Clear cuttings of dead wood and "moon landscapes" in the Bialowieza Primeval Forest, 2005 - 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.

Events, facts, documents and evidence: Large-scale cuttings are executed in the "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" National Park. Ecological patterns and modern advanced achievements of wilderness protection science are ignored. Conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable development of forest ecosystems are not seriously taken into consideration. Ecological-friendly technologies and methods of the forest management that are in balance with the forest environment at which the recognition of Belovezhskaya Pushcha as World Biosphere Reserve and as World Heritage Site are not applied. (It has been described in details earlier on the pages "Large-scale cutting of forest infected by Bark beetle, May 2001 - December, 2002", "Continuation, 2003" and "Continuation, 2004").

Clear cutting of dead trees is one of the violations mentioned above. After that sites cut down mostly turn into so-called "moon landscapes" or "stump landscapes". It is so because it can be said the protected forest is saved, although damaged if 1 to 3 of 10 trees is felled, but it is totally destroyed if 7 to 9 of 10 ones are extracted. Cuttings down of the second type are conducted in Belovezhskaya Pushcha under the musk of "too-much-dead-wood clearing" and "sanitary cuttings". Actually the main goal of these is the harvesting the good-quality timber for a large sawmill which is the property of the national park. So the best qualitative timber which is the most valuable for the sawmill is first of all selected as a criterion but nothing of the ecological background.

Our information. Special, ecological-friendly methods of the forest management which do the least damage to the natural processes and the minimal harm within an ecosystem and for biodiversity at Specially Protected Natural Territories (SPNT) should be adapted. That includes specific zones in which the management regime allows the appropriate economic activities. NO HARM should be the main rule for unique natural ecosystems, such as Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

Dead wood is very important as playing an ecological function in a wild, primeval forest. Unfortunately, today this importance is not yet shared by the society and by many experts on the forestry including those working in Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

Dead trees in a forest are actually "alive". They provide an environment (both on the surface and inside) for a large quantity of species and living creatures which use dead wood as a food or a substratum for the habitation. Moreover, many species live only in the dead wood (for example, mushrooms, polyporous, mycelial fungus; insects and others invertebrates - beetles, millepedes, worms; plants - lichens, mosses, aquatic unicellular; even birds - some woodpeckers etc.). According to some scientific results, the life cycles of about 30 percent of species are very closely connected with dead wood in such forests as Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Dead wood as being decomposed makes soils rich with humus and more fertile in this way, and appears the mosaic structure of the micro-relief on the forest surface, so increases the vital space for plants and other biological groups.

So, in connection with the above-stated, today even timber enterprises must leave a certain amount of dead wood on the cutting site for the biological diversity conservation's purpose, according to the rules of the ecological-friendly forest management when conducting clear cuttings in the forest.

The examples of cutting sites that all dead trees are cut down on the plot and are then eliminated out of the forest are shown below. This results in the forest ecosystem which turns from the integral structure to become degraded and to get "a sorry sight".

These photos show a site of the perfect relic forest in winter. Some of the very big spruce trees have perished a few years ago because of bark beetles. They have been marked for cutting down.

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(A primeval forest in winter to be marked for cutting down, December 17, 2005; compartment 824)

These photos show cutting down plots made wrong because all dead trees are completely removed.

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(Felling of all dead trees; 1 November 3, 2005, compartment 806; 2, 3 and 4 September 14, 2005, compartment 802)

As a result of cuttings down conducted in this way in the same areas for many years, the forest gradually is broken down, that means it turns to the sparse growth of trees and completely loses its relic and primeval qualities. Only single trees are left in some places. Many such areas have no the young forest generation or it does not appropriate to the soil and vegetation types that makes one more serious problem for Belovezhskaya Pushcha. It occurs because young trees are consumed by numerous wild ungulates, first of all by deer which big number is maintained artificially for the hunting economy's purposes (commercial hunting for rich hunters). In some places the plots which are being deprived of trees after cuttings down are fenced but it does not give always the necessary effect as the fence is quickly broken and is not under repair at the proper time, so ungulates penetrate into the plots and consume young seedlings and trees.
The shots below show typical sparse growths of trees which appear after large-scale cuttings down.

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(Sparse growths of trees, compartment 740, November 30, 2008)
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(Sparse growths of trees fenced by net and wood, April 22, 2007)
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(Sparse growths of trees fenced by net, compartment 552, November 10, 2008)

These photos demonstrate a pitiful sight of the sparse growths of trees after large-scale cuttings down on the former bison nursery's area which has been transformed recently into a residence of Father Frost.

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(Sparse growths of trees on the former bison nursery's area; compartment 713, March 5, 2006)

After large-scale cuttings down, stumps become the main attribute even if the forest ecosystem is not destroyed completely.

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(Stumps after cuttings down; compartment 740, November 30, 2008)
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(Stumps after cuttings down; 1 - compartment 740, November 30, 2008;
2 - compartment 741, November 30, 2008; 3 - compartment 773, November 30, 2008;)
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(Stumps after cuttings down; compartment 777, October 28, 2005)
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(Stumps after cuttings down; 1 and 2 - compartment 805, November 3, 2005; 3 - compartment 778, November 3, 2005)
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(Stumps after cuttings down; compartment 824, September 19, 2009)

Thus, the photos on this page, and on the others made earlier ("Large-scale cutting of forest infected by Bark beetle, May 2001 - December, 2002", "Continuation, 2003" and "Continuation, 2004"), reflect only a tinny part of the enormous damage and harm for protected ecosystems within the territory of the Bialowieza Primeval Forest resulting from the wrong forest management which includes large-scale cuttings down of dead wood as one of the parts of this management.