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Abstract

The principal threats to the peatlands habitats, in the continental bioregion of Central Europe – a case study of peatland conservation in Poland.

Abstract

This paper discusses resources of peatland habitat of high nature conservation importance as defined by the European Community, specifically in Poland, as a case study. The study covers eight habitat types distinguished in Natura 2000: raised bogs, mires, fen habitats (sphagnum acid bogs: 7110, 7120, 7140, 7150, calcareous fens: 7210, 7220, 7230 and bog woodlands: 91D0), occurring in 806 Special Areas of Conservation in Poland. The overall state of the habitat types, their threats, pressures, and activities, as well as their potential for restoration, was based on detailed analyses of data from Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) reports for the Natura 2000 network (N2000): Standard Data Forms, management plans, own verification in the terrain, and monitoring from the period 2006‒2018. Of the 2377 km2 total area of peatland habitat covered by N2000 in Poland, only 13.8 % represents favorable status (FV), while as much as 80.2 % was classified as of unfavorable inadequate (U1) or unfavorable bad status (U2). The most significant threats to bog habitats in the continental bioregion result from human-induced changes in hydraulic conditions that have modified whole natural systems. Based on multivariate analysis (PCA), we found that significant differences in the conservation status of the bog habitats resulted from a variety of threats, pressures, and activities, among which the most significant are pollution from agriculture (7220, 7230), decreased and unstable water resources (7110, 7120, 7140, 7150, 7210, 7220, 7230, 91D0), drying up (7120, 7150), peat extraction (7120), changes in plant species composition (7120, 7140, 7230), succession of invasive species (7150), problematic native species (91D0), and more intense visitor pressure (7140). The most impacted habitats are 7230 petrifying springs with tufa formation (Cratoneurion). The examined habitats have potential for restoration. Our findings prove that successful conservation programs for peatland habitats of the continental bioregion should be undertaken to protect and preserve their direct and indirect surroundings. A list of recommendations for treatments to be included in habitat conservation programs is presented.