The goal of our Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) Europe Section Blog is to share stories and relevant information about activities going on within our section and more broadly in the conservation community. Stories and articles shared on our blog should not be taken as an official position or statement of SCB or SCB Europe Section. Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Białowieża: Hands off and eyes on!

Post by Stefan Kreft, SCB Europe Section Policy Committee Chair 

This is what far over 100 forest conservation biologists concluded in the resolution adopted few days ago at the conference “Forests at risk: Białowieża and beyond” in Warsaw, Poland.

Let me explain how this resolution came about, and what Society for Conservation Biology-Europe Section has to do with it …

… meaning, potentially …


SCB-Europe and Białowieża: the early years

Actually, the Europe Section’s engagement with conservation of Białowieża Forest dates back to 2003. One may indeed be surprised how precarious the status continues to be even of our most precious gems: our last primeval forests that, unlikely as it may seem, have survived human omnipresence in Europe until today.

Life goes on: a hoof fungus changing growth direction after treefall (Photo: Stefan Kreft)

SCB-Europe and Białowieża: 2015-2018

After a large natural bark beetle outbreak in local spruce stands in 2015, illegal ‘salvage logging’ in the Białowieża Forest started to increase dramatically. The Europe Section spoke up in an SCB-Europe Statement, formulated as a letter and sent to the Polish Minister of the Environment. But the logging went on. Our Policy Committee decided to hold the annual meeting 2017 in Białowieża. We filmed the destruction that could only be termed deliberate (see blog post 1 and blog post 2). The clips were shown in public TV in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. After an EU Court of Justice decision the logging stopped.

SCB-Europe and Białowieża: from ECCB 2018 to Warsaw 2019

However, the threat by forestry to Białowieża Forest persists. Instead of letting natural succession do its gratuitous job, the Polish forestry administration started to replant. But the Policy Committee won the ball again. At the European Congress for Conservation Biology 2018 in Jyväskylä, we held a panel that included inputs from five forest conservation biologists and ended in a very fruitful discussion. The panel title proved seminal: “Forests at risk: Białowieża and beyond”.

Directly afterwards, Polish forest ecologists around Prof. Bogdan Jaroszewicz of University of Warsaw, invited our Section to join as co-organiser of a related scientific conference “Forests at risk: Białowieża and beyond”, as a follow-up to our panel. In this pioneering cooperation, the Europe Section for the first time acted as ‘scientific sponsor’, with the main function of organising the Scientific Committee and leading on scientific transparency in general.
Innocent camouflage, but let's face it: a "salvage-logged" site in Bialowieza Forest (Photo: Stefan Kreft)

Finally: “Conference Resolution: Białowieża Forest: Hands off and eyes on!”

SCB and Polish (non-SCB) representatives together drafted a resolution text that was designed to guide the reader across solid planks of scientific publications. The draft was exposed to scrutiny to a diversity of groups: the Scientific Committee, SCB-Europe’s Board of Directors and Policy Committee, and, last but not least, the prospective conference plenary speakers. Robin Chazdon, Malcolm Hunter, Pierre Ibisch, David Lindenmayer, and Bill Sutherland.

But, as if that weren’t enough, we proposed an even larger-scale peer review of this text – by all conference participants! Hard copies of this draft were given to all 156 participants upon registration, asking for comments and suggestions for improvement until end of the first conference day. This peer review produced no less than 44 returns (16 of which containing critical observations, and the remaining 28 expressing wholesale support). An editing team sat down the same night evaluated all submissions, item by item, and revised the draft accordingly (see picture).

Editing team of the resolution text at work: Nuria Selva, Bege Jonsson (centre), Stefan Kreft and some empty glasses (Photo: Stefan Kreft)

At the closing discussion we presented the resulting resolution text to the plenary, bringing up a number of constructive comments more. The existing text was finally signed by an overwhelming majority of the attendees.

And there we are!

Please proceed to reading the “Conference Resolution: Białowieża Forest: Hands off and eyes on!”. If you agree with the text, then you may want to add your signature - until 28th February!

Resolutely yours
Stefan Kreft

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