Justice4Poland

Connecting true geography and detailed unfolding of wide variety of crimes perpetrated by German/Ukrainian Nazis and communist Soviet Union on the Polish nation.

Eastern Eden: Poland’s primeval wildernesses


On Poland’s far border lies Białowieża, one of the last remnants of Europe’s primeval forest. It’s a haven for birds and mammals, but it’s also under threat.

 

Polski bizon

Poland’s Białowieża forest is the last home of the European wild bison.

 

The Bialowieza National Park was first established in 1921 and included in the list of World Biosphere Reserves in 1977. In 1996 the area of the National Park was doubled to its current size of 105 km2. A total of 121,8 km2 outside the National Park were declared as Nature Reserves. The rest of the Bialowieza Forest has undergone commercial timber extraction and hunting. Many old-growths are still unprotected, and the silvicultural practices used do not fully protect ecological processes.

The Białowieża Forest extending over 1600 km2 between Poland and Belarus is the last large remaining fragment of the primeval deciduous forest of the northern temperate zone in Europe. Exceptionally biodiverse, the forest is home to more than 5,500 plant species, and 11,564 animal species, including the largest population of free-ranging European Bison. Animals from the large carnivores like Wolves and Lynxes, to the rare nesting songbirds, woodpeckers, and owls all rely on the forest for their habitat of old growth and standing dead trees.

Białowieża Forest is a fascinating source of scientific knowledge, and stands as a much needed ecological blue-print for the restoration of forests in Europe and the world.

Białowieża forest, which straddles the border, is the last extensive stretch of the primeval forest that once covered all of north-east Europe, while, 100km to the north, the Biebrza marshes are among the continent’s most important wetlands.

These two national parks are almost the only places where Europe’s original landscape and wildlife can be seen. But Białowieża forest has become a new kind of front line, between environmentalists and the Polish government, which this week gave the go-ahead to large-scale logging.

Wild bison, which once roamed the continent, are now found only in Białowieża (around 300 on the Polish side; 500 in Belarus) along with 58 other species of mammals, including wolves and lynx. While almost 142,000 hectares are a Unesco world heritage site (stretching over both countries), the forest extends much further, and it’s in these unprotected parts that the controversy about logging rages, with fears of wider impact on the region’s wildlife.

Polish wild life in Bialowieza
Białowieża forest is a mysterious land of fallen trees and abundant wildlife.

In the past, UK visitors to the area were mainly birdwatchers, but several companies now cater for people interested in travelling to wild places, especially those where top predators still roam.

Visitors enter the protected forest through a high wooden gate on which Steven Spielberg modelled his entrance to Jurassic Park. Once inside, initial resemblances to English woodland dissolve. This untouched forest is dominated by oak, lime, bog alder and hornbeam. Much of the area is swampy and feels rather mysterious.

 

Polski wilk-Bialowieza
Both Białowieża and Biebrza are home to several wolf packs

This area has never been exploited or managed, and a unique feature is the dead wood decomposing into the forest floor. It looks picturesque, with moss and flowers covering fallen trunks, and voles scampering along them, but it is also key to the forest’s exceptional biodiversity: the dead wood hosts millions of organisms, which in turn sustain incredible numbers of, often rare, birds. Numerous species of woodpeckers, flitting about and drumming on the trunks, are entirely dependent on standing dead trees.

But outside the strictly-protected zone, state-employed foresters are still busily logging, and have successfully campaigned to be allowed to greatly increase felling and clearing dead wood in a bid to fight bark beetle infestation. Environmentalists would like to see the whole forest protected: dead wood is key to its ecology, and birds and other wildlife move around, and depend on, the whole forest, not just the protected area.

 

Deadwood

Dead wood provides habitats for birds and mammals.

 

 

Male liski

 

The Bialowieza Forest was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. In 2014, the UNESCO World Heritage was extended to the whole Polish side of the Bialowieza Forest. It was inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its significant on-going ecological and biological processes and because it contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species.

 

Wilki polskie

 

 

Lis

 

 

 

Elk2

 

 

Sarna

 

 

Like Białowieża, Biebrza has astonishing biodiversity: again there are lynx and several wolf packs, and a strong chance of seeing them. The iconic animal here is the elk, which are hard to miss: we stumbled across a new calf. Rather comically for an already comic beast, elk calves are born bright orange.

 

Mothe Lynx with baby

Mother Lynx with baby

Fighting lynx

Biebrza is another bird lovers’ paradise: each evening our group of seven would bond over vodka and bird lists.

 

 

Sowa w Bialowiezy

 

 

 

Eurasian Jay in Bialowieza

 

 

White storks nest on village houses and are abundant in fields, bitterns boom continuously, and corncrakes and ruffs are common. Europe’s rarest passerine bird, the aquatic warbler, has its only stronghold here – and with novice twitcher’s luck, I caught a glimpse.

 

 

Bear in Bialowieza

 

 

Dzikie swinie

 

Conservationists are keen to develop sustainable tourism here, to help locals realise the value of their environment. Their case couldn’t be more urgent. There aren’t many places to glimpse Europe’s wild past.

 

 

Grzyby na drzewie-Bialowieza

 

 

 

Piekny jelen

 

 

n 2012, the Minister of the Environment approved the Forest Management Plans for the three Forest Districts of the Białowieża Forest that met recommendations of the European Commission, given requirements to protect integrity of this Natura 2000 site. The approved management plans limited timber extraction to 48,500 m3 per year, on average, for next 10 years, and ensured the protection of 100-year old stands. This was recognized as a solution which supported local needs for timber while safeguarding the ecological uniqueness of the Forest.

Since the Plans were approved, the Forest Districts have not fully adopted them. Increased timber harvesting, formally justified by the need to curb bark beetle outbreak, greatly exceeds the annual plans and constitutes a serious threat. Environmental NGOs have repeatedly expressed their concerns that one of the Forest Districts has already reached the established 10-year logging limit, and would have to abandon timber harvesting for the next 6 years, while the other two forest districts will enter this phase within the next two years.

This significant increase of the average annual limits of timber harvesting have resulted in an update of the Forest Management Plan 2012-2021 for one out of three Białowieża Forest districts. The update includes significant increase of logging, removal of snags and does not guarantee the protection of forest stands older than 100 years. The Ministry of Environment argues that “active management” by harvesting is needed to protect the forest from sprice bark beetle outbreaks and fire risk. It stands against modern scientific research and recommendations of many major scientific institutions in Poland.

The protection of the Bialowieza Forest dates back to the fourteenth century. It is now protected by several Polish, European and international protected area systems such as UNESCO World Heritage List and Natura 2000. 17% of the Forest is also a Polish National Park, although for more than 20 years scientists and experts have recommended the protection of the whole Bialowieza Forest as a National Park.

==========================

 

 

Protect Białowieża Forest – sign the appeal

http://kochampuszcze.pl/ilovebialowieza/

 

Feeling like royalty in Bialowieza

 

 

 

Mysterious Bialowieza

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