Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Poland plans controversial deforestation

Białowieża Forest is one of the last remaining parts of Poland’s primeval woodland Białowieża Forest is one of the last remaining parts of Poland’s primeval woodland Dariush M/Shutterstock
04 Jun
2016
Government logging in Poland’s primeval Białowieża Forest draws fresh criticism from scientists

An infestation of spruce bark beetle has split opinion about how to manage Białowieża Forest in Eastern Poland. Drawing on the country’s long history of forestry management, the government has more than trebled the annual quota of timber from 48,000 cubic metres to 180,000, in a move it claims will reduce damage to the trees. Scientists disagree.

Białowieża is a temperate, broad-leaved forest straddling Poland’s border with Belarus. Huge, brooding and straight from a European fairy tale, it is one of the last parts of a primeval woodland that once stretched across the continent. In its deepest, most protected areas, it is strewn with deadwood and moss, and called home by wolves, lynx and around 800 bison.

‘The logging has already started,’ says Lucinda Kirkpatrick, PhD researcher in forest ecology at the University of Stirling. ‘There are three main concessions surrounding the small, 100sq km of protected national park.’

Once you start interfering with a particular part of the forest and hacking at the edges, you’re likely to make your problem a lot worse

The government’s move has been criticised by scientists, who believe Białowieża would be healthier left alone. ‘There is a lot of evidence that says once you start salvage logging, you cause more damage to surrounding healthy trees,’ says Kirkpatrick. ‘Besides, if you want to get rid of the spruce bark beetle in the Białowieża forest, you will have to chop every tree down.’

According to the protesters, the infestation could be part of a natural regeneration, where infested Norway spruce will likely give way to oak trees – a species more resistant to bark beetles, as well as climate change. Logging, they say, could also put wildlife populations at risk; its largest mammals have ranges and territories that exceed the 100sq km of protected park.

‘There’s a recognition amongst scientists that the forest is working together as a whole,’ says Kirkpatrick. ‘Once you start interfering with a particular part of it and hacking at the edges, you’re likely to make your problem a lot worse.’

This was published in the June 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Places

Conceived during the late 1800s, Letchworth Garden City was the…

Places

Multiple failed attempts to build on a patch of land…

Deserts

New 'deep learning' technology is helping to identify trees in…

Places

The land around the Kinabatangan River in the state of…

Places

Highlights from the column that keeps you connected with the…

Places

At the end of a perplexing and thought-provoking year, we…

Places

The city of Mosul is slowly putting itself back together…

Places

The story of a unique Italo-Slovenian community that came to…

Places

Bisecting Georgia's northwestern region, the Enguri River has come to…

Forests

A study in Northern Minnesota is experimentally heating the air…

Places

Some of the quirkiest geopolitical oddities are  Europe’s semi-independent microstates (SIMs). Vitali…

Places

Ninety years after depopulation, the Scottish islands of St Kilda…

Mapping

Not all passports are created equal

Forests

The impacts of deforestation are wide ranging. But while some…

Places

Community trekking is the latest development to emerge from the…

Cities

Scientists are using sophisticated data modelling to predict how cities…

Places

The most populated country of Central Asia, Uzbekistan has been…

Forests

To protect the forests that act as natural carbon reservoirs,…

Forests

Recent research finds that climate change-induced drought is having a…