BirdLife: The Magazine September 2017 - Page 52

TREES OF LIFE ugust 2017 Vol. 39 No. 6, July/A Species Profile Marbled Murrelet Your gateway to Birding in North America y Thrashers Learn to Identif stop the immediate outbreak, it sets off a vicious cycle — as seen on Bulgaria’s Vitosha Mountain following an outbreak in 2001. While the Vito- sha nature reserve was left to recover naturally, the area outside the protected zone was logged, cleared and replanted — to mixed success. Clear-cutting exposes neighbouring trees to the elements and when damaged by storms, these originally healthy trees become more suscepti- ble to further, and more serious, outbreaks. Learn to Ide ntify Sw ifts Vol. 39 No. 5, May/J une 20 17 Specie s Profi le: Magn olia Warb ler A Spe c at Ma ial Sight lheur NWR ht tlig Spo State Ve rmont Display unt il August Far Afield Bootheel: Birding the ssouri Southeast Mi MJ17 31th Far A Disco field: Sky Is vering Tex Humm lands and as’ ingbir ds Display until June 30t h _FC.ind d 1 3/21/1 7 1:5 5 PM Digital subscription just $9. 99 birdwatchersdigest.com/subscribeBL Were more than just a magazine! Sign up for our free birding newsletter, BirdWire birdingexpo.com birdwatchersdigest.com migration to CO 2 emissions. In September, these tensions came to a head as the battle for Białow- ieża moved into the courtroom. Armed with incriminating satellite photos, the Commission demanded that financial penalties be imposed on Poland for its legal breeches. Meanwhile, Minister Szyszko himself — display- ing his characteristic flair for fiction — dramat- ically produced a glass jar containing what he claimed to be the real culprit: Ips typographus, more commonly known as “bark beetle”. These beetles target sickly trees and severe infesta- tions can result in huge areas of “dead forest”. The government, he explained, was not trying to destroy the forest but protect it: “Poland is being accused of commercial logging, nothing could be more mistaken.” The bark beetle is menacing Białowieża — this much is true. But in this tiny trickle of truth, the Polish government has found a very convenient scapegoat for its environmental crimes. Such outbreaks are a natural ecological phenome- non, though their frequency has multiplied due to climate change. Foresters and conservation- ists are diametrically opposed on how to man- age the problem. For the former, the priority is to ensure a rapid return to “business as usual”; they log the affected trees and a belt of healthy trees surrounding them, supplemented with chem- ical treatments and replanting. While this can SEPTEMBER 2017 • BIRDLIFE Lesser Spotted Eagle Clanga pomarina. Photo Klaus Nigge 0 IN THE BARK BEETLE THE POLISH GOVERNMENT HAS FOUND A VERY CONVENIENT SCAPEGOAT But there is life after death. Conservationists argue that nature should be allowed to show its true power. Czechia has suffered several out- breaks since 1990, including a massive infesta- tion in Šumava Forest following Hurricane Kyrill in 2007. Here both active and passive manage- ment methods have been tried in different areas, and there is good evidence to support the eco- logical value of the latter. When left as dead- wood, the grey, “dead” forests remained healthy habitats for birds, insects and other wildlife. In due course, green shoots emerged, proving the forest’s natural ability to regenerate itself and become more resistant to future outbreaks. The unparalleled ecological value of Białowieża, should by rights determine a non-intervention- ist approach. For centuries, what ensured its unique richness were natural processes that had seen very little human intervention, particularly in comparison with other European forests. But the lure of profits has incited foul play. Crying wolf (or in this case “beetle”) as a pretext to increase logging is one of the oldest tricks in the book — foresters are felling magnificent old oaks and other varieties of tree that are not affected by bark beetle which targets spruce. Similarly, in neigh- bouring Slovakia, huge clear-cuts — supposedly to combat outbreaks — have devastated Slovak mountain forests over the last decade, leading to the disappearance of Western Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus from some mountains entirely. As the courtroom drama unfolds, another fierce stand-off is taking place in Białowieża itself. Pro- testors, camped out in the forest for weeks on end, are standing firm as the forest’s last line of defence. Wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “I ♥ Puszcza” (“I ♥ Forest”), they are blocking roads and disrupting the logging by literally putting their own bodies between the trees and the har- vesters. On a daily basis, they face harassment, fines, arrest and even physical violence — their bravery brings true meaning to the old expres- sion “to have a heart of oak”. In solidarity with Obóz dla Puszczy (the “Protectors of the For- est Camp”), the citizens’ movement platform WeMove.Eu launched the Defend the Forest campaign at the end of August. The campaign is supported by BirdLife and FERN and has already secured over 170,000 signatories. 53