Cutting down of Scientific Permanent Plots for forest monitoring, May - December 2002

Infringements: Clauses 25 and 27 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus «About Special Protected Natural Territories and Objects» are violated; Clauses 1 and 55 of «Forest Codes» of the Republic of Belarus are violated; annihilation of Scientific Permanent Plots for long-term monitoring; cutting of the forest at the Scientific Permanent Plots; impossibility of continuation of forest monitoring; violation of the ecological balance within the protected forest; infliction of damage to biological diversity.

Events, facts, documents and evidences: A major task of Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park is scientific research. The Park is equipped with a Scientific Department, which in the 70’s was amongst the largest scientific institutions occupied with ecological research within the whole former-USSR. The staff was made up of 52 researchers and assistants at that time. The most important task of scientific researches in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha has been and is to conduct monitoring of the forest, namely investigation on growth and changes of the forest, the development of natural successions and natural processes. For this purpose Scientific Permanent Plots (SPP) have been set up in the forest since 1952.

Our information: A Scientific Permanent Plot represents a site of the forest, where all trees by a diameter over 10 cm are numbered and put on a map-scheme. The locality of a Scientific Permanent Plot (SPP) is marked by special poles. Each tree on this plot is registered by a personal figure and entered in a special notepad for monitoring supervision. Researches aimed at increasing the knowledge of the forest-ecosystem are carried out on such Scientific Permanent Plot in each five or ten years. The thickness of each tree is measured and its condition is estimated. Scientists do analyze here the patterns of death and decay of trees and the rise of young trees. In other words growth and development of the forest stands is being supervised on these SPP. The soils, zoology, botany and phenology are themes of research conducted as well. Scientific research on SPP allows a wide range of questions in the fields of the sciences of forests, soils and ecology to be studied and eventually answered. In a number of cases there is no other option than to obtain results of investigations on site in stead of using other methods or execution on other places. This applies especially to study of succession processes as well as long-term dynamics of the forest. Based on the results of long supervision carried out on the Scientific Permanent Plots in Belovezhskaya Pushcha hundreds of scientific publications were issued, including fundamental monographs. The investigations were and are conducted by scientists of Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, by leading research institutes in the Republic of Belarus as well as by foreign scientists. On plots situated within the Polish part of the Pushcha scientists from Poland have made numerable prominent scientific discoveries in the field of ecology which are widely adopted worldwide.

The Scientific Permanent Plots enjoy the highest absolute protective status. The SPP have been recognised by the UNESCO as a part of the World Biosphere Reserve Belovezhskaya Pushcha, which status applies to the whole territory of the forest. The SPP are inviolable sites, on which any human action besides research, including picking of mushrooms and berries. It is forbidden on the plots to remove any (rotten) wood and even grass must be left untouched. The plots are exclusively available to scientific research. Economic activities, allowed in the Regulated Nature Zone and the Regulated Recreational Use Zone, is strictly forbidden within 30 to 50 meters from Scientific Permanent Plots.

Up to today over 150 Scientific Permanent Plots as well as about one hundred temporary plots were incorporated in various types of Pushcha’s forests.

The recent intensive and uncontrolled cuttings, under the current administration of the National Park headed by Nickolai Bambiza, has already lead to the destruction of a big number of Scientific Permanent Plots. Among these plots some have been established at least thirty or forty years ago and have been inventoried from the 60’s - 70’s up to a few years back. Some plots have been cut, removed, destroyed in several phases. Hereafter some examples are outlined.

Scientific Permanent Plot №7, compartment 741B
Date of establishment – 1970
Forest type — Spruce moss-grass forest (Piceetum oxalidosum)
Average age of stand — 120 years
Average height of stand — 32 meters
The wood volume — 630 meters cubic per 1 hectare

The Scientific Permanent Plot is located near the central touristic route. Therefore a beautiful little dark blue colored shield had been placed, indicating briefly the characteristic of this scientific plot to tourists.

At the beginning of summer 2002 this scientific plot has partially been cut. Directly at the center of the plot, just behind the shield, a huge stack of the fire wood was put together.

The picture presents a view on the scientific plot on front as well as the stack of fire wood is seen.

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(Compartment 741, July 06, 2002)
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Side-view of the stack of fire wood.

These pictures were made opposite of the place with the blue shield. It is easily visible that the firewood has been piled up in front of numbered trees (№17 and 5). The high log on the third picture is marked with a typical crosswise symbol. Such marks are used for the indication of trees which grow on Scientific Permanent Plots.

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(Compartment, July 06, 2002)

Besides firewood voluminous Pine log-timber was felled and stored in stacks on and near the scientific plot.

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(Compartment 741, July 06, 2002)

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(Compartment 741,
July 06, 2002)
Besides cutting down trees, burning of rests of the cut wood has been conducted on the Scientific Permanent Plot. Stains of scorched ground remained. The burning has simply been done in a barbarous way. Cut-wood rests were stored near a Pine of old-age. Therefore the trunk of the tree has been scorched over several meters upwards.

The second control mission was carried out half a year later in October. This second mission had more severe consequences for the SPP. The wood cut down in summer, had been taken out by October. But the repeated cutting was carried out on this scientific plot.

On these photos the event of cutting old-age Spruces is fixed. The stumps and the place where wood was burned are visible. The photo was made opposite to the side of the plot adjacent to the shield. Traces resulting from dragging wood are visible as well. Across the scientific plot logs were dragged with a tractor, thus a strong damage to the grass vegetation and the soil surface on the scientific plot was inflicted.

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(Compartment 741, October 16, 2002)

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(Compartment 741,
October 16, 2002)
A view of the scientific plot in front of the shield. Behind the shield, stumps and a trace resulting from dragging wood are visible here too.

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(Compartment 741,
October 16, 2002)
This picture shows a stack of voluminous timber of Spruce. Logs of the stack were dragged across the scientific plot and stored then. Severe damage to the grass vegetation and the soil surface is easily visible.

Scientific Permanent Plot in compartment 742А
Date of establishment – 1970
Forest type — Spruce moss-grass forest (Piceetum oxalidosum)
Average age of stand — 120 years
Average height of stand — 34 meters
The wood volume — 522 meters cubic per 1 hectare

The scientific plot is located at the central touristic route, a little deeper into the forest than the previous plot. The unusually strong hurricane which occurred in February 2002 struck close to this spot. The scientific plot was situated within Spruce forest that had been infected by Bark beetle. An interesting fact in the view of science and study of natural processes is that many Spruces lost their lives on the area as a result of the Bark beetle infection in 1992 – 1995. Many trees had fallen and their stems remained as decaying remnants.

However, after the infection of Bark beetle in 2002, lead to an entirely different reaction of the (new) management of the National Park. On the plot sanitary cutting of the infected Spruces has been carried out in order to harvest thick and valuable timber of Spruce.

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(Compartment 741, October 16, 2002)
This picture shows a stump that remained after on old-age Spruce had been cut, just right behind the Pine numbered 223. Left of the pine a Spruce is visible which has not been cut. Since it is a thin tree its wood has no commercial value.

The picture on the left depicts other trees felled on the scientific plot, while the picture on the right shows that a Spruce had been cut which had been previously broken by the storm. The number (228) testifies that it is a tree from the scientific plot which therefore should never be cut down. The trees were thick and financially valuable as well.

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(Compartment 742, July 06, 2002)

On this scientific plot there has been a post for meteorological supervision (monitoring). The formation was utilized by scientists in order to investigate phenology and to monitor climatic parameters within the environment of the forest. The meteorological box is left behind with no attention. This box is a witness of the recent history of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, where in a single decade the domination of science has been handed in for profitable forest management. The negligence by which the meteorological box is being left behind is a true symbol for the sudden collapse of the respected importance of scientific ecological research within the Pushcha.

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(Compartment 742, July 06, 2002)

During the second control mission carried out in half a year later, in October, repeated cutting was conducted on this scientific plot. Before the second mission one tree had been removed (on the left), during the second mission new stumps appeared as the other trees were removed (on the right).

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(Compartment 742, October 16, 2002)

Scientific Permanent Plot №38, compartment 708D
Date of establishment – 1974
Forest type — Pine moss-bilberry forest (Pinetum myrtillosum)
Average age of stand — 165 years
Average height of stand — 34 meters
The wood volume — 680 meters cubic per 1 hectare

The scientific plot is located near the central tourist route. Therefore a beautiful little dark blue colored shield was placed, which indicates a brief characteristic of this scientific plot to tourists.

The action executed on this Scientific Permanent Plot is an example of clear vandalism done to the forest by the authorities that are authorized today to manage the Reserve which is world-famous.

At the end of February 2002, when the hurricane with an extraordinary power passed Belovezhskaya Pushcha, it fully annihilated large areas of its forests. Although the hurricane passed by close to the plot it was left behind nearly undamaged. Nevertheless, the trees subject to scientific research and numbered therefore, did not impress woodcutters. At their work of removing annihilated trees they «seized up» trees out of the range of the storm as well, including a number on the scientific plot. Thereupon they provoked a strong fire, which burnt the scientific plot. The rests of cut wood were burned in a period of drought and hot weather, violating the rules of fire-prevention. Fortunately the fire was kept small and close to the ground, but it still caused death of many Spruces. A Pine suffered a little of the fire. However, fire in the lower part of the forest does not result in death of old pines, because they have very thick bark, which protects their cambia and the core of the tree from the influence of high temperatures. A stack of timber, of which the wood had been dragged through the plot and was stacked on site, had been burned as well.

The Scientific Permanent Plot looked terrible in July 2002. Stumps of thick felled spruce trees and the burned stack of timber are present in the center of the scientific plot. The numbers 21, 22, 23 are present on trunks of 150 year old Pines which have been scorched by fire.

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(Compartment 708, July 06, 2002)

At the inspection which was carried out three months later, in October, the situation had still deteriorated dramatically. The scientific plot had been cut down nearly completely. Death Spruces as well as living Pines had been cut down.

These pictures, shot at the same place, show that an edge of the forest was removed stretching 50 meters. Stumps remained as a cheap souvenir of the huge living Pines which only shortly ago were making up the canopy of the forest. Pines have been turned into logs, gathered on a large stack. The other stack of timber which had been burned three months before was still present within the scientific plot.

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(Compartment 708, October 16, 2002)

These photos depict stacks of timber made up of beautiful huge living Pines, which man had killed shortly before. Apparently the trees were cut in July, since the Pine wood in the stacks is partly dry and shows cracks, while it lost its bark as well on some places. It means that the trees must have laid there for a number of months. Simultaneously scientifically numbered trees are still standing proudly behind the stacks of timber of Pine.

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(Compartment 708, October 16, 2002)

In October, at the inspection, the woodcutters were finishing felling of the remaining trees.

These photos demonstrate sanitary cutting of dead Spruces attacked by Bark beetle conducted on the scientific plot where living Pines, numbered with yellow paint for scientific purpose, are standing.

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(Compartment 708, October 16, 2002)

But together with Spruce, living and numbered Pines aged 150 years were cut simultaneously. The green branches of Pine, chopped off recently felled trees, are well visible beside the logs.

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(Compartment 708, October 16, 2002)

The next control expedition, carried out in December, once again revealed terrible, inappropriate management actions. The Scientific Permanent Plot and the surrounding forest were finally completely annihilated and had been transformed into a cemetery of trees that died too early.

The scientific plot was located at this spot earlier in the year. Today nothing more than the chink for monitoring of the ground water level (numbered 656) and the angular post remain of the plot which had been in use for nearly thirty-five years.

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(Compartment 708, December 21, 2002)

These photos show truly industrial clear cutting of old-age Spruce-Pine forest in the near vicinity of the scientific plot. The edge of the border retreats further and further from the Scientific Permanent Plot.

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(Compartment 708, December 21, 2002)

Once again a chronology of cutting down of dead and living Pines and Spruces on plot ?38, situated in compartment 708D, is presented here.

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(Compartment 708, July 06, 2002 — October 16, 2002 — December 21, 2002)

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(Sawmill shop territory,
November 21, 2002)
This last photo shows the stump of a former giant Spruce with number 28. The Spruce grew within a Scientific Permanent Plot before mass-exploitation of Belovezhskaya Pushcha was implemented. It remains unclear to understand the task, function or goal of carrying the stump out of the forest to put it on the territory of the sawmill in the village of Kamenyuki. This action is the clearest and ultimate demonstration of the industrial barbarity and vandalism applied in the unique Biosphere Reserve Belovezhskaya Pushcha by its current management.

Further: Intensive cuttings in forest stands infected by Barkbeetle