Artificial planting at sites on which the relic forest was cut down, 2004 (continuation)

Infringements: Clauses 25, 26 and 27 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus «About Special Protected Natural Territories and Objects» are violated; Clause 55 of «Forest Codes» of the Republic of Belarus is violated; Clause 62 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus «About Environment Protection» is violated; violation of the ecological balance within the protected forest; infliction of damage to biological diversity.

Events, facts, documents and evidences: In 2003 the technology of large-scale artificial planting made by application of mould-board ploughs was brought into practice in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. The technology was adopted to create Pine and Oak forests at protected sites, which were cleared after infections of Bark beetle broke out and in stands with a low density of trees. The method and practice has been described in detail on the page "Artificial planting at sites on which the "primeval" forest was cleared, Spring 2003". This practice was continued in 2004. Moreover, the AREA OF ARTIFICIAL PLANTATIONS HAS BEEN ELARGED. 156 hectares of lands were planted in 2003; these concerned mainly sites where the forest was bowled over by windstorms. By 2004 artificial plantations cover an area of 180 hectares; these also include forest sites which have strongly suffered Bark beetle infection.

Many experts and scientists cannot agree with artificial afforestation. They consider this practice, which is common within timber enterprises (commercially managed forests) as a serious threat for the preservation of Belovezhskaya Pushcha Relic Forest. At present there are no scientific substantiations for the realization of large-scale artificial afforestation in Belovezhskaya Pushcha by application of techniques which are common in timber enterprises (wood plantations). This disfavors the adopted practice once more. A similar conclusion was drawn by the Working Parliamentary Group (Commission) after their inspection in Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park from the 29 th to the 30th of July, 2003. Nevertheless, the present administration of Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park does not listen to these advices and it does not take any of the conclusions drawn by the Commission and by the experts into consideration, nor the substantiations and the publications of scientists. The administration persistently continues its "black" business; destruction of reserved relic forest of primary character and transformation of these sites to areas similar to those found in timber enterprises (commercial forests).

Our information: Traditional and generally accepted methods for forestry are often not suitable as management tools within Specially Protected Natural Territories (SPNT) like «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» National Park is. The worldwide recognition of Belovezhskaya Pushcha as a Biosphere Reserve as well as a World Heritage Site do 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. 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. The removal of stumps, clearing of forest sites and making furrows using mould-board ploughs which shift the sand up on surface area within Belovezhskaya Pushcha forest are not admissible totally. In time young plantations, characterized by simplified structure, leveled out biodiversity and a limited sustainability, will replace the natural forest. The planted monocultures are in disharmony with the type of forest that would grow thanks to natural succession on the site. As a result natural processes are broken down or interrupted. If, on sites where artificial planting is intended, furrows are made roots of remaining trees close to the surface are frequently damaged, which leads to sped up decay and preliminary death of the trees in concern. Sites on which artificial plantations have been made a frequently observed mechanism of an energetic colonization of «weeds». These species are not characteristic for the Belovezhskaya primeval forest (biological pollution). The unprecedented value, the unique and primitive character of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is based on its population of species and natural communities of living organisms which depend on the complex structures which are only present within primeval forests. Therefore the adoption of artificial afforestation based on the standards practiced within forests on which the management is especially focused on wood production contradicts the main tasks of «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» National Park - preservation of the specific biodiversity of the primeval forest. The afforestation leads to serious conflicts in regard to recent achievements from the field of wild life science.
A great number of the older foresters of the Pushcha possess the knowledge that duly cutting trees freshly infected by bark beetle and a simultaneous removal of these tree from the forest ecosystem allowed to locate and even to control the spreading of the pest within the forest. However, the research done by highly specialized, skilled experts has been essential in order to conduct a type of forest management with a strictly limited environmental impact. Under those conditions the foresters cut down doomed spruces 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 were not burnt, which prevented the living vegetation and young renewal of the forest of thermal damage. 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. In line with this approach there was a strict prohibition to pile logs directly within glades to prevent unnecessary damage to the vegetation as well as to prevent the development of access roads towards these stacks of timber.
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 affected by a pest 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. Artificial planting of trees and ploughing furrows are not compatible with this method, while open discussion should be made on ecological methods of saving the natural forest and on the support on renewal of the forest should be accomplished.

These pictures show a typical site of Spruce and Pine forest which became victim of Bark beetle attacks. The majority of the Spruces was lost and cut down, while huge and old pine trees have survived. Furrows have been made by application of ploughs with mould boards in order to make further artificial plantations of Pine trees within this Pine forest. These pictures demonstrate well how the forest was transmuted locally and how terrible the landscape looks afterwards.

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(Compartment 773, October 27, 2003)

These pictures show which essential damages have been made to the soil cover on this site in the protected forest. The integrity of the soil was broken and the humus layer was covered by sand which was shifted up from lower layers, while furrows had been made with tractors and ploughs. The micro relief of the site had also changed.

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(Compartment 773, October 27, 2003)

The making of deep furrows with ploughs aimed at future artificial planting lead to cutting and the breakdown of the roots of old trees which survived Bark beetle attacks and the interrogation of man. This damage causes weakening and quick perishing of such trees. This picture shows examples of this type of damage made to the roots of trees.

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(Compartment 773, October 27, 2003)

When the administration of Belovezhskaya Pushcha decides to bring artificial planting into practice at specific sites it frequently does not take into account that a young and natural generation of trees is at hand on those places. Still, this new forest generation is sometimes enough numerous for successful regeneration of the forest, although it is not always immediately visible, since some years may pass between the moment of felling and the subsequent germination of seeds.

If one looks superficially it looks like this area is "bare" of a young forest generation, as is shown on this picture.

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(Compartment 773,
October 27, 2003)

However, if one looks more closely, one will discover many seedlings and young trees on the same site. This pictures show the renewal of Pine, Spruce, Oak and Birch.

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(Compartment 773, October 27, 2003)

On some sites de natural renewal is very dense as is shown on these pictures.

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(Compartment 773, October 27, 2003)

However, this natural renewal is annihilated to a great extent if furrows are being made with ploughs. These pictures show Pine and Spruce seedlings which are uprooted or covered by soil.

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(Compartment 773, October 27, 2003)

Those trees which were as lucky as to survive the interventions look like pigmies on the background of the huge earthen wall, which was made with a tractor and a plough.

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(Compartment 773, October 27, 2003)

The creation of artificial plantations in the ways known from timber enterprises (commercial forests) ignores negative experiences in the field of planting which was experimented in 1996. In that time the National Park attempted to plant trees in lines as this picture shows.

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(Compartment 805,
October 6, 2003)

But nature regulated the processes and many other tree species as well as spontaneous rejuvenation of young Pines appeared on the sites of the artificial plantings. This has made the forest diversity richer.

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(Compartment 805, October 6, 2003)

In tens or hundreds of years traces of the deep furrows, made with ploughs, will remind people of the fact that there used to be primeval reserved wood, created by nature and replaced at some moment by unreasonable ancestors with artificial wood. Although the soil cover has been roughly destructed, this site will be covered by new wood, but the strong intervention of man into the flexible mutual relations of the protected forest will be visible for a long period of time.

As this picture shows, furrows made with ploughs, aiming at the artificial creation of tree monocultures, do still look fresh eight years after the trees were planted.

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(Compartment 827, October 6, 2003)

What kind of Belovezhskaya Pushcha would we wish to hand over to next generations? Will it be a wild, mighty, perfect, fascinating and beautiful remainder of the primeval forest that once covered large areas of the European lowland? Or do we prefer to hand in the wild Pushcha to get straight lines of artificially planted monocultures in return? The latter type of forest covers over fifty percent of the afforested territory of Belarus; it is characterized by poor biological diversity and small ecological value.

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(In the left - Bialowieza Primeval Forest: 1 - compartment 827, October 7, 2004; 2 and 3 - compartment 741, September 14, 2004; 4 - compartment 774, October 27, 2004; 5 - compartment 843, October 5, 2004;
In the right - artificial pine plantations: 6 and 7 - compartment 953, August 3, 2004; 8 - compartment 944, July 16, 2004; 9 - compartment 946, August 31, 2004; 10 - compartment 826, October 5, 2004)

If we choose to preserve the Pushcha, one logic question spring to our mind; why is artificial afforestation conducted on large scale and why are plantations created in Belovezhskaya Pushcha? Is it because the professional level of the managers and the experts of the National Park is so low that they are unable to understand basic principles of ecology? Is it done to make a lot of money (while the workers of the National Park are very poor)? Is the financial situation of the Park in distress? Or is it that the soul of the managers of the Park is so angry in respect of the wild reserved nature that they do everything consciously in order to destroy a unique primary relic forest as much as possible, and to replace the Pushcha with pure man-made plantations plantations of Pine, which are common everywhere and which are valuable just for timber enterprises?

PS. Read more in detail on the problems of artificial planting within the reserved forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha in the article "To save the primeval forest" by Heorhi Kazulka.

Further: Setting up a forest nursery and the annihilation of rare plants, 2004