The Białowieża Primeval Forest situated on the border of Poland and Belarus is the last remaining natural lowland forest in Europe.
It is abundant in wildlife, particularly on the Polish side, and is home to lynxes, wolves as well as European bison whose history is closely related to the history of the forest's conservation.
Unfortunately, the natural wealth and reputation of this unique place have not ensured its effective protection, with only 17% of the Polish area protected as a national park. The rest is subject to forest management and logging of old trees – an enormous threat to the natural harmony of the forest and the survival of its wildlife.
Up until the First World War the forest remained in excellent condition, but soon afterwards it began to be systematically exploited. This continues until today, with the cancellation of the 1998 moratorium on cutting trees over 100 years old and new click on the photo to enlarge Forest Management Plans, approved in 2003, that allowed a significant increase in the amount of harvested wood.
The Białowieża Primeval Forest is a training ground where multiple of management and preservation reveal their acute forms, providing an exceptional study case. Conflicting concepts of forest management and preservation of natural processes are reflected in the entire natural and cultural complex. Future BPF management should embrace all aspects of the area: ecological, social, historical and economical. Therefore, it should refer to the ancient tradition of forest protection which involved the participation of local people, and led to an intricate but resilient entity.
If this exploitation continues it soon may be too late! Help us save this truly special place by signing our petition demanding that the national park is extended to cover the whole area of the Białowieża Forest in Poland
WWF Poland for Białowieża Primeval Forest: http://www.wwf.pl/projekty/eng/bialowieski_pn_en.php
EcoEarth Info: http://www.ecoearth.info/shared/alerts/send.aspx?id=poland_bialowieza_forest
Here you find more information about Belovezhskaya Pushcha in Belarus: http://bp21.org.by/en/
Bialowieza Forest is home to many species that are extinct elsewhere, is vitally important for regional ecosystems and ecological sustainablity, and is one of very few
places in Europe where 3.5 billion years of evolutionary processes continue relatively intact.
In recent years the area's remaining primary forests' protections and ecological condition have severely deteriorated. Centuries old oaks and other ancient trees
continue to be cut for timber, new roads are being opened, and only a small fragment has protection as a national park. A strong decline in species that are dependent on
old growth and standing dead wood has already been documented.
Read about European bison: http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/european_bison.htm
Read about Eurasian lynx: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_Lynx
6268 NP Bemelen
6811 EP Arnhem
Mr. S. Dimas
Subject: Degeneration of Bia•owie•a Forest (Poland)
Date: 18 december 2004
Dear Mr Dimas,
We would like to express our concern on the current management situation within the
Bia•owie•a Promotional Forest Complex, located in the provincie Podlaskie in the East of
Poland and the European Union, managed by the Polish State Forests Service.
Up to date the Bia•owie•a Forest is regarded by specialists – at least – as “one of the best preserved lowland forests within the temperate climatic zone of Europe”. The area has been and is of vital importance for biodiversity, represented by a number of species which surpasses those in other natural sites by far. The human preservation of the forest dates back to times when Polish and Lithuanian Kings and Tsars claimed the Primaeval Forest as their vast hunting grounds. The area has been and is essential to scientific research aimed at the study of natural processes, such as forest development and interaction between mammals and flora. The area has a growing importance for eco-tourism for modern man and in within countable days it can be one of the most natural lowland forests within the European Union.
Parties involved in nature protection have been active to expand the actual Bia•owie•a
National Park of ca. 10.500 hectares to the whole of the Polish part of the Bia•owie•a Forest (59.500 hectares). Since the Polish government turned down this plan of protection in 1999 the prospects for the remaining forest stands of the highest natural character has deteriorated dramatically.
Currently the major plagues are not imposed by numerous insects, but by failing
management, short term economic action and the Polish government, which acts
unresponsably towards her natural heritage;
On July 10, 2003 a new management plan for the exploitation of the commercial
part of the Bia•owie•a Forest became operative. It allowed an ecologicially
shocking increase in the volume of logging of wood. A moratorium on logging trees
aged over one hundred years, implemented in 1999, was strongly weakened.
In march 2004 the certificate of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was withdrawn from Bia³owie¿a F ores t! Five Polish environmental NGO’s submitted their complaint describing 43 cases in which the fores ters of Bia³owie¿a Promotional Fores t Complex (Polis h S tate Fores ts Service) violated 18 of 56 Principles and Criteria of FSC for Good Forest Management. This should be considered a new, but clear indication insufficient concern for maintaining the unique qualities of Bia³owie¿a Forest, such as fully or nearly natural processes .
The Bia•owie•a Forest deserves our compassion, respect and true protection. Loss of the
natural character of the unique forest, both in natural and cultural view, is unacceptable after
the forests 4,000 or even 8,000 years of proud natural growth.
Hereby we offer you a report on our view. It discusses the natural character of Bia•owie•a Forest as well as interrogations made by man. Another vital point is a historical difference managing large scaled forests in Western and Central and Eastern Europe. We outline the effects of the Bia•owie•a forest management plan, implemented about 500 days ago and the response of international press and the statements of (Polish) experts in ecology.
Our des ire is that the Bia³owie¿a F ores t will enjoy full protection. A balanced and sustainable socio-economic situation, with top priority for the exceptional ecological position of Bia•owie•a Forest within our enlarged European Union, is our ultimate goal.
We request your understanding.
With highest regards,
Frank Verhart Harm Smeenge
forestry engineer Bsc engineer in nature management Bsc
06 Aug 2009 Reuters: Climate change clouds fate of ancient Polish woods
The author writes about climate change but forgot about the exploitation of Bialowieza forest - what's worse??
The fact is that Polish government must enlarge the protected areas to save european bison and the last primeval forest in this part of Europe.
Climate change clouds fate of ancient Polish woods
05 Aug 2009 BBC: European bison on 'genetic brink'
The two largest herds of European bison live on either side of the Bialowieza forest which straddles Belarus and Poland.
"Europe's largest mammal, the European bison, remains extremely vulnerable to extinction, despite long-standing efforts to save it, new research shows.
One of the two remaining wild herds of pure bred European bison is down to an effective population size of just 25.
That is despite the actual number of wild bison in the herd having steadily risen to around 800. "
"For hundreds of years, the European bison was protected across large parts of its European range, being considered 'King's game' protected by the monarchy and Russian tsars that conquered Poland.
But early in the 20th Century, its numbers crashed as people left hungry by World War I and a lack of protection saw ruthless poaching of the animals for meat and hide.
By 1919, none were left in the wild.
So in the 1920s, biologists decided to reconstruct the population out of the few individuals left in the public and private collections and zoological gardens"
"it's clear that the European bison has not recovered from the genetic bottleneck it suffered during the early 20th Century.
Usually, a population of animals must have an effective genetic population of 50 animals to be considered to be safe from an immediate threat of extinction caused by the dangerous effects of inbreeding or having too few alleles to adapt to new environments.
They are highly inbred and closely related and the genetic surveys confirmed that"
05 Dec 2007 WWF:Protecting old-growth forests in Poland
Warsaw, Poland – Over 100,000 signatures have been forwarded to the Polish government, calling for the protection of Europe’s last remaining stands of natural forests.
The signature drive is part of a WWF campaign to safeguard ancient woodlands in Poland’s Bialowieza Primaeval Forest from logging and other unsustainable forest activities.
In February 2007, a report by Poland’s public audit body, the Supreme Chamber of Control, exposed inadequacies concerning forest management in the country’s most valuable forest areas. In October 2007, the Council of Europe suspended the European Diploma of Protected Areas awarded to the Bialowieza National Park because of lack of sufficient protection.
Also in 2007, the Forest Stewardship Council — an international, non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring environmentally responsible forest management — suspended certification for this region for similar reasons.
“For years, Polish politicians have been passively looking on as the degradation of this unique woodland continued,” said Ireneusz Chojnacki, WWF-Poland’s Programme Director. “Today, they may well have a one-time opportunity to do something about it.”
A special task force set up by Poland’s President, Lech Kaczynski has already drafted legislation to ensure protection of the forest, including extending the Bialowieza National Forest to encompass currently unprotected ancient forest strands. As part of the legislation, a special socio-economic programme has been planned to promote sustainable tourism for local communities living near the forest.
“Over 100,000 people demand that this legislative initiative be accepted by the president and then voted upon by the Polish Parliament,” added Chojnacki.
Home to lynx, wolves and other wildlife, the Bialowieza Forest is the last natural forest on the Central European lowland. Although it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, together with the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park on the Belarus side, only 17% of the Polish area of the forest is protected as a national park.
The WWF campaign is aimed at improving the level of protection of the old-growth, primeval forests in and around the park.
“We cannot allow a further degradation of the natural heritage of Poland, as well as the entire European continent,” Chojnacki said.