Stop, standing dead wood!

Ivan ZHDANOVICH, "Sovetskaya Byelorussia" (The Soviet Byelorussia) Newspaper, No 95, May 25, 2006

Our spruce trees are ill

Did you hear? Woods got into a trouble. Spruce trees are dying in the big scale and are falling victim to hordes of little beetles, a spruce bark beetle. Age-old trees can not even resist the beetles. Belovezhskaya Pushcha, for example, has lost due to this disaster 200,000 cubic metres of wood in 1992 - 1994. The giants of hundred years old also suffered in 2001 - 2004 when damage nearly trebled. This spring there are plans to plant about 2,000,000 young oaks and pines by covering the area of 340 hectares in order to help Pushcha faster restoring its forces. It doesn't concern only to Pushcha, our forest industry incurred big losses as a whole. It is necessary to clean standing dead wood which is low worth, instead of harvesting valuable timber.

There were several peaks of mass dying spruce stands for last ten years and over 70,000 hectares of woods suffered, leading scientific employee of the academic V.F. Kuprevich Institute of Experimental Botany, Professor Vladimir Sarnatzkiy commented the situation. Many sites with spruce trees in the Mogilyov, Vitebsk, Minsk and Grodno regions also became weakened. As to deep ground of "the ecological fire", alas, it is still secret. Anomalies of climate? Some experts blame droughts, namely the summer heat (up to 36 degrees). The foresters say that the trunks of spruces, because of it, even swell. This causes cells with resin to be perishing. The others consider winters with few snow and big frost as the basic problem. They emphasize that water draining are also harmful for spruce woods. In short, the trees weaken for any reasons what is favorable for bark beetles. By the way, healthy trunks are beyond capacity of spruce bark beetles and their other colleagues. Selective sanitary fellings in May June, so-called, strike a crippling blow for the enemy. Pheromones created by the chemists of the Belarusain State University are also used to fight spruce bark beetle. Traps with a substance-bait are placed in weakened spruce stands, so the trees have more chances to survive if bark beetles are absent there.

A diagnosis from the space

How to stop the process of dying spruce trees or at least to reduce the damage? In order to find out the answer, the Ministry of Forestry attached the scientists from the academic Research-and-Production Enterprise "CosmosAirGeology"

The task is not simply mapping weakened spruce woods but also developing a technique of early diagnostic of dying sites from the space, director Ivan Tyashkevich told. We monitored over 6 years. We learned to define sites with the illness by using pictures gained from American satellites "Landsat-7ETM" and "TERRA/ASTER". They have detectors of thermal vision". The satellite from orbit "sees", for example, all thermal objects on the Earth, even hot-water systems under ground. It proved to be that trees like the people make temperature up while becoming ill. After processing the pictures of the thermal range, the scientists using these little deviations of the norm (0.5 1.5 degrees) find abnormal sites within woods.

However, to make the diagnosis is half a business. How to treat? Alas, chainsaw is recognized the best medicine, because spruce stands at an early stage of illness are still valuable for industry. The food disappears and the basic pest, bark beetle, is to die of starvation or to search for new victims. It's rather important, Ivan Tyashkevich said, precisely to define borders of "ecological fire" in order to take no chances for bark beetle. After making detailed maps, the scientists verify and correct them directly on the wood site - nearby Stolbtzy, Volozhin, Nesvizh... In the area of a former polygon, Lebedovskoy forest area nearby the town of Molodechno, the true forest tragedy has been raised. Only 5 percents of 10 compartments of spruce stands of the age of 70 80 years survived. Others were lost. By the way, the scientists noted that a nearby spruce forest is alive and healthy. Why?

From the top to go down

Being observing "the phenomenon" of the Lebedovskoy forest area, we supposed that the process of dying spruce woods is connected to the concrete territory in some way, my interlocutor continued. One says that water draining which made a level of subsoil waters low is guilty. But we know drained sites close to the Neman River while spruce woods are not sick there. It means that the reason should be looked for deeper, Ivan Tyashkevich said.

It is known that maps of magnetic and gravitational fields of the Earth are already complete in Belarus. It proved that these invisible physical forces indirectly influence to living organisms. Wood and trees are no exception. Simultaneously being studying geo-maps and pictures made from the space, the scientists found out so-called new-geo-dynamic zones. The disease of spruce woods obviously has geo-dynamic roots, Ivan Tyashkevich said. About 85 percents of dying spruce woods are located in zones of extra activity of gravitational and magnetic fields, on axes of geophysical anomalies.

That is why the experts of the Research-and-Production Enterprise "CosmosAirGeology" made conclusion that henceforth it should be no planting spruce forests within "risky" areas to avoid treatment by use of chainsaw in the future. A busy season is now in the forest sector time is to restore forests. The scientists recommend in sites where spruce trees are dead to plant pines or oaks.