Vegetation of Poland

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Forest in the Bialowieza National Park

Botanical Garden in Krakow

Considered to be extinct in Poland, the cone-bearing coneflower was rediscovered in 2009

The oldest tree in Poland and a representative of a species with a long tradition of protection in Poland – yew tree from Henrykow Lubanski (Henrykowski yew)

The vegetation cover of Poland – all plant communities (vegetation) and plant species (flora) occurring in Poland today and in the past. The vegetation cover is a dynamic system, dependent on the transformation of the environment. For many centuries and today, the factor determining the transformation of the vegetation cover and determining its appearance is human activity (anthropopression). As a result, although in the zoning of vegetation systems the Polish lands are almost entirely in the zone of forests that shed their leaves for the winter, only a small part of Poland is covered by such communities[1].

Table of contents

1 Formation of the vegetation cover of Poland 2 Flora of Poland

3 Vegetation of Poland

3.1 Potential natural vegetation

4 Geobotanical division of Poland 5 Endangered elements 6 Protection of vegetation cover 7 Footnotes 8 External links

Formation of the vegetation cover of Poland[edit | edit code].

Successive glaciations of the Pleistocene era turned the lands of present-day Poland into an ice desert. During periods of warming, after the withdrawal of the ice sheet, plant cover returned to these lands. However, the parallel arrangement of mountain ranges meant that changes in plant ranges associated with climatic changes faced obstacles and many plants were unable to survive them. Therefore, the diversity of Poland’s plant cover is relatively much smaller than areas at similar latitudes in North America or East Asia.

The modern vegetation cover of Poland was formed after the last glaciation (called the Baltic or Vistula), which took place in the Pleistocene and receded more than 12 thousand years ago. For about the next 2 thousand years, the landscape freed from the ice sheet was dominated by tundra, with occasional loose birch and birch-pine forests. More than 9 thousand years ago, elm, common hazel, black alder and ash began to spread. About 8 thousand years ago, linden and oak trees appear. During the Atlantic period (7700-5100 BP) multi-species deciduous forests spread widely. At the same time, human influence on the vegetation cover intensifies – the share in the flora of cereals, weeds, meadow species increases, as a result of the Neolithic Revolution. The subsequent transformation of the vegetation cover is strongly influenced by both the changing climate and increasingly intensive human activity[2].

Flora of Poland[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Flora of vascular plants of Poland.

Nearly 3,000 native and permanently established taxa in the rank of species and subspecies of angiosperms Magnoliophyta[3] have so far been found within the borders of Poland. In addition, there are 67 species of ferns Pteridophyta, 910 species of bryophytes Bryophyta, 2000 species of green algae Chlorophyta, 25 species of stoneworts and 39 species of dwarf Rhodophyta[4].

Vegetation of Poland[edit | edit code].

Small areas in Poland are occupied by primary and natural phytocenoses. These include fragments of forests (parts of the Bialowieza Forest, some reserve forests, hard-to-reach swamp forests), well-preserved wetlands and lakes, alpine vegetation. A large area is occupied by semi-natural forest and meadow communities. The remaining area of vegetation cover consists of synanthropic communities: segetal (associated with cultivated areas) and ruderal (associated with urban spaces).

Vegetation in Poland is studied and classified according to the methodology of the French-Swiss phytosociological school (also known as the Central European school). In accordance with the assumptions of this school, a list of plant communities of Poland was developed. With the accession to the European Union, another classification of vegetation – the classification of natural habitats developed within the framework of the CORINE program and used for the designation of Natura 2000 areas – also entered into practice.

Potential natural vegetation[edit | edit code].

The potential natural vegetation of Poland would be formed according to the prevailing physical-geographical potential in the country, shaped over the years under the influence of the orography of the land, the activity of the ice sheets, the influence of the marine and boreal-continental climate. A large variety of factors could theoretically influence the formation of a rich vegetation cover of the Polish area.

The potential vegetation in Poland is quite well described as a result of mapping done in 1972-1995 by a team of scientists led by Prof. Wladyslaw Matuszkiewicz. The fruit of the study was a map of the potential vegetation of Poland at a scale of 1:300,000[5]. According to this study, the layout of the main types of potential vegetation in Poland is as follows[6]:

fertile deciduous forests of the class Querco-Fagetea – 58.1% (of which 13.6% of the country’s area is beech forest habitats, 41.6% oak-hornbeam forests, 2.9% thermophilous oaks) poor deciduous forests, acid oaks of the class Quercetea robori-petraeae – 5, 2% mixed forests and coniferous forests of the class Vaccinio-Piceetea – 25.3% (13.9% mixed forests, 10.2% pine forests and 1.2% spruce forests) hydrogenic soil vegetation (riparian and swamp) – 10.9% other communities – 0.5%.

Geobotanical division of Poland[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Geobotanical division of Poland.

Based on geobotanical criteria, the country’s area is divided into a hierarchical system of spatial units. This division takes into account the peculiarities of the vegetation cover of the area and the geographic and historical factors shaping it. The basic elements of analysis that are the basis for distinguishing botanical-physiographic units are flora, vegetation, climate, relief, soils and the history of vegetation development. In the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, attempts at phytogeographic regionalization of Poland were made by Wincenty Pol and Marian Raciborski, among others. Depending on specific needs, systems are sometimes created that take into account only a selected type of vegetation, such as meadow or forest communities. An example is the system of natural-forest lands developed by Leon Mroczkiewicz in 1952, or the later one by Tadeusz Trampler and his team in 1990, used in Polish forestry, or the system of division into agro-climatic districts by Romuald Guminski used in agroclimatology. Of the systems that take into account the entire vegetation cover, especially natural and semi-natural, the most widely used is the system developed by Wladyslaw Szafer referring to the Raciborski system. The system is embedded in a broader classification that extends beyond Poland’s borders. Two divisions overlap in the mountains – horizontal and vertical (vegetation floors). Much of Poland in this system belongs to the Central European Lowland-Upland Province. The southeastern extremities belong to the Pontic-Pannonian Province, and the mountainous areas belong to the Central European Mountain Province.

Endangered elements[edit | edit code].

A compilation of endangered components of the Polish flora is published in successive updated editions of the “Red List of Plants and Fungi of Poland.” The latest publication was issued in 2016[7] (the previous one was published in 2006)[8]. “Polish Red List of Plants” contains descriptions of some of the species on the endangered list[9].

The current list of extinct and endangered plants in Poland includes 594 species of algae, 92 species of liverworts and guillemots (38.7% of species in the Polish flora, of which 2 are already extinct) and 506 species of vascular plants (21% of the native flora, of which 44 taxa are extinct).

Threatened ecosystems in Poland are included in the list of natural habitats requiring protection in Natura 2000 areas. Among the most endangered are salt marshes, lobelia lakes, humid heathlands with swamp heather, xerothermic grasslands, high and lowland peat bogs, swamp forests and forests, and orchid beech forests.

Protection of vegetation cover[edit | edit code].

Protection of the vegetation cover is implemented in Poland within the framework of nature protection having constitutional and statutory basis. The general conditions for maintaining the state of the vegetation cover should be created by the sustainable development of the country, as specified in the Constitution. Elements that are endangered and require measures to prevent their degradation are protected in surface forms of nature protection (national parks, reserves, ecological grounds, landscape parks and Natura 2000 areas). With regard to the protection of species biodiversity, plant species protection has also been introduced in Poland. In addition to the nature protection services, botanical gardens in Poland carry out activities related to the protection of species diversity of plant cover.

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