MID-1. The Warsaw Escarpment – the green backbone of Warsaw

Analyzing the genetic features of the land relief in Warsaw, one can notice the bands along the Vistula River. A special zone is the Warsaw Escarpment, which is a clear border of the upland part of Warsaw and the Vistula valley. The excursion will explore the Warsaw Escarpment with historical parks and nature reserves focusing upon their cultural and natural heritage. There are 12 nature reserves within Warsaw borders (occupying nearly 3000 ha) and five of them are located on the Warsaw Escarpment.

In Poland nature reserves constitute a special class of green areas, since they include ...areas in their primary condition, unchanged or little changed, ecosystems, sanctuaries and habitats for plants, animals and unanimated objects with special natural, scientific, cultural or scenic values (Nature Conservation Act of 16 April 2004, Article 13.1). Nature reserves, like other protected areas (e.g. forests, places with outstanding vegetation or scenic features), hold a special position in highly anthropogenic urban space creating islands of valuable natural and semi-natural landscape. It is worth noting, though, that the natural value underlying the decision to preserve a piece of land is not always an absolute criterion. A similar plot of land situated outside an urban area would likely never obtain protected status, or the form of protection would be different. This is the case with old river beds and river islands or remains of ancient forests.

We will start the tour from the Wilanów Palace located south of Warsaw. The summer residence of Polish King Jan III Sobieski (1629-1696) is surrounded by parks and gardens in different styles, and Morysin Nature Reserve with valuable riparian forest habitats next to Wilanów Lake. Then, we will visit the Natolin Nature Reserve – strictly protected forest reserve with unique biodiversity. The most popular park in Warsaw – The Royal Łazienki Park (79 ha) with Palace on the Water – is a good place for walk and discussion about urban ecosystem services. The Royal Łazienki was King Stanisław August’s summer residence, in which classicist architecture is harmoniously blended with the natural surrounding featuring fabulous gardens. We will finish the excursion in the north of Warsaw – in the Bielany Nature Reserve that protects a part of escarpment with quite well-preserved natural forest communities.