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Thursday, 23 November 2017

Reality check – reality shock: The Policy Committee holds its annual meeting in hard-fought Białowieża (Part II)

Post by Stefan Kreft, SCB Europe Section Policy Committee Chair 

*1 of 2 blog entries on Bialowieza Forest 

We continue our walk through Bialowieza Forest. Taking a long second look at the harvesting sites, the picture is completing.

Our colleague of the PC Peter Zulka outlines the importance of deadwood for an enormous number of saproxylic beetle species, many of which have not persisted elsewhere than in Białowieża Forest, but: “If you remove a resource like this in such quantities, you remove a lot of resources for saproxylic beetles”. Apart from the intrinsic value of these populations, their reduction and extinction will further weaken the forest’s resilience.

Scrutinising the harvesting sites more into detail, the picture is completing. Shaking our heads, we have a hard time to believe our eyes. What we witness here is evidence of deliberate destruction of one of the most precious ecosystems Europe is still hosting.

It becomes obvious that the forestry administration is in a hurry. Heavy machinery has moved across the entire clear-cuts. Every tree that stands in their path has to make way …

… forest soils are being cleared from vegetation, logging roads become half-meter deep ditches …

… harvesters in some cases can hardly cope with the diameters of old-aged trees …

… and a disturbingly high percentage of trees nearby carry the wounds from carelessly moving harvesting machines and falling trees.

Logs have been tagged for commercial use, as PC member Vassiliki Kati shows here, against UNESCO recommendations and in contradiction to the forestry administration’s claim that the additional wood harvest would only be for local use as fuelwood.

Logs of old pines are camouflaged among spruce wood …

 … and trees were harvested even though the bark beetles had already left long before.

Dusk has fallen. We leave the harvesting sites, thinking we have learned a lot about the forest administration and the government in charge.

The next day, to comfort our stressed conservationist souls after the two shocking visits to the harvesting sites, we entered Białowieża National Park. Spruces colonised by bark beetles are much less prevalent there, and so far the national park has been exempted from the cuttings. Mind you, our wretched nerves were not spared from the searing sounds of the chain saws doing their destructive work just outside the park borders.

Forests predominate in the EU, and they provide the widest range of services among all ecosystems. However, pressure on all types of forests over wide parts of the EU is rising. At our meeting in Białowieża, we decided to take our work on forests to the next level. In the future, the European Policy Committee will address forestry and forest conservation issues on a large scale. Primeval and old growth will stay in focus, of course.


Hansen, M. C., Potapov, P. V., Moore, R., Hancher, M., Turubanova, S. A., Tyukavina, A., Thau, D., Stehman, S. V., Goetz, S. J., Loveland, T. R., Kommareddy, A., Egorov, A., Chini, L., Justice, C. O. und Townshend, J. R. G. (2013): High-resolution global maps of 21st-century forest cover change. Science 342, S. 850–853.


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