Poland plans controversial deforestation

Białowieża Forest is one of the last remaining parts of Poland’s primeval woodland Białowieża Forest is one of the last remaining parts of Poland’s primeval woodland Dariush M/Shutterstock
04 Jun
Government logging in Poland’s primeval Białowieża Forest draws fresh criticism from scientists

An infestation of spruce bark beetle has split opinion about how to manage Białowieża Forest in Eastern Poland. Drawing on the country’s long history of forestry management, the government has more than trebled the annual quota of timber from 48,000 cubic metres to 180,000, in a move it claims will reduce damage to the trees. Scientists disagree.

Białowieża is a temperate, broad-leaved forest straddling Poland’s border with Belarus. Huge, brooding and straight from a European fairy tale, it is one of the last parts of a primeval woodland that once stretched across the continent. In its deepest, most protected areas, it is strewn with deadwood and moss, and called home by wolves, lynx and around 800 bison.

‘The logging has already started,’ says Lucinda Kirkpatrick, PhD researcher in forest ecology at the University of Stirling. ‘There are three main concessions surrounding the small, 100sq km of protected national park.’

Once you start interfering with a particular part of the forest and hacking at the edges, you’re likely to make your problem a lot worse

The government’s move has been criticised by scientists, who believe Białowieża would be healthier left alone. ‘There is a lot of evidence that says once you start salvage logging, you cause more damage to surrounding healthy trees,’ says Kirkpatrick. ‘Besides, if you want to get rid of the spruce bark beetle in the Białowieża forest, you will have to chop every tree down.’

According to the protesters, the infestation could be part of a natural regeneration, where infested Norway spruce will likely give way to oak trees – a species more resistant to bark beetles, as well as climate change. Logging, they say, could also put wildlife populations at risk; its largest mammals have ranges and territories that exceed the 100sq km of protected park.

‘There’s a recognition amongst scientists that the forest is working together as a whole,’ says Kirkpatrick. ‘Once you start interfering with a particular part of it and hacking at the edges, you’re likely to make your problem a lot worse.’

This was published in the June 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today


Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester




Travel the Unknown


Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Long live the King
    It is barely half a century since the Born Free story caused the world to re-evaluate humanity’s relationship with lions. A few brief decades later,...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital have a green future,...
    The Money Trail
    Remittance payments are a fundamental, yet often overlooked, part of the global economy. But the impact on nations receiving the money isn’t just a ...


NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...


Norway is to undercut a mountainous peninsula to create the…


Benjmain Hennig explores global mortality with maps


Last winter’s cold conditions contributed a further influx of road…


As one of America’s biggest cities, supplying clean drinking water…


Cape Town’s Foreshore Freeway Bridge has been left unfinished for…


An interactive map highlights the shocking number of ongoing conflicts…


Repurposed NASA maps show the racial diversity (and segregation) of…


Benjamin Hennig maps Europe's public train networks


A new map of global landslide susceptibility reveals vast geographical…


For decades, scientists have been divided over how these eerily…


The first count of global tree species reveals how many…


The new ‘world’s longest flight’ now spans a distance of more…


For the Swiss, the iconic yellow postbuses are much more…


After years of inaction, could the clean-up of the Venice lagoon…


Following the recent success of New Zealand’s Whanganui river, India’s…


The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)…


Where are Europe's earthquakes located? Benjamin Hennig maps the answer


Was last year’s El Niño a practice run for future…


Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…


Drought in the region is turning to full famine –…