Nature protection as a leading principle: managing forests in South-Eastern Poland

Nature protection as a leading principle: managing forests in South-Eastern Poland

Today the area of South-Eastern Poland is characterised by a relatively high forest cover, reaching over 60% in foothills and mountainous areas. But is has not always been so green here. Compared to 1945 there has been a 20% increase in forest cover in this region. Post-war displacement of inhabitants from this very densely populated region resulted in the cessation of agricultural use of these areas on a large scale. Historical conditions triggered the processes of afforestation of former agricultural land as well as spontaneous natural succession. An enormous amount of work has been done over the years not only by fostering afforestation, but by applying appropriate forests management methods that helped tending and protecting the established and young forests and finally also rebuilding the stands.

The results can be easily seen while comparing the below photos from 1964 and 2021 showing the effect of increasing forest cover, even in the immediate vicinity of human settlements.

Source: Ustrzyki Dolne Forest District

The forests have always been actively managed with the aim to provide social, economic, and environmental functions. And it was the rational use of natural resources that have established the basis for nature protection there. The high diversity of these areas, reflected by the fact that over 60% of them are included in the Natura 2000 network, results from carrying out an active and well-thought-out management of forest resources. Forest management, as opposed to strict protection, allows to preserve natural values of these areas on a landscape scale. This forest management is based on many years of experience and available scientific knowledge, which is described in detail in the planning documents. The forest areas covered by the Natura 2000 network have appropriate protection tasks for the objects of protection. The entirety of forest management is based on strictly defined rules, taking into account the requirements of nature protection during the execution of field activities including timber harvesting tasks.

Forest management in terms of timber harvesting, in foothill and mountain regions is based on two principles:

– The principles of dispersion of silvicultural risk (forming mixed stands with possibly diverse structure)

– The principle of reducing the silvicultural risk (preserving genetic richness through, among others, the full use of natural regeneration, compatibility of species composition with the habitat, and stand tending).

This way of forest management not only ensures the preservation of biodiversity but is also a proper response to climate change. Many years of experience, as well as the conducted biodiversity inventory, show that this kind of forest management significantly increases biodiversity in contrast to strict protection.

The assessment of the forests in mountainous regions was also subject of an expert opinion collection from IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), which concluded in September 2020 that the forest management here is carried out in a way that extensive disturbance is not visible in the landscape. The IUCN experts also appreciated the forested, undisturbed mountain landscape of this region.

We invite you to watch a short film to see how these forests look like: