Wetland & Coastal Management in the Odra Delta – a model for Mersehead?
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Wetland & Coastal Management in the Odra Delta – a model for Mersehead?

It was a great opportunity to be able to spend a week looking at the various types of parks and reserves in the Odra Delta and seeing the benefits and challenges of each. I think we were all blown away by how rich and diverse the wildlife and landscapes are, not just within the protected areas, but in the general landscape of the region as a whole.

The main issues facing protected areas and wildlife in general in Poland seems to be a familiar one, lack of funding, staffing and awareness, which is all too familiar a problem in the UK as well. Due to Poland’s history, many people do not feel a connection to the land and so one of the results is that volunteering is nearly non-existant, which is a shame as this could be a rich source of help that is currently unavailable. It will also be interesting to see how the reserves will cope with climate change; increased pressure from predation and invasive species is tied in to this (as seen at Ujscie Warty NP) and subsequently pressure on staff time and funding for projects to deal with this. Hopefully the diversity of the landscapes means that they are slightly more resilient than they are here in the UK and that people can be inspired to protect the amazing wildlife and landscape that they currently have.

The Hierarchy of Protected Areas in Poland & Comparison with Scotland
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The Hierarchy of Protected Areas in Poland & Comparison with Scotland

The level of protection afforded to different types of protected area in Poland is not dissimilar to that in Scotland. For example, in terms of the Natura 2000 network all EU countries have an obligation to transpose the Habitats and Birds Directives into domestic legislation. Similarly, in Scotland and Poland, regulatory authorities and have their own responsibilities.

I think the main difference in the protect areas protection measures between Poland and Scotland is the level of public promotion and access provision.

In Scotland we actively advertise our protected areas at whatever level but in Poland this is much more subtle even where public access provision is encouraged.

The trip to Poland was truly fascinating in many respects and one would hope that western influences do not put pressures on the natural heritage we experience in Scotland and the UK as a whole.

Visitor Management in the West Pomaranian region of Poland
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Visitor Management in the West Pomaranian region of Poland

I work as a ranger at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park where my job can be best described as ‘helping visitors enjoy the National Park in a safe and responsible way’. This can be done through sharing of information, education and also enforcement through patrolling. My main patrol area is Loch Lomond so I was very keen to visit similar wetland environments in Poland and see how land managers do things there.

Breeding wader conservation in West Pomerania
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Breeding wader conservation in West Pomerania

Grazing management in Poland currently appears to be wader friendly and it was encouraging to hear that many efforts are being made to make sure grazing is appropriate. At Ujscie Warty, large extents of the park’s floodplain meadows are rented out to local farmers for cattle grazing. Although farmers are keen to get stock out onto the meadows as soon as possible, the park authorities make an attempt to prevent cattle introduction until the second half of June to reduce trampling risk to wader nests but also prevent excessive damage to soft wet ground.

Connecting with nature in West Pomerania
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Connecting with nature in West Pomerania

I was inspired by the focus placed on face to face engagement in Poland to connect people with nature. Given the small size of the teams overseeing the nature areas I felt the decision to concentrate on being out amongst people rather than focusing on producing written communications for press and social media allowed them to build support for nature with the people living next door to it. It highlighted the importance of having local people engaged with nature and supportive of their work which in turn helps with the delivery of conservation.

More Audible than Visible–Joint report from Poland
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More Audible than Visible–Joint report from Poland

Our introduction to Park Narodowy Ujście Warty (Warta Mouth National Park) was that of a grey polder landscape at early dawn that was more audible than visible. We could hear the distant sounds of geese and, the reason for being there at that hour, cranes. Standing on one of the dikes, which signified the polder landscape, we counted up to 1200 cranes in the coming hours. While the relatively small flocks of cranes flew over, unaware of the fact that they were being recorded…

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