Many of us cannot imagine a Christmas Eve table without fish – very often it is carp. Contrary to the increasingly common opinion, raising carp for consumption has its natural advantages. The experience of the LIFE.VISTULA.PL project shows that by buying carp for Christmas Eve supper, we not only preserve tradition, but also support biodiversity and contribute to the protection of wetland birds.
By buying carp you are protecting birds. How does it work?
Poland is the leader in carp production in the European Union. Fish ponds of the carp type are located mainly in southern Poland. They were built to raise fish for food. Thus, they are not a natural part of the landscape and require human intervention and work in order to be preserved. Thanks to the development of carp farming, there is an unprecedented density of birds in the ponds. The feeding of fish and the cultivation and fertilization of ponds provide favorable living conditions for many species of wetland birds.
On the ponds, the main habitats of birds are various types of rushes. High rushes: reed rushes, club rushes, less often moss rushes, and low rushes: manna rushes, overgrowing the dikes and shoreline of the ponds. Most often these habitats are used for breeding: little bittern, rails, ducks and (mainly on its edges) great crested grebes. On some ponds, blankets of floating-leaved vegetation (including water caltrop, yellow water-lily and others) form, creating breeding habitat for the great crested grebe, black-necked grebe, and the whiskered tern. Islands occurring, on some ponds, most often with an area of a few to several acres, are overgrown with trees or shrubs and provide breeding habitat for the night heron, black-headed gull, rivern tern, greylag goose, ducks, common moorhen and great crested grebe.
Filling the ponds with water practically all year round except in winter, when trapping takes place, results in increased humidity throughout the surroundings, which promotes more lush vegetation growth around the ponds. Ponds provide irreplaceable ecosystem services in the natural environment in southern Poland, where natural lakes are in short supply.
Today, when more and more attention is paid to climate change, it is very important to appreciate the role of carp management in water retention, climate mitigation and maintenance of habitats for rare and endangered bird species. In this regard, extensive carp management is one of the most important elements in the wetland bird protection system in southern Poland. Its complete abandonment, within a few years, could lead to the disappearance of populations of most bird species associated with ponds in Natura 2000 areas and beyond.
Along with dam reservoirs, farm ponds are the most important freshwater habitats for birds in the south of the country. More than 140 species of birds are associated with ponds, or about 30% of all birds found in Poland. Traditional carp rearing in ponds carried out extensively is eminently environmentally friendly.
Through the implementation of the LIFE.VISTULA.PL project, the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Katowice, which coordinates the project, together with the co-beneficiaries, emphasize the important role of carp ponds for the protection of rare bird species, and stress the importance of the compromise being worked out between pond managers and ornithologists and public administration staff responsible for protecting the natural environment.