International Research in Uholka-Shyrokyy Luh Wilderness

Since September 26-29, 2017 Uholka-Shyrokyy Luh Wilderness has been a member of the European Wilderness Network. The size of Uholka-Shyrokyy Luh Wilderness zone is identical with the size of WILDForest and the area also includes 3 WILDRivers – the upper watersheds of Mala Uholka River (7 km), Velyka Uholka River (8 km) and Shyrokyy Luh River (9 km).

It is a motivation for many other existing and potential Wilderness and WILDForest and WILDRivers throughout Europe.

Uholka Sirokyy Luh Wilderness Exchange Programme - © All rights reserved
Uholka Sirokyy Luh Wilderness – © All rights reserved

In Uholka-Shyrokyy Luh Wilderness the Largest Primeval Beech Forest in Europe is protected! This area is also subject to systematic international research. In recent years the Swiss-Ukrainian Scientific Adventure in the Carpathian Mountains is one of the most important international research fields in this newly audited Wilderness.

“The endless horizons, unspoilt nature, clear streams and the beech trees standing guard over the breath­ taking natural world were well complemented by the warmth and friendship that the Ukrainians emanated. Perhaps it is the philosophy of life – ‘everything in due course’ – that has allowed the forests to last so long.”

Daniel Oertig

This is a quote of Daniel Oertig, student to the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, Switzerland attending this research. Lets get a little taste of this area as described in their document:

European forests have been used and altered by humans for thousands of years, with the most rapid changes occurring during the Middle Ages. The expansion of human settlements not only led to the forest area diminishing fast, but also to more intensive use of the remaining forest. Wood continued to be the main resource for heating, energy and construction far into the 19th  century, and the increasing demand was met by exploiting and clear-cutting forests even in remote areas. Forests were also used for grazing, leaves were cut as fodder and litter was collected as bedding for livestock and humans.

Only scattered relicts of primeval forest, also known as virgin or primary forest, have survived in mountainous areas, mainly in the geographic regions of the Carpathians, the Balkans and the Alps. These virgin forest relicts have a high value for biodiversity conservation, but they are also unique objects for ecological and forest research as they provide unique opportunities for studying the complex natural structures, processes and ecosystem functions of forests undisturbed by man.

The value of such old-growth forests was already recognized in the 19th century, when the first forest reserves were established in Poland and the Czech Republic. Since then, most European countries have protected and set aside near-natural forests as reserves where old-growth structures can, in the long run, develop again. It may take centuries, however, before such formerly man-aged forests become like virgin forests again and provide the same kind of ecosystem functions as the long-lost primeval forests.

Beech forests would, without human intervention, cover large parts of the temporal zone in Europe as climax vegetation. The beech (Fagus sylvatica) is one of the most successful tree species in post-glacial vegetation history, with a distribution ranging from the mountains of the Mediterranean region in the South to southern Scandinavia in the North, from the Atlantic Ocean in the West to the eastern foothills of the Carpathians and the Crimean peninsula in the East. Beech could potentially dominate most of the natural forest types within this extensive range, from sea-level to the lowlands and up to the montane belt, where the temperate climate suits them. In some areas it might even reach as far as the upper forest line. The proportion of beech forests in the current forest cover of Europe has, however, been dramatically reduced through millennia of land use. Untouched, old-growth beech forests mostly remain only in small patches in a very few inaccessible areas or sites where the historical circumstances are in some way special.

Daniel is a member of a Swiss-Ukrainian Scientific Adventure which already resulted with remarkable publication: Inventory of the Largest Primeval Beech Forest in Europe. This document is describing  this corner of the Carpathian and systematic work of international group of scientists.

Stay up to date and subscribe to our Newsletter!

You May Also Like

Please Leave a Comment

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.


**your signature**

Share this with your friends:

%d bloggers like this: