding of grassland birds now, as well as the sites of improvement of hydrological regime - streams, which beds are planned to be deepened to restore water flow there (Elk river), sluices, built to reduce impact of drainage, still leaving possibility to control water flow, as well as one of the sites, where it is planned to build a weir on Woznawiejski Canal.

The borders of Natura 2000 sites in Poland does not fit with the borders of protected areas of national level, causing difficulties in their management; it is also the case of Biebrza National park. Still there are favorable conditions for implementation of LIFE projects in Poland – state support for each LIFE project, supported by EC, is guaranteed in amount of 45% of project budget.

During the next day, May 30, project team visited another protected nature territory - Narew National Park, where Polish Society for Bird Protection (PTOP) initiated a project for restoration of hydrological regime in the buffer-zone of the park in 1993. The project included building of weirs to increase groundwater levels, removal of vegetation and sediments from natural side-arms of the river to renew water flow there, as well as restoration of open grasslands, suitable for breeding of meadow birds.

Participants of the trip were guided by Anna Suchowolec and Gabriela Kulakowska, representatives of  PTOP. Project team visited successfully restored grasslands in Narew floodplain, where bushes had been cut and their roots removed. After restoration, Great Snipes returned there. Still large areas in Narew floodplain are not managed due to complicated legal ownership aspects.

Project team visited sites in Narew floodplain, where it is planned to deepen river side-arms and tributaries, because they have practically no stream at lower water levels. Most amount of water still flow through the main, deepened Narew channel. It was possible to look at the construction in Narew river, made from metal strips and stones, increasing water level and pressing more amount of water in natural side-arms of the river, crossing the floodplain.

In the afternoon participants of the trip visited a trail in Narew National park, leading through the part of floodplain, untouched by hydro-melioration. It is possible to reach the trail with special ferries. Still the floodplain is very homogenous there – overgrown with reeds, and obviously suffers from insufficient grassland management.

On May 30 project team visited also two private companies, applying environmentally-friendly farming. The first was an organic farm – family cheese factory at the bank of Narew floodplain, where cheese is produced from historical cow breed of Poland – ‘Polish red cattle’; subsidies are paid for their breeding. At the end of the day there was a chance to visit a factory, where its owner and also the only worker produce briquettes for firing from reeds and grass, mowed in Narew floodplain. Advantages of use of such briquettes is proportion of slag, lower than in coal firing, good energetic value, as well as it is more environmentally-friendly. It is also a solution for usage of reeds and grass, mowed in order to maintain grasslands.

In the third day, May 31, participants of the trip went to the southern part of Biebrza National park. Widest areas of marshes in lower parts of Biebrza were visited; one of the main nature values of Biebrza National park – globally threatened Aquatic Warbler – was heard there. There were a spacious view on natural section of Biebrza valley in the vicinity of village Burzin, while in village Bzostov the site, where cattle cross the river from the village to pasture grounds and vice versa every day, was visited. The last visited site was a massive of wet grasslands with excellent areas for grassland bird breeding. There were large colonies of Black, White-winged and Whiskered terns.

Natural and socio-economic conditions in Poland are much more similar to ours, than it is in the Netherlands, where project team was during previous foreign experience exchange trip in September 2011. Observed details of grassland and hydrological regime restoration (e.g., removal of bushes with roots, creation of river crossing sites), as well as experience in co-operation with land owners will be very useful in further planning of management works in Dviete floodplain.

Ilze Priedniece