The carrying out of the project is directly related to the implementation of the Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora and it establishes the improvement of the condition of the following habitats:
- (3260-1) lowland and mountain rivers with the groups of common water-crowfoots,
- (3150-2) Oxbow lakes and natural eutrophic water reservoirs,
- (*91E0-3) ash and alder riverside forests (Alnenionglutinoso-incanae).
Through the project the assumptions of the Directive 2009/147/EC will also be executed as it implies improving of the attractiveness and enlargement of the surface of the habitats and increasing of the number of the nesting and migratory species of water and marsh birds, for the protection of which the special protection area the Pobrzeże Słowińskie PLB220003 was created.
The problems in the management and conservation of the habitats and species in the area of the project and which are the subject of protection under the said directives are the following:
1. A large degree of distortion of the habitats of the Łupawa river (3260-1) and its oxbow lakes (3150-2)
The regulation of the Łupawa river bed along with embanking of its right riverside poses a serious threat to the Natura 2000 habitat: eutrophic oxbow lakes (3150-2) and lowland and foothill rivers with the groups of common water-crowfoots (3260-1). The strengthening of the river bank and the building of the dike in the past was to reduce to a minimum the lateral erosion of the river bed and to protect against flooding of the valley bottom, which was adapted to intensive agricultural use. The use of this was discontinued 20 years ago because the system of melioration was gradually decapitalized – since that time a slow spontaneous development of natural plant communities has been taking place. There is also a process of succession of forest communities, i.e. alder forests (Ribonigri-Alnetum) in the local excavations where the water stands and ash and alder riverside forests. Despite that, the existing situation is far from adequate because it is not possible to reinstate all natural processes and functions of natural systems that occur in this place. The main reason for this situation is the presence of river embankments that prevent the flush out the oxbows and periodic flooding of the bottom of the valley. In addition, the current location of the embankments crown on the right bank of the riverbed naturally exposes it to gradual washing and destruction. The only known way used over the years to the detriment of nature is profiling of the riverbed together with elimination of the river outwashes and bedloads. Keeping the profiled nature of the Łupawa river means no development of the groups of common water-crowfoots and disappearance of the existing patches of this habitat. As a result of the elimination of natural fluvial processes, the shoal patches and depths disappeared in the riverbed limiting the conditions for the life of fish and lampreys. The inability of natural floods makes it impossible to flush out the oxbows and slows down the growth of natural plant groups of the river terrace, including riparian alder and ash forests. Filling up of oxbows with organic matter also results in disappearance of suitable habitats to life and reproduction of bitterling (Rhodeus sericeus amarus).
2. The necessity to reconcile the obligation to restore the natural character and dynamics of the habitats with the needs of the breeding habitat protection and migratory species of birds listed in Annex I and II to Council Directive 79/409/EEC, for which the area of the Special Protection Area, and in articular, the area covered by the project, is an important place of occurring.
The habitats of these birds were formed in the areas of human-created polders around the lake Gardno being in the past the places of natural floods of its waters. They require annual mowing and grazing and these actions are possible while maintaining hydrological differences in the polders and, in particular, the proper, controlled level of ground and surface water. The dangers for the birds covered by the project is the loss of breeding places, feeding, resting and predatory habitats. Water and marsh birds require large open meadow spaces – the important habitat of this type is the area of polders by the lake Gardno IX and X. For several years these habitats have been an object of series of protective measures carried out by the Słowiński National Park – shrub-removal and mowing of the meadows and elimination of predators (American mink). In the course of the monitoring of the effects of existing measures, it was concluded that the decapitalized melioration system is also a threat to the habitats of the birds. It prevents getting a water level that allows the spatial variation of habitats humidity and mowing of the meadows at the right time. The current status of the drainage devices prevents the proper carrying out of such activities which affects the forest convergence succession of flora. The modernization of the irrigation system will allow regulating the water level in plots. This, in turn, will affect the proper humidity of the soil on the entire surface, depending on the behavioural needs of birds. As a result of implementation of the action, open water surfaces in drainage ditches will increase the feeding areas for birds. The described situation based on the progressive encroachments and shallowing of the drainage ditches in the long term also may constitute a threat to the weatherfish (Misgurnus fossilis), a species that has a good habitat conditions in this type of water reservoirs.
Leaving the irrigation and drainage system in the long term will lead to a total overgrowing of the ditches in drastic reduction of the surface of the habitat of this species of fish.
As a result of the carrying out of the project there will also occur naturalization of 51 hectares of the eastern shore of the Gardno lake. Natural lake floods in this area will encourage the creation of the feeding areas for water and marsh birds. In addition, periodic floods of lake waters in the spring will encourage the recovery of spawning areas for fish, including predatory fish (e.g. the pike Esox lucius) having a key role in the food chain of this ecosystem. This will reinforce the effect of the active protection of the Gardno lake carried out by Słowiński National Park.
3. Increased tourism and detrimental action to the habitats and species covered by the project
An important factor threatening the effectiveness of protective measures, is conscious going off a trail and penetrating of the habitats essential for water and marsh birds, which disturbed
by humans, may not join the breeding or abandon the existing laying eggs. An important issue is also the poaching, unconscious habitat destruction and littering.
This risk will be minimized through the construction of the observation platform as well as the publication of the information leaflet which will be dedicated to a safe bird watching in the area of the project. Also a series of promotional and educational activities has been planned addressed to the inhabitants of the area of the project, mainly farmers, local authorities, agritourists, anglers and school youth.
4. The lack of passability of the ecological water corridor of the Łupawa river
The main threat is the habitat fragmentation of the migratory species of fish and lampreys in the basin of the Łupawa river. The construction of the water impoundments in Smołdzino virtually prevents completion of reproductive migration of such species as the European river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis), the brown trout (Salmotrutta m. trutta) and the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). This results in a significant deterioration of the conservation status of the species in question within the PLH220023 Słowiński Special Protection Area and PLH220036 the Łupawa Valley (the obstacles on the route of migration contribute to the reduction of the surface of the habitats and the number of fish and lampreys throughout the river basin).
The partitioning of the river ecological corridors enforces preventive action, which in the case of the species having economic importance, e.g. the sea trout (Salmotrutta m. trutta) and the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) are based on the intensive restocking which can have a negative impact on the status of the gene pool of the population of fish in the waters of the stocking.
The impoundment on the hydroelectric power station is also a significant obstacle to the herd of eels (Anguilla Anguilla) ascending the top of the Łupawa river basin.
A big mortality of fish passing through the turbines of the hydroelectric power station is also a problem. The hydroelectric water power station in Smołdzino is equipped with two Francis turbines whose structure forces the flowing water increase the flow speed and pressure at the outlet.
The aquatic organisms flowing through a turbine are therefore at risk of mechanical injury and internal damages associated with changes of pressure. These risks will be minimized by building a fish ladder equipped with electrical curtain directing the fish to the trough of fish ladder.