Large-scale cutting of forest infected by Bark beetle (May 2001 - December, 2002)

Infringements: Clauses 25 and 27 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus «About Special Protected Natural Territories and Objects» are violated; violation of the ecological balance within the protected forest; the infliction of damage to biological diversity.

Events, facts, documents and evidences: Bark beetles pose an interesting, difficult and multi-level problem on the specially protected natural territories. The timber business regards the influence of Bark beetle as a negative one to the forest, since they destruct Spruce stands (and quite often on large areas). Still, the environmental role Bark beetles play in the forest, especially on areas with a primary character, is much more complicated and specific than the simple destruction of Spruce stands. Bark beetles exert influence upon the development and formation of stands build up of a complicated composition and structure and they play a role in defining the preservation and formation of communities of living organisms which are ecologically connected to Spruce forests. It is necessary to know and understand the mutual relations and connections that exist between components of the forest ecosystem, which allows us to choose the correct strategy and methods of the struggle with the Bark beetle. On specially protected natural territories conservation of biological diversity and conservation of the natural complexes of the whole forest community and its living and dead organisms is the primary goal.

Our information. Scientific research and experience from practice gained in Sweden, Finland, Germany, the Czech Republic and other countries during the last decades have shown that the most effective way to struggle Bark beetle is the so-called combined method. This method defines well-timed felling of trees that have been populated by Bark beetle for a short period with a simultaneous laying-out of wood-trap trees and application of pheromone traps. All by all, an «anti-Bark beetle» felling is effective in the environment of Belovezhskaya Pushcha in May and June, when trees are being actively settled by Bark beetle. After the freshly-infected trees have been cut down, they must be taken out of the forest in short time or, if removing is impossible, they must be debarked and stored. Otherwise the felled wood becomes an additional source for duplication of Bark beetle. Felling of Spruces infected by Bark beetle in months other than May and June has a limited effect, since parasites and predators of the bugs are taken out together with the Bark beetles themselves. During the winter felling of stands affected by Bark beetle puts a greater harm than it gains benefits from the view of forest protection, as the majority of all Bark beetles migrate to a litter for wintering, while many predators and parasites reside during the winter under the bark. So, if felled trees infected by Bark beetle are removed in the winter the bugs stay within the forest, while predators and parasites are being taken out of it. Therefore felling in autumn and winter of Spruces forests that have been infected can be justified only as an economic act; to harvest valuable timber. This approach is adopted on sites where economic activities are authorized.
In line with current knowledge and worldwide practice with Bark beetle infections trees are not cut down on specially protected natural territories and in primary woods across Europe. Experience from practice in Sweden and Lithuania revealed that an attack of Bark beetles ends itself in three to four years within primary woods if Spruces are not being cut. Within territories where sanitary cutting conducted removal of lost Spruces in the winter period can even promote spreading of Bark beetles, which is connected to the removal of its enemies.

The advanced international practice and experience with the struggle of Bark beetle has been ignored over recent years in Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park. Large-scale felling of forest stands affected by Bark beetle or lost already is conducted all-the-year-round. Wood-traps were not taken out in time. Pheromone traps either were not applied or they were used ineffectively. Such practice does not lead to the restrain or stop of the Bark beetle infection, but it even promotes further spreading. It is common practice to conduct cuttings in protected quarters of the National Park which indicated practice of primitive timber-enterprise rather than problem-solving. If the actions brought into practice need to be appreciated, the impressions exists that the struggle of Bark beetle is picked up just to cover the other purpose of the management; to take as much qualitative timber as possible to load the huge timber processing workshop. The basic idea of preservation of wild nature, the idea of wild life and proceeding investigations on ecological knowledge and approaches are rejected in this respect as «unwanted». «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» is a Biosphere Reserve with a worldwide importance. However, it is gradually transformed into a specialized timber enterprise, in which scheduled tasks on harvesting timber and the commercial exploitation of other natural resources have replaced the main (and fundamental) tasks of this specially protected natural territory: the protection and conservation of a unique relic primeval forest which is populated by a diversity of living organisms which ranks at the top of Europe's natural heritage. Many of the species concerned have vanished already on other territories of the European continent.

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(Compartment 827, June 30, 2002)

This picture shows a single, isolated trap for Bark beetle, which has not been checked for a long time.

Our information. The application of this type of felling throughout the year does not only have impact on the enemies of Bark beetles, it harms the sustainability of Spruce stands as well. Within decades forest communities are entirely adapted and the soil-hydrological conditions are adapted as well. However, it still concerns specially protected territories in which trees reach natural death. 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. It results in overheating of the trunk the top and higher parts of crones, breach of pitch cells and filling of spending tissues by pitch as well as violation of water and mineral feed. Such strongly weakened trees are a prime object for attacks by Bark beetles, which means a further spreading of the center of the infection may easily occur. 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 and 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 in centers of Bark beetle infection are much less serious since dead trees remain to be an element of the focus of Bark beetle infection. The variety in number of species is greater there and the natural afforestation of glades is a more quick process.

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(Compartment 744, July, 2002)

The forest on this picture is infected by Bark beetle. Any woodcutting has not been executed at this site. This center of Bark beetles disappears in a natural way, while the primary environment as well as the great mosaic-like variety of the vegetation and the micro-environment persist.

Our information. Bark beetles which live in protected areas of the forest play an important role to the preservation of many rare species that are inhabited by dead and rotten wood. Among them are Three-toed woodpecker, many species of insects, mushrooms, lichens and other groups of living organisms. Dead Spruces often make up an important part of their environment, so while the Bark beetle infection grows out the density of their populations usually grows. Within forests that are infected by Bark beetle other tree species continue their life and growth, however many Spruces survive as well. The surviving Spruces include the old-age ones, which are genetically the most valuable trees. As a result mosaics of multi-aged forests with a diverse and complicated species composition and a complex structure are formed. This makes up the unique colour and originality of the wild primeval forest. Fallen trees are a barrier for herbivores and wild ungulates that consume young trees in many places. Thanks to the lying wood young forest generation is given more space to grow up.

These pictures show Spruce trees which have been broken by wind after they have been infected and weakened by Bark beetles. It shows an unusual picture of wild nature within the primeval protected forest. According to sanitary rules adopted by timber enterprises, the forest needs to be cleaned of such trees.

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(Compartment 741, July 6, 2002)

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(Compartment 680, July 6, 2002)

This picture shows an old Spruce of which the top has been broken. However, the tree is not lost, since the upper branch produced a new tree top. This unique Spruce is growing steady directly at a central tourist route in the vicinity of a Bison-nursery. It is situated close to a road that leads to a giant Oak and a giant Pine. However, according to the overall rules of timber enterprises such a tree should haven been cut down a long time ago.

These pictures show the natural process of afforestation on an old clearing after Bark beetles infected local trees. They also visualize the process of the formation of a multi-aged forest mosaic and of forest stands with a complicated species composition and forest structure. These are core elements of primary forests.

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(Compartment 805, June 30, 2002)

Within Belovezhskaya Pushcha a high number of wild ungulate herbivores, primarily Red deer, was maintained for a long time. Red deer feed themselves on young trees and bushes. In order to protect the youngest generation of the forest, it is therefore necessary to isolate (fence) sites with young undergrowth. Under natural conditions Spruces which died and fell down, amongst others because of infection by Bark beetle, would be a barrier against Red deer to some extent, which would naturally favor the growth of the young forest.

These pictures show fenced sites on a former center of Bark beetle infection, where young regeneration is present, and sites outside of fences, which are clear of any undergrowth or young forest regeneration.

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(Compartment 805, June 30, 2002)

These images illustrate that felling of all infected trees is conducted. It included a great number of thin trees of which the wood has no technical value. It should be favored to leave such trees within the forest as they have an important environmental function. They are an environment and habitat for rare mushrooms, plants and animals and they produce humus which enriches the soil and improves the mosaic of the forest's environment. By adopting this approach the harm brought to the forest would have less impact.

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(Compartment 742, November 19, 2002)

These pictures show selective felling of thick trees. Felling conducted in zones with a regime in which forestry is executed in the traditional way allows a simultaneous yield of high-quality timber and rendering of smaller damage to the forest, since trees are cut selectively and individually, instead of clear cutting.

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(Picture 1 - compartment 742, November 19, 2002; pictures 2, 3 - compartment 707, November 12, 2002; picture 4 - compartment 744, October 16, 2002)

However, selective cutting does violate the environment within the forest significantly as well. Harmful negative effects such as cutting and dragging of timber, damage to young trees and the root system of living adult trees and to the litter, the soil and the grass cover is made. The picture shows the extent to which the soil may be hashed by wheels of the tractor by which wood logs were dragged.However, selective cutting does violate the environment within the forest significantly as well. Harmful negative effects such as cutting and dragging of timber, damage to young trees and the root system of living adult trees and to the litter, the soil and the grass cover is made. The picture shows the extent to which the soil may be hashed by wheels of the tractor by which wood logs were dragged.

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(Compartment 707, November 12, 2002)

The situation was aggravated by a poor quality of fellings in the forest. This concerns especially workers hired on temporary basis. These conditions are inadmissible within specially protected territories.

On the pictures cases demonstrate that rests of cut wood were burnt directly near (or on) old a half-rotten trunks which were populated by numerous mushrooms, insects and birds, that inhabit hollows in the trunks. Impressive burning of such trunks is visible on the images.

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(Pictures 1-3 - compartment 827, June 30, 2002; picture 4 - compartment 742, December 21, 2002)

This small ecological review shows the case of Bark beetle infection is complicated and multi-faced on specially protected territories like Belovezhskaya Pushcha. To solve the problem an integrated and systematic approach is necessary, which requires taking into account the entire scope of ecological questions that are related to the distribution and life cycle of Bark beetle in Spruce forests. To meet the ecological requirements of the primary Belovezhskaya Pushcha it is essential that both the conception and the techniques on protection are developed, that ecological forestry is adopted considering the various zones of the National Park territory in combination with a high status of protection of Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

Further: Rotten timber wood left to lie in the forest