Site name and code: Kamień Śląski PLH160003
Site of Community Importance since 2008
Area: 832.4 ha
Administrative location: Krapkowice county – municipality of Gogolin, Strzelce county – municipality of Izbicko.
The area includes a complex of meadow habitats and farmland. A part of the site is the civilian airport of local importance. The site is crucial for restitution of European souslik in Poland – ground squirrel which appeared it the area of the country at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The European souslik was still occurring naturally in Kamień Śląski in the 70s of the last century. Population of the species became extinct, but due to the preservation of the conditions of its former habitat in 2005, the species has been reintroduced within the site (Polish Society for Nature Protection „Salamandra” together with the Association for the Stobrawski Landscape Park Protection BIOS and the Zoological Garden in Poznan). The European souslik is an umbrella species, i.e. its conservation protects many others concurrent species and their habitats.
The subjects of protection
6510 Lowland hay meadows (Alopecurus pratensis, Sanguisorba officinalis)
9170 Galio-Carpinetum oak-hornbeam forests
A description of the subjects of protection within the site
The species of European souslik is essential for the site. This species has been reintroduced since 2005. Throughout 2005-2006 179 individuals were released into the area. The field verification showed about 750 occupied burrows. The estimated population is approx. 200 individuals. It seems to be stabilized, and its numbers are steadily rising. The threats for this species are related primarily to the changes in land use of the habitat. This species is closely related with the meadow communities. Their preservation is a condition for the existence of this species. Dangerous for sousliks is therefore a change of land use from grazing to crops or other non-agricultural purposes. Natural succession is also a disadvantage, it leads to overgrowth of meadows with trees and shrubs. Sousliks are also vulnerable to predators attacks – especially foxes and feral cats and dogs.
The most important natural habitats, through which the occurrence of the European souslik is possible, are lowland hay meadows and semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates (Festuco-Brometalia). Within habitat 6510 there are species typical for dry habitats, including greater knapweed, upright bugle or fern-leaf dropwort; also protected star-of-Bethlehem and star gentian which were considered critically endangered with extinction in the Opole region, and other species included in the Red List of vascular plants of Opole voivodeship, have been found within the site. These include, lesser honeywort and ploughman’s-spikenard whose natural occurrence is recorded only in the south of the country. Like for the ground squirrel, the biggest threat for meadow communities and grassland is a change of land use or abandonment of agriculture (e.g. mowing).
… there is a lot of truth to the Polish saying „sleep like a ground squirrel” (Eng. sleep like a log). The ground squirrel sleeps more than 7 months of the year, and also most of the time during the day.
… even though ground squirrels live in large colonies, each of them inhabits its own burrow.