Poland’s ‘biodiversity hotspot’
Significant changes in farming practices in eastern Poland are the likely result of their recent membership of the European Union.
The same mistakes that have already occurred elsewhere are being made in Poland without proper research into what are some of the more pristine habitats left in Europe.
Preliminary studies by The Ponds Conservation Trust indicate a host of rare plant and animals present, such as clam shrimps (Leptestheria sp.), tadpole shrimps (Triops cancriformis), medicinal leeches (Hirudo medicinalis) and fire-bellied toads (Bombina bombina) that are virtually extinct everywhere else.
A number of agricultural reforms imposed on the country in the run-up to EU membership in 2004 are unlikely to give full protection to the environment, but focus instead on higher productivity at the expense of wildlife. Inevitably, this means increased usage of chemicals, more drainage programmes and higher unsustainable rates of deforestation.
A number of plant species, once common throughout Europe, have their last stronghold in Poland
These species rich pristine wetlands are threatened by agricultural intensification
We funded a long-term research programme in order to obtain more accurate and reliable data on the fauna and flora that aims, ultimately, to identify threats to their continued existence.
The research we funded highlighted the importance of the wetlands of eastern Poland and their associated habitats in terms of the high numbers and diversity of rare species they contain and will also provide a sound basis for consultation with policy makers within the EU.
We anticipate that this will facilitate a more moderate approach to agricultural intensification in this area. The benefit to the local communities will come from an increase in the numbers of eco-tourists who are no longer able to see such rich and diverse habitats and species in their own countries.