Research Focus...the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a land-locked country at the heart of Europe, sharing mountainous borders with Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria. Despite its small size it is rich in cultural heritage and dazzling landscapes with diverse wildlife.
The relatively small country is peppered with historical towns, churches, monasteries and castles. The capital, Prague, is a magical city of spires, bridges and towers and has become one of Europe's most popular tourist destinations. Its medieval centre has been designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, one of 12 World Heritage sites in the country.
Scientists Dr. Joseph Krecek and Zuzana Horicka have been carrying out research activities in the Jizera Mountains since the 1980s and have been leading the Earthwatch expedition Mountain Waters of the Czech Republic since 1991.
The Jizera Mountains are located in the western part of the Czech Republic in North Bohemia. They form part of the ‘black triangle' (the Ore-Jizera-Giant Mountains on the border of the Czech Republic with Germany and Poland), an area that previously suffered a high level of environmental degradation from the effects of acid rain and commercial forestry. By 1989, two-thirds of the forested headwaters of the region had been damaged, resulting in a reduction in water quality, death of forest trees, and the loss of fish populations from mountain streams. Since then, sulphur deposition has fallen and continues to fall as Czech industries strive to meet stringent EU air pollution targets; mountain ecosystems are recovering as a result.
The aim of this long-term research project is to identify optimal strategies to help rehabilitate the headwater areas of North Bohemia and to verify the environmental effects of those strategies in the Jizera Mountains. Volunteers take part in a range of activities including collecting water samples; catching and examining reintroduced fish and other aquatic organisms; taking pH, oxygen and temperature readings from more than 30 streams and reservoirs; evaluating tree vitality and collecting soil samples. During the expedition, volunteers stay in a comfortable 200-year-old mountain pension, a charming old farmhouse in Bedrichov village. Recreational time allows for hiking and biking in the stunning mountains, and visiting local attractions such as museums, castles, botanical gardens and glass factories.
This expedition is also available as a teen-team. Contact the expedition recruitment team on +44 (0)1865 318831 for more information.
Czech Republic fact file
Official language: Czech
Area: 78,866 km2
Currency: Czech koruna
A brief history
Following the First World War, the Czechs and Slovaks of the Austro-Hungarian Empire merged to form Czechoslovakia. After the Second World War Czechoslovakia fell under Soviet influence. After the Eastern Bloc collapsed in 1989 a peaceful ‘velvet revolution' took place in the country and it regained its independence. In January 1993 the country split into its two components, Slovakia and the Czech Republic; the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.
Did you know?
- The Czech Republic is one of the few inland countries whose borders can be identified from space.
- Charles University in Prague is the oldest university in Central Europe, established in 1348.
- The sugar cube was invented in the Czech town of Dačice in 1843.
- According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the prehistoric settlement of Dolní Věstonice in Southern Moravia is the oldest town in the world. It dates back to 26,000 BC. Artefacts from the site include the earliest known fired clay sculpture, the Venus of Dolní Věstonice and a sculpture that is thought to be the first human portrait.