European Beech Forest Network Resolution on Beech Forest World Heritage and Old Growth Forests

From 12-15 October 2017, 33 experts representing 12 European countries including the European Wilderness Society convened on the Isle of Vilm, in the Baltic Sea, to further develop the European Beech Forest Network.

The European Beech Forest Network is non-profit and non-governmental registered association and has the goal to build and grow a platform of interested parties to develop and share knowledge and experience with the expressed intention of influencing policy, management and overall protection and practice of the European beech forest ecosystem – with a special emphasis on old-growth forests in wild and Wilderness areas. So far, the European Beech Forest Network supports 126 protected valuable beech forests from 25 countries.

Please also read: 1st General Assembly of European Beech Forest Network

“Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe (Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Germany, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Ukraine)”

At the meeting on Vilm the members of the association discussed among many other important items the extraordinary challenges of the management of the extended serial World Heritage property, which – with 78 component parts in 45 protected areas in 12 countries – is the most complex and ambitious in the UNESCO portfolio, requires extraordinary efforts. The experts also expressed their serious concerns that the observed problems of unsustainable logging and forest degradation in the Carpathians, where the largest old-growth beech forest remnants are located, seem to have accelerated and aggravated in the last year and concluded that there must be a concerted pan-European effort to safeguard the last old-growth beech forest ecosystems in times of rapidly growing global demands for timber and tree biomass. Several experts also highlighted the typical insufficient capacities in many protected areas needed for effectively meeting the management obligations arising from the World Heritage Convention.

Called for the establishment of national or regional education centers and fostering relevant research and stressed the importance of empowering and integrating civil society in forest ecosystem management and conservation.

Joint declaration concerning the challenges of World Heritage Committee decision 41 COM 8b.7

All participants also underlined the risk of the World Heritage property being put to the red list if the requests expressed in the World Heritage Committee decision 41 COM 8b.7 are not decisively addressed by the States Parties in a timely manner and therefore demanded that the States Parties to the serial World Heritage property must establish a permanent and effective secretariat as mechanism for its integrated management as well as to ensure long-term sustainable financing.

The European Beech Forest Network Vilm Resolution from October 2017 was undersigned by:

  • Sergey Aleksandrov, Central Balkan National Park Directorate, Bulgaria
  • Daniela Aschenbrenner, HNE Eberswalde, Germany
  • Yuriy Berkela, Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, Ukraine
  • Dr. Iovu-Adrian Biris, University of Agronomic Sciences and Vertinary Medicine of Bucharest (USAM), Romania
  • Alexandru Ciutea, Greenpeace, Romania
  • Dr. Alfredo di Filippo, Università della Tuscia, Italy
  • Rumyana Ficheva, Central Balkan National Park, Bulgaria
  • Dr. Martin Flade, Landesamt für Umwel Brandenburg, Abt GR, Germany
  • Dr. Fedir Hamor, Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, Ukraine
  • Dr. Mihail Hanzu, Romanian National Institute for Research and Development in Silviculture „Marin Dracea” INCDS, Romania
  • Anni Henning, European Wilderness Society, Austria
  • Prof. Dr. Peter Hobson, Writtle University College, Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management, United Kingdom
  • Prof. Dr. Pierre Ibisch, HNE Eberswalde, Germany
  • Kemajl Kadriu, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development, Kosovo
  • Nexhmije Kamberi, Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, Kosovo
  • Freya Kathmann, HNE Eberswalde, Germany; Greenpeace
  • Dr. Hanns Kirchmeir, E.C.O. Institute for Ecology, Austria
  • Prof. Dr. Hans D. Knapp, European Beech Forest Network e.V., Germany
  • Dr. Lars Opgenoorth, Phillips-University Marburg, Germany
  • Dr. Vasyl Pokynchereda, Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, Ukraine
  • Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bohdan Prots, WWF Danube Carpathian Programme, National Academy of Sciences, Ukraine
  • MMS Max A E Rossberg, European Wilderness Society, Austria
  • Matthias Schickhofer, EuroNatur, Austria
  • Oscar Schwendtner, Bioma Forestal, Spain
  • Dr. Olena Slobodian, Carpathian National Nature Park and Gorgany Nature Reserve, Ukraine
  • Dr. Tibor Standovár, Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary
  • Lena Strixner, HNE Eberswalde, Germany
  • Kris Vandekerkhove, Research Institute for Nature and Forests (INBO), Belgium
  • Marcus Waldherr, HNE Eberswalde, Germany
  • Dr. Jesper Witzell, Söderåsen National Park, Sweden

European Beech Forest Network Vilm Resolution on Old Growth Forests and World Heritage

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Sign the Petition for resilient forests


90 signatures

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.


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