Lobelia lakes are rare and endangered in Poland and in Europe. They are identified on the basis of floral and phytocenotic criteria, which means the presence of isoetid plants (a group of plants adapted to exist in environments with low availability of mineral elements) as well as lake quillwort patches and water lobelia Isoëto-Lobelietum dormannae (Szmeja 1996). In Poland, these are lakes, where the following plant species exist, multiply and create specific phytocenoses (bodies of plants): water lobelia (Lobelia dortmanna), lake quillwort (Isoëtes lacustris), spiny quillwort (Isoëtes echinospora), shoreweed (Littorella uniflora; Szmeja 1996, Kraska 2004). Typical of lobelia lakes, but also found in other waters, are, among other things: floating water plantain (Luronium natans), water milfoil (Myriophyllum alterniflorum), floating bur-reed (Sparganium angustifolium). In terms of hydro-chemical properties, these lakes have soft waters (low in calcium), usually oligo- or mesotrophic (low or medium phosphorus and nitrogen salt content), with acid or neutral reaction. Some of them are in the early state of development of dystrophic lakes. There are 173 lobelia lakes in Poland. The majority of them (171) are located in Pojezierze Pomorskie region, one in the Karkonosze Mountains and one – in Pojezierze Mazurskie region. Most of them are covered by various forms of protection. 26 of the lakes are nature reserves, 10 are located in national parks and 40 – in landscape parks.
Lobelia lakes are included in the natural habitat group of the Natura 2000 programme, i.e. ecosystem recognised by the Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora (the Habitats Directive) as vital for the maintenance of the European natural heritage and endangered by extinction in the European scale. Thus, 119 of the lobelia lakes are also protected within Natura 2000 areas. Lobelia lakes are ecosystems sensitive to the way they are exploited and strongly dependent on the condition of their surroundings – both their borders and the entire catchment areas. The level of their protection as a natural habitat under the Natura 2000 programme is unsatisfactory (according to the conclusions of the National Environmental Monitoring 2009 – 2011, Wilk-Woźniak et al 2012a). It has been raised in the literature for many years that the condition of these lakes aggravates, their number and area shrink and the population of indicative species disappears (Szmeja 1988a-d, 1998; Kraska 1994 a-b; Banaś et al 1997; Banaś, Gos 2007). The number of former lobelia lakes grows. These are lakes, where the indicative species have died out. The main threats and the processes resulting in the disappearance of the specific features of these lakes are well known (Bociąg, Szmeja 2001; Bociąg 2003; Kraska 2004; Szmeja, Bociąg 2004; Kraska et al 2012).
An effective method of protecting lobelia lakes in Poland is still lacking, apart from strictly protected areas of national parks or nature reserves. The purpose of the project was to lay foundations for their comprehensive protection within the Natura 2000 areas and to broaden the knowledge of their resources and the condition of the habitat, and to develop a model of their protection.
The project consisted of a number of tasks grouped into four basic activities:
1. Broadening and updating knowledge of the resources and condition of lobelia lakes in Poland.
2. Active protection of lobelia lakes.
3. Supporting organisations responsible for implementing regulations governing the limitations to and methods of management.
4. Increasing environmental awareness in local societies and disseminating the results of the project.
The first activity concerned 22 lobelia lakes that are not covered by the National Environmental Monitoring and are located within the Natura 2000 areas, and do not have protective action plans or protection plans. For each of those lakes, specialists determined: the population of indicative species, phytocenotic and hydro-chemical specifications and susceptibility to degradation. A broadened methodology of habitat evaluation under the National Environmental Monitoring of the Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection was applied. The same activity included an ichthyology analysis of the available data on ichthyofauna and fisheries management; also, controlled fishing was conducted in selected lakes. The results obtained under this activity are presented in the first part of this monograph.
The second activity involved selected tasks in the area of active protection and efforts to orient tourism in accordance with the provisions of the protective action plans for four of the Natura 2000 areas. In the area Natura 2000 Pełcznica PLH220022, according to its plans of protection tasks (Polish abbreviation PZO); Regulation of the Regional Director for Environmental Protection in Gdańsk of 12 March 2014), the following activities were performed: construction of five gates, earth enclosures (filling up of ditches) in 11 locations and four information boards. Also, the forest stand was rearranged. In the area Natura 2000 Krasne Lake PLH 220035, the following activities were performed in accordance with the PZO (Regulation of the Regional Director for Environmental Protection in Gdańsk of 31 March 2014): enclosing a seasonal irrigation ditch in order to block the inflow of humic substances to the lake, installation and reconstruction of information boards about the project and the specificity of the site. Also, spruce trees were partly eliminated from the forest stand around the lake.
In the area Natura 2000 Lobelia lakes near Soszyca PLH 220039 the project involved, in accordance with the PZO (Regulation of the Regional Director for Environmental Protection in Gdańsk of 6 December 2013): securing the border zone of the lakes against treading, e.g. by removing the path from the edge of the lake and constructing a small bridge in one location to enable viewing the lake from an interesting perspective without treading its borders. Also, the educational part was rearranged, e.g. wooden steps were repaired and information boards were installed.
In the area Natura 2000 Piasek Lake PLH 220013, the project involved installation of two information boards about the area and the specificity of lobelia lakes. Also, a number of social activities were perforemed. One of them was supporting the organisations responsible for implementing the provisions of protective action plans in the Natura 2000 areas covered by the project. About 10 meetings were organised with representatives of such institutions as: Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Gdańsk, Pomeranian National Parks Organisation, State Forest Directorates in Gdańsk, Szczecinek and Toruń, forest inspoectorates, poviat offices, gmina offices, Agricultural Proterty Agency, Polish Anglers Association, Regional Water Management Authority in Gdańsk and lake fishers. The meetings focused on forest management, spatial management and fishery management. Each meeting resulted in conclusions and recommendations concerning activities involving lobelia lakes and Natura 2000 areas. The effect of those meetings are the articles included in the second part of the monograph (Part II. Diagnosing the threats and protecting lobelia lakes). In each of the four Natura 2000 areas covered by active protection, meetings with local communities were organised, presenting in detail the scope of planned activities, informing about the features and specificity of lobelia lakes and explaining why they need protection. In local schools, workshops were orgtanised for students. There was also an artistic competition concerning nearby lobelia lakes. Children and youth eagerly joined the project and the results of the competition were presented during four family fairs organised under the project. The abovementioned activities stimulated the engagement of local communities in the protection of nearby lakes.