Large-scale and ecologically wrong cuttings in the old-aged Bialowieza Primeval Forest, 2009

Violations: Articles 26 and 27 of Belarus' Specially Protected Wilderness Territories and Sites Act; Article 55 and 63 of the Forest Code of the Republic of Belarus; the environmental balance within the protected forest, and damaging the biological diversity.

Our information. Traditional and generally accepted methods for forestry are often not suitable as management tools within Specially Protected Natural Territories (SPNT) like the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park is. The worldwide recognition of Belovezhskaya Pushcha as a Biosphere Reserve as well as a World Heritage Site does even more indicate that principles of commercial forest management are not acceptable. The credit of these titles is based on the internal value of Belovezhskaya Pushcha; the only vast remaining part of the ancient lowland primeval forests of Europe. It means that the common task of the human society is to protect and to support all natural processes within the ecosystems of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, which includes specific zones in which the management regime allows that economic activities are being conducted.

Economic activities adopted within a unique natural complex like Belovezhskaya Pushcha should and must every time be based on one main principle, which is to strictly limit the impact on the natural forest. Out of all possible methods and techniques for forest management only those should be applied that do the LEAST HARM to the natural development of Belovezhskaya Pushcha Primeval Forest. The methods should be as much as possible in line with natural processes.

The primeval forests of Belovezhskaya Pushcha feature a complex structure of the vegetation as well as a complex composition of its species. The natural woods show an exceptional biodiversity compared to other areas covered by lowland forests. For that reason the standards for forest management adopted by timber enterprises are not admissible in this specific old-age forest.

Cutting down of living forest stands are forbidden in Belovezhskaya Pushcha as a tradition for the last 60 years. Only selective cuttings for the sanitary purposes and dead wood clearing are allowed. It is important to conduct cuttings down at a high professional level and quality in the Bialowieza Primeval Forest to minimize the damage to the forest environment. Under those conditions the foresters cut down trees with extraordinary care in order to avoid damage to surrounding healthy trees and the vegetation under the canopy during the felling. As a rule the remnants of the trees cut should not burnt, bit should be left on the cutting site for the natural decomposition to get rich the soil with humus and to enhance the biodiversity. A great respect was paid to a skillful and cautious removal of the harvest timber with mechanized machinery; inevitable damage to the living undergrowth of plants, shrubs and trees - the future of the forest - was minimized.

If sanitary cutting are conducted with skill and care within the forest stands and if their scale is small the glades and half-open spots within the forest will spontaneously be covered by a number of species, including spruce, pine, birch, oak, hornbeam and aspen, within three to five years. After 15 to 20 years, when the young generation of the forest as well as the surviving old-age trees in the canopy are both growing successfully and even a skilled forester will not always be successful in pointing sites which once have been the center of bark beetle infection. Thanks to respected natural processes Belovezhskaya Pushcha itself shapes the unique colour and appearance of the natural forest, with its complex composition of species and its typical well structured age-layers.

As Belovezhskaya Pushcha is a protected forest it is essential that specific measures are developed that are suitable for ecologically respectable forest management; this type of management clearly differs from commercial forest management as favored by the timber industry. Ecological forestry must take into account the entire scope of different forest communities and soils and adopt the broad experience of many generations of foresters.

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The photo shows a signboard which can be seen
at the entrance to the National Park, 2009

"Information that economic activities in the
Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park lead to the
damage of nature conservation and environmental
norms, does not correspond to the real situation.
All photographs allocated in the internet which
were considered to show negative moments in
reality show just positive changes

"Sanitary cuttings started since 2000's were
aimed to eliminate bark beetles, which infected
some trees. The biggest problem at that time
was dying forest. Timber extractions in the
Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park are
organized nowadays on the territory of the
experimental forestry hunting grounds where
treesv'cutting is allowed
Alexander Romanovskiy, deputy manager of the
Administration of Affairs of the President.
Press-conference in Minsk, September 9, 2009.

"There are no problems in the National Park today".
Nikolai Bambiza, director general of the
National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha".
Press-conference in Minsk, September 23, 2009.

Events, facts, documents and evidence: In the earlier pages "Large-scale cutting of forest infected by Bark beetle, May 2001 - December, 2002", "Continuation, 2003" and "Continuation, 2004" it has already been shown that large-scale cuttings down are in progress, while the ecology and wilderness protection's knowledge, the recent practical experience and advanced international technologies to struggle against tree pests were ignored in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park. Felling of trees is being conducted all-year around. Conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable development of the forest ecosystems have not been seriously taken into consideration. "Low-damaged" methods of forest management that are in balance with the forest environment at which the recognition of Belovezhskaya Pushcha as a World Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site has been based is not taken into account.

In particular, the commercial value of the tree for a timber mill is first of all the criterion of its selection to cut down, not the principles of the forest-protection optimum. Hence, the wood which is not good for timber processing is left in the forest whereas those well are felled. In the long run such the cutting sites in fact often become the clear-cutting ones as almost all lost trees and dead wood are felled. Dead standing trees as an environment for the whole complex of animals and plants are not selectively being saved in the proper way, although those dead trees are of vital importance for many organisms connected with dead wood which they can inhabit and decompose. Trees which have been blown down by storm, branches which have been broken of because of strong winds or for other reasons and remnants of cut trees are being burned that leads to losses of the natural environment for many species. After brushwood and branches are burned, large black spots of burned humus remain to be on the surface. Timber is dragged by use of heavy wheel tractors. It leaves deep wounds in the ground surface. The dragging ways are situated chaotically on forest clearing, as it is the wood which is stored often directly within the areas that are being cut down. Damage is caused to every element under the canopy - bushes, young trees, roots of adult trees, the litter, the soil and the grassy cover. The consequence is that the layer of humus, «food» for future generations of the forest, is lost.

All by all the adopted practice of the bad forest management has an extremely negative effect on preservation of the natural complexes within the protected Belovezhskaya Pushcha Forest and leads to destruction of the Bialowieza relic forest. At the same time, the sanitary and other kinds of cuttings are actually serve to cover the other purpose - to extract timber as much as possible for the powerful wood-processing enterprise which is the national park's property. The fact of monthly scheduled directives for timber harvesting in the forest areas of the national park is the best evidence of the above statement as their default results go in punishment of employees of the forest areas.

Our information. The application of this type of felling harms the sustainability of forest stands. However, it still concerns specially protected territories in which trees reach natural death. Within decades forest communities are adapted to the soil-hydrological conditions. The adaptation of the forest's structure or the sudden disintegration of a forest stand as a cause of appearance of bark beetle sharply changes the environments. There is an increase in the exposure of light to the trees, the temperature of the air and of evaporation. Therefore remaining living trees suffer an influence of solar radiation, atmospheric drought and hydrological stress. Trees need some tome to get adaptation to the new environmental conditions.

If cutting down in the area, it results in strengthening of the negative ecological factors for the survived trees. Such strongly weakened trees are a prime object for attacks by pest insects. A number of mechanical impacts to other living trees resulting the conduction of woodcutting stimulate this process as well. These impacts include damage made to the bark on trunks and breaking off of branches by falling trees adjacent to remaining ones, damage to the roots of trees, undergrowth and the young forest generation because of mechanical dragging of wood logs and the damage made to trees and the regenerating young forest when wood-cut rests are being burned. During dragging the litter on the forest floor is being scratched off and "wounded" thereafter, as the print of tractor wheels and clear traces of the dragged logs remain present on the ground surface. Trees which have been removed from the forest are unable to feed the layer of humus in future times, which would be produced from their decomposition and which is essential for the forests soil.

Large scale cutting do have extremely negative impact on the conservation of biological diversity within the primeval forest. They result in a decline of the number of rare species and break down the ecological balance of the primeval forest. Within protected territories, where the regime forbids large scale felling, these changes of the environment are much less serious since dead trees remain to be an element of the natural ecosystem. The variety in number of species is greater there and the natural afforestation of glades is a more quick process.

The photos below which were made very recently (September 25, 2009) in protected quarters of Belovezhskaya Pushcha (the compartment 800) quite well example that the national park still provides the forest management in which the mechanism of forest cutting is ecologically wrong and simply barbarous concerning the reserved Bialowieza Primeval Forest. This example is not unique as the similar situation can be observed everywhere in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, continually, in every compartment. These photos also testify that some statements by the officials from the Presidential Property Administrative Office and by the head of the national park, such as this style of cuttings down "reality shows just positive changes", or "timber extractions in Belovezhskaya Pushcha are organized nowadays on the territory of the experimental forestry hunting grounds", or "there are no problems in the national park today" (they are quoted above, in the top left corner), are nothing more than lie.

A pine forest with the high share of spruce trees covered the plot surveyed within the old-aged relic wood. The average age of the stand is not less than 150 years. There are some pine trees of the age of over 200 years are spruce trees of over 150 years. A few years back a small part of the spruce forest were lost because of bark beetles' outbreak. The outbreak has been stopped in the natural way, due to only natural factors and the mechanisms of self-regulation. The cutting down has been conducted this year (2009). The cutting down had nothing to forest pest control or to preservation of the ecosystem of the primary character. That was purely commercial felling for the purpose of harvesting the valuable, large-sized logs for the timber mill. One can find out almost all infringements of the forest-friendly management possible for looking at this cutting site and resulted from ignoring the ecological science.

The shorts below show the view of a forest plot after the forest stand has basically been cut down there.

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(A cutting area, sq. 800, September 25, 2009)

As we see, giant spruce trees with large-sized wood are cut down there, despite the fact that they are dead for a relatively long time and therefore the quality of wood is bad. The logs are still lying on the cutting plots.

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(Giant trees being cut down; September 25, 2009)

A part of smaller trees (logs) has already been dragged from the cutting down plot. Stumps are only in their memory.

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(Stumps of felled trees; September 25, 2009)

Wood completely rotten is cut off at the bottom trunk and is left. It can be used for fire wood fuel.

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(The cut off pieces; September 25, 2009)

Logs of large-sized spruce trunks being completely rotten are also present there. They have once been extracted on this plot but, because of the bad work management, have been left to get rotten. Indicating the level of decomposition of the logs, this timber has been prepared in the early 2000's. Such the practice of wood rotting on the forests' ground was very common and usual in the national park at that time.

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(Rotten timber; September 25, 2009)

Because of cutting, the cases of damage or destruction of young trees are also usual on this site. These pictures show young spruce trees turned out.

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(Young spruce trees turned out; September 25, 2009)

Cutting residuals are generally not burnt, being stacked and left. However, the fact is there is no guarantee that they will not burn out later as the burning of cutting residuals after cutting was the obligatory procedure of the earlier forest management in the national park.
Only one heap of cutting residuals burnt down was found out on this site by the time of inspection.

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(Heaps of cutting residuals; September 25, 2009)
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(Cutting residuals burned down; September 25, 2009)

One partly broken trunk and one dead birch have been left standing on the cutting plot, that corresponds to the forest-friendly management. The other partly broken and rotten trunk has been destroyed.

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(A partly broken trunk and a dead tree remained;
September 25, 2009)
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(A partly broken and rotten trunk destroyed; September 25, 2009)

As before, wood logs' dragging is conducted that to strongly damage the living grass cover and ground.

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(Dragging ways; September 25, 2009)

Then wood has been dragged through a quarter cutting line to a log storage.

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(A dragging way along a a quarter cutting line;
September 25, 2009)

These photos show that the cutting down on this site had nothing to the struggle with bark beetles or to the dead wood cleaning. Large- and middle-sized trees valuable for wood processing are only cut down. All small trees have remained to be standing on the plot.

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(Small spruce trees to be standing; September 25, 2009)

The photos below show that the timber extracted from this cutting site is of a very poor quality. Processing of this sort of wood is low profitably, but for all that a big harm for the protected forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha results from cuttings, such as described and shown above.
So, what is the true purpose of the today's "owners" of Belovezhskaya Pushcha - to keep the Bialowieza Primeval Forest preserved or farther "to devour" it? These photos demonstrate that the second purpose yet prevails …

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(Wood of a very poor quality; September 25, 2009)