European experts call for a logging moratorium in European old-growth Beech Forests

Logging moratorium in European old-growth Beech Forests

From 15 to 19 of November 2015, 30 experts and stakeholders from 12 European countries[1], including the European Wilderness Society, who are dedicated to ecological research on and conservation of old and free-willed European Beech forest ecosystems, gathered on the Isle of Vilm and conducted an intensive workshop to exchange recent findings

These European experts call for a logging moratorium in European old-growth Beech Forests, especially in protected areas and state properties and agreed on the following resolution:

  1. The European Beech Forests represent a unique and unifying European natural heritage, stretching from the Mediterranean regions and southeastern Europe to the British Isles and Scandinavia, comprising vast areas in the Balkans and the Carpathians as well as in the northern European lowlands. The special history and ongoing ecological processes related to the expansion of beech forests after the Ice Ages is acknowledged by the establishment of a transnational serial UNESCO World Heritage property “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany”. Inscribed in 2007 and 2011 this site now comprises 15 component parts in Germany, Slovak Republic and Ukraine.

  2. We applaud the efforts of 11 countries currently striving for the extension of this World Heritage property and on having submitted a total of 64 component parts to the corresponding UNESCO tentative list, and we express our hope that the experts and the World Heritage Committee in charge of evaluating the proposal share and promote the enthusiasm of a growing group of people and nations dedicated to the conservation of primeval and old Beech Forests. The serial World Heritage property has the potential to develop into a unique Europe-wide instrument for effective conservation and for raising the awareness of  the value of primeval and old forests without any interventions.

  3. Taking into account all lessons learnt in the context of the management  of the existing World Heritage site and referring to a recent study on its management  as well as reports from the member countries, it is confirmed that the nomination can boost recognition and regional sustainable development. It also facilitates access to additional resources. But it is also acknowledged that the management of the property requires appropriate resources for the activities of working groups and coordinated action.

  4. A significant part of the workshop was dedicated to better understanding the vulnerability of Beech Forest Ecosystems across all 12 beech forest regions that have been identified. A preliminary inventory of ecosystemic stresses, the threats and the underlying causes shows a diverse panorama. In many regions (such as the so-called Pyrenaic-Iberic, Central Mediterranean, Alpic, Atlantic, Subatlantic-Hercynic, Baltic, and Polonic-Podolic-Moldovan regions) past forest degradation has led to  increased vulnerability to  current and future threats. Fragmentation, isolation, eutrophication as well as intensified harvesting are particularly problematic in a number of regions.

  5. In those regions that represent the centre of large and intact European Beech Forests (especially Carpathian, Illyric and Moesian-Balcanic regions) comprising large and highly  significant tracts of Wilderness the intensity and way of forest exploitation gives reasons for serious concerns. There are reports about substantial illegal logging activities in various countries such as Kosovo, Romania and Ukraine that also involve internationally operating companies from Western Europe. Especially in Romania the loss of ancient forests is at a  critical stage. We ask our governments and the European Commission to investigate these claims.

  6. We also urge the governments to avoid overexploitation and to ban inappropriate silvicultural practices such as clearcutting, large-scale shelterwood systems and coppicing, and support independent monitoring programs on the  impacts of silviculture on forest ecosystem functioning using old-growth forests as a benchmark.

  7. Experts from various regions observed that climate change is aggravating the vulnerability of multiply stressed forest ecosystems. Old-growth forests are suggested to be more resilient and characteristically better able to  provide buffer  and regulating capacities as a result of complex  feedback processes and high levels of mutualism. They also represent a significant ‘knowledge bank’ of tested genotypes and phenotypes from which forestry could benefit. More research is needed on this topic.

  8. The old-growth forests constitute a significant component of Europe’s Green Infrastructure. The conservation and restoration of old-growth Beech Forests promote ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change and provide stepping stones for shifting species. At the same time old-growth forests provide crucial ecosystem services such as climate change mitigation and carbon sequestration by permanently storing organic matter in the soil for thousands of years. The destruction of old-growth forests is a significant source of man-induced carbon emissions.

  9. The current protected area systems in Europe are insufficiently protecting the remaining stock of old-growth Beech Forests and focusing too heavily on a few iconic well-known sites. The effectiveness of protected areas harboring old-growth Beech Forests needs to be improved and standardized in Europe as well as controlled by an independent regular auditing process.</span>

  10. We call for a logging moratorium in European old-growth Beech Forests, especially in protected areas and state properties. Old-growth forests must be categorically excluded from biomass provision, e.g. in the context of renewable energy production. We also identify the urgent need to enhance public awareness about the relevance of old-growth forests.   Isle of Vilm, 19 November 2015

Vilm Resolution European Beech Forest Network_Nov_15

  • Dr. Oliver Avramoski, IUCN Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia
  • Katrin Bärwald, Nationalparkamt Vorpommern, Germany
  • Yuriy Berkela, Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, Ukraine
  • Dr. Iovu-Adrian Biris, National Research and Development Institute for Forestry, Romania
  • Dr. Alfredo Di Filippo, Università della Tuscia, Italy
  • Susann Flade, Nationalpark-Zentrum Königsstuhl, Germany
  • Marian Gic, State Nature Conservancy of Slovak Republic – Poloniny National Park
  • Dr. Nikolaos Grigoriadis, Forest Research Institute of Thessaloniki, Greece
  • Anni Henning, European Wilderness Society, Austria
  • Dr. Peter Hobson, Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management, Writtle College, United Kingdom
  • Prof. Dr. Pierre Ibisch, Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management, Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Germany
  • Kemajl Kadriu, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development, Kosovo
  • Nexhmije Kamberi, Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, Kosovo
  • Prof. Dr. Hans-Dieter Knapp, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, KI II, Germany
  • DI Anna Kovarovics, E.C.O. Institute of Ecology, Austria
  • Peter Lehmann, Nationalpark-Zentrum Königsstuhl, Germany
  • Michaela Mrazova, State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic Headquarters
  • Prof. Dr. Gianluca Piovesan, University of Tuscia, Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Forest, Italy
  • Dr. Vasyl Pokynchereda, Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, Ukraine
  • Dr. Assoc. Prof. Bohdan Prots, WWF Danube Carpathian Programme, Ukraine
  • Max A E Rossberg, MMS, European Wilderness Society, Chairman, Austria
  • Matthias Schickhofer, Agent Green Romania (Strategic Advisor, Austria)
  • Oscar Schwendtner, Bioma Forestal, Spain
  • PhD Olena Slobodian, Gorgany Nature Reserve, Ukraine
  • Dr. Tibor Standovár, Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary
  • Lena Strixner, Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management, Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Germany
  • Frederik Vaes, Environment Brussels, Belgium
  • Dr. Daniel-Ond Turcu, National Research and Development Institute for Forestry, Romania
  • Marcus Waldherr, Centre for Econics & Ecosystem Management, Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Germany
  • PD Dr. Susanne Winter, Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Germany

The workshop was funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and organised by the Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management, Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development and Writtle College. The participants work with ministries and other governmental institutions, academia as well as non-governmental organisations (Agent Green, European Wilderness Society, IUCN ECARO, WWF Ukraine).

[3]Concerning the Joint Management System of the property as well as the management teams of the component parts.

[4] Conducted by the Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management at Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, for the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.

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Join more 100+ forest experts demanding a radical change in German forestry management.

Sign the Open Letter to the German Federal Minister of Forestry and Agriculture

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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