Dry calcareous grasslands of the Tematínske vrchy: conservation and restoration

(led by Monika Janišová and Daniela Dúbravková)

Guides: Monika Janišová1, Daniela Dúbravková1, Dobromil Galvánek1, Katarína Rajcová2, Mário Duchoň3

1Plant Science and Biodiversity Centre, Institute of Botany, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia, monika.janisova@gmail.com, daniela.dubravkova@gmail.com, dobromil.galvanek@gmail.com 

2State Nature Conservation, Administration of Protected Landscape Area Biele Karpaty, Nemšová, Slovakia, katarina.rajcova@sopsr.sk

3Regional Conservation Association of Bratislava, Bratislava, Slovakia, duchon@broz.sk


Lúka nad Váhom: 48.66°N, 17.88°E, 175 m a.s.l.

Tematínsky hrad Castle: 48.68°N, 17.93°E, 576 m a.s.l.


Annual precipitation total: 611 mm (at the nearest station in Piešťany)

Mean annual temperature: 9.4°C (-2.2°C in winter months; and 19.7°C in summer months)


The geological bedrock of the visited area is built by Mesosoic (Triasic) dolomite and limestone.


The most common soil type in the area is a shallow protorendzina.

Geography and nature conservation

Tematínske vrchy is the Area of European importance (SKUEV0380, 2471.27 ha, elevation range 215–684 m a.s.l.). It includes three protected areas: the National Natural Reserves Javorníček (15.06 ha) and Tematínska lesostep (59.67 ha), and the Nature Reserve Kňaží vrch (150.94 ha).

Habitats (according to Natura 2000 habitat classification)

6110 Rupicolous calcareous or basophilic grasslands of the Alysso-Sedion albi

6190 Rupicolous pannonic grasslands (Stipo-Festucetalia pallentis)

6210 Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates

6240 Sub-pannonic steppic grasslands

6510 Extensively managed hay meadows of the planar to submontane zones (Arrhenatherion)

8160 Medio-European calcareous scree of hill and montane levels

9130 Asperulo-Fagetum beech forests

9150 Medio-European limestone beech forests of the Cephalanthero-Fagion

9180 Tilio-Acerion forests of slopes, screes and ravines

91H0 Pannonian woods with Quercus pubescens

Vegetation synopsis

Class Quercetea pubescentis Doing-Kraft ex Scamoni et Passarge 1959

   Order Quercetalia pubescenti-petraeae Klika 1933

       Alliance Quercion pubescenti-petraeae Br.-Bl. 1932 nom. corr.

       Alliance Quercion petraeae Issler 1931

Class Carpino-Fagetea sylvaticae Jakucs ex Passarge 1968

    Order Carpinetalia betuli P. Fukarek 1968

       Alliance Carpinion betuli Issler 1931

Order  Fagetalia Pawłowski ex Pawłowski et al. 1928

Alliance Fagion sylvaticae Luquet 1926

Alliance Lonicero alpigenae-Fagion sylvaticae Dierschke 1998

Order Aceretalia pseudoplatani Moor 1976 nom. cons. propos.

   Alliance Tilio platyphylli-Acerion Klika 1955

Class Festuco-Brometea Br.-Bl. et Tüxen ex Soó 1947

Order Stipo pulcherrimae-Festucetalia pallentis Pop 1968

Alliance Bromo pannonici-Festucion pallentis Zólyomi 1966

   Ass. Poo badensis-Festucetum pallentis Klika 1931 corr. Zólyomi 1966

   Ass. Festuco pallentis-Caricetum humilis Sillinger 1930 corr. Guterman et Mucina 1993

Alliance Diantho lumnitzeri-Seslerion (Soó 1971) Chytrý et Mucina in Mucina et al. 1993

   Ass. Minuartio setaceae-Seslerietum calcariae Klika 1931

Order Festucetalia valesiacae Br.-Bl. ex R. Tx. Ex Br.-Bl. 1949

Alliance Festucion valesiacae Klika 193

Class Molinio-Arrhenatheretea R. Tx. 1937

Order  Arrhenatheretalia R. Tx. 1931

Alliance Arrhenatheretum elatoris Koch 1926

Forest communities

Forests are dominant vegetation in the region. The habitat conditions on the southern and northern slopes differ strongly, so that different types of climax communities have developed. Most common are the Carpathian oak-hornbeam forests (Carpinion betuli), with islands of oak forests with Quercus cerris (Quercion petraeae) and sub-Mediterranean xero-thermophilous oak forests (Quercion pubescentis-petraeae). In the latter,Quercus pubescens dominates the tree layer, and Cornus mas the shrub layer. They are distributed at the periphery of the Pannonian Basin, on extremely dry, south-facing slopes, on shallow, calcareous soils. Because of these extreme site conditions, the woods are often fragmentary and low-growing, sometimes only shrubby. The herb layer is rich in species, and often contains xerothermic species from dry grasslands or forest fringes. Occasionally, Tilia platyphyllos and Fraxinus excelsior can become dominant. White-oak woods often form mosaics with dry grasslands. At higher altitudes and on north-facing slopes, calciphilous beech forests (Lonicero alpigenae-Fagion sylvaticae) develop. A restricted area is occupied by the mixed lime-maple forests (Tilio-Acerenion).

Plantations of Pinus nigra and Fraxinus ornus

About fourty years ago the forest management in the area carried out a project of anti-erosion measures. Plantations of non-native woody species such as pine (Pinus nigra), and ash (Fraxinus ornus) were planted on many of species-rich grassland areas. At that time conservation efforts in the area were weak and could not prevent the afforestation. Due to the afforestation some localities with grasslands were overgrown by pines and became lost. The rest of the grassland habitats became threatened by succession towards forest communities caused by agressive non-native species (mainly Pinus nigra).

Grassland communities

Rupicolous Pannonian grasslands of the Bromo pannonici-Festucion pallentis represent open dry grasslands on limestone and dolomite bedrock in the Pannonian region and lower peri-Carpathian mountain ranges or Inner-Carpathian basins (intermontane basins of northern and central Slovakia) with warm and dry climate. They are restricted to mild or steep sun-exposed slopes with shallow soils and karst rocky fields. The regular periods of summer drought act as limiting factor in formation of open communities dominated by competitively weak but stress-tolerant species. Caespitose grasses (Festuca pallens) or graminoids (Carex humilis) dominate in these communities and determine substantially their syntaxonomical position.

Dealpine Sesleriagrasslands of the Diantho lumnitzeri-Seslerion represent communities dominated by Sesleria albicans at lower altitudes (colline to submontane belt). They occupy usually cooler and moister (often north-facing or inverse) locations in the warm peri-Carpathian calcareous mountains. Typical is the presence of numerous dealpine species, which are usually distributed in the subalpine and alpine belt but occasionally also occur in relic localities of lower altitudinal belts. Among them, Acinos alpinusBiscutella laevigataLeontodon incanusPhyteuma orbicularePolygala amara subsp. brachypteraSaxifraga paniculata and Thesium alpinum are the most frequent. These communities are bound to calcareous bedrock (limestones and dolomites) and to rendzina soils which are rather deep with high humus content. They cover upper ridge slopes or steep rock cliffs. In some places, dealpine Sesleria-grasslands has presumably never been covered by closed forests.

Sub-pannonic steppic grasslands of the Festucion valesiacae alliance are distributed on deeper soils. They are much less widespread nowdays, due to abandonment of pastures and forest encroachment. Tussock grasses (Festuca valesiacaF. rupicolaKoeleria macranthaBothriochloa ischaemumStipa capillata Sub-pannonic steppic grasslands) dominate these communities.


List of the selected bryophytes and lichens occurring in the dry grassland communities of the Tematínske vrchy Mts (the rare species are in bold):

Arthothelium lirellans, Bacidina neosquamulosa, Bryum argenteum, Catapyrenium laniculatum, Cladonia furcata, Cladonia polycarpoides, Cladonia pyxidata subsp. chlorophaea, Coelocaulon muricatum, Ctenidium molluscum, Ditrichum flexicaule, Fulgensia fulgens, Grimmia pulvinata, Hylocomium splendens, Hypnum cupressiforme, Neckera crispa, Parmelina quercina, Peltigera rufescens, Placolecis opaca, Plagiomnium undulatum, Pleurochaete squarrosa, Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, Rhytidium rugosum, Thuidium abietinum,Toninia sedifolia, Tortella inclinata, Tortella tortuosa, Tortula intermedia

List of interesting animal species occurring in the region of the Tematínske vrchy Mts (species of European importance are in bold)

Molluscs: Vertigo moulinsiana (periglacial relict, inhabits calcareous springs with tufa formation, recorded in Modrová valley, critically endangered), Petasina filicina (East-alpine element, the only site in Slovakia where this species was found, is in Modrová valley, critically endangered)

Spiders: Eresus niger (thermophilous species, rare in Slovakia), Atypus piceus (rare).

Insects: Mantis religiosa (Praying Mantis, thermophilous species), Saga pedo (very rare thermophilous species of locust).

Cicadas: Lyristes plebejus (Mediteranean species, very rare, records from Modrová 1946, and Kňaží vrch 2000), Cicada orni (Mediteranean species, very rare, records from Modrová 1946, and Kňaží vrch 2001).

Butterflies: Parnassius mnemosyne (Clouded Apollo), Maculinea arionPolyommatus slovacus (a new species for fauna of Slovakia described from Lúka in 1997, thermophilous, threatened by loss of open habitats by succession, afforestation, the most vital population in Slovakia was found in the area), Colias myrmidone(extremely endangered, life cycle tied to Cytisus, recorded at the edges of the area).

Other insects: Marumba quercusLycaena disparEuplagia quadripunctariaEriogaster catax.

Beetles (life cycle of the following species is tied to decaying trees (oak, beech): Rosalia alpinaCerambyx cerdoLucanus cervus (Stag Beetle).

Amphibians: Bufo bufo (Common Toad), Bufo viridis (Green Toad), Rana dalmatina (Spring-frog), Rana temporariaSalamandra salamandra (Salamander), Bombina variegata.

Reptiles: Zamenis longissimus (syn. Elaphe longissima, Aesculap-adder, thermophilous species, the biggest snake species in Slovakia), Coronella austriaca (Smooth-snake), Anguis fragilis (Slow-worm), Natrix natrixPodarcis muralis (Wall-lizard), Lacerta agilis (Sand-lizard), Lacerta viridis (Green-lizard, the biggest lizard species in Slovakia, thermophilous species).

Birds: Aquila heliacaBubo buboColumba oenasUpupa epopsCaprimulgus europaeusDendrocopos leucotosFicedula parva.

Bats: Pipistrellus pipistrellusPlecotus austriacusEptesicus serotinusRhinilopus hipposideros,Barbastella barbastellusMyotis mystacinusNyctalus noctulaMyotis myotis.

Other mammals: Erinaceus concolorFelis silvestrisGlis (MyoxusglisMartes foinaMartes martesMeles melesMicromys minutusMustela ermineaMuscardinus avellanariusMustela nivalisMustela putoriusSciurus vulgarisSorex araneusSorex minutus.

Management and threats

Since 1999, the non-governmental organization Pre Prírodu (Civic Association For Nature) has been active in the area of Tematínske vrchy Mts. It associates volunteers, professional conservationists and the public to protect natural values of the Middle Považie region. The number of active members varies between 20 and 30. The activities of this organisation were supported by foundations, sponsors, municipalities and individual donors. In the Tematínske vrchy, the conservation management was completed on the most valuable habitats and included mainly cutting of non-native conifers.

Ruine of the Tematín Castle (13th century), 576 m a.s.l.

The castle was originally built in the second half of the 13th century in the Kingdom of Hungary. It was completely reconstructed by the Thurzó family, owners of the castle since 1524. The last owner was Miklós Bercsényi, general of the anti-Habsburg insurrection army during Rákóczi’s War of Independence. The castle fell into ruins after it was besieged in 1710 as a part of the suppression of the anti-Habsburg uprising.

List of vascular plants ocurring in dry and sub-xerophilous grasslands and in their contact communities (mainly fringes and transitions to the termophilous oak forests) in the Tematínske vrchy Mts. Cb = Carpinion betuli, Ae = Arrhenatherion elatioris, Fv = Festucion valesiacae, Qpp = Quercion pubescenti-petraeae, SF = Stipo pulcherrimae-Festucetalia pallentis, WC = endemic to the Western Carpathians, WCs = subendemic to the Western Carpathians, C4 = C4 carbon fixation.