We would like to suggest finding out about the Bialowieza Forest in order to discover its true nature. We would also like to talk about its beautiful and rich history. The internal nature inventory results will be of help here. The first ever study of the natural and cultural environment done on such a large scale of the unique forest.
We may say with all certainty that the Bialowieza Forest has been inhabited and exploited by man since prehistoric times. As we can see, this did not harm nature. If today many people imagine the Bialowieza Forest to be a virgin forest, untouched by humans, we may only say it is thanks to the people who have so successfully managed it through the centuries. Thanks to their work, concern for the Forest and wise exploitation of its resources, together with appropriate laws, the forestry and hunting state organizations the area’s unique assets have been preserved so that we may be proud of them to this day.
However, we live in an era of threats. One of them is accepting unconditionally the idea of passive protection, or the protection of ecological processes, which may lead to the dying of forests, as is the case with Bialowieza Forest. The spruce bark beetle, which has spread excessively kills not only individual trees, but also whole patches of the Forest. Other problems add to the problem such as drought or flooding of areas where the Forest died out. The Forest is perishing, and with it the habitats of many species, including the ones protected under the Bird and Habitat Directive in the Natura 2000 network.
In the past foresters who managed this area dealt effectively with crisis situations by preventing them from taking place. Monitoring the sanitary condition of the forest was a well-established practice, and populations of the harmful insect were kept at a suitably low level.
Today we can and we want to monitor the entire spectrum of living organisms of the Forest.
We set up 1400 research areas spread out in a tight network. Our best specialists described all the elements of the natural environment, including the carbon accumulated in the ecosystems (in the undergrowth and soil). Animals were researched in detail – especially insects, birds, reptiles and amphibians, as well as bats – more than 1500 species. We gained extensive knowledge on the natural environment of the Forest.
Archeological research with the aid of state-of-the-art tools was carried out. Satellite photos and lidar scans were made. The collected material revealed the existence of regular linear structures while onsite archeological studies proved them to be intentionally arranged stones, which could have served as boundaries between fields.
The research is a starting point. It is a base on which we shall construct a system that will make it possible for all those interested to track and comment changes taking place in the ecosystems of the Bialowieza Forest.
When we look at this area from the air we see a compact forest area with some midforestclearings and the division into the National Park (indicated by orange on the map), three State Forest Districts within the green boundaries and reference areas – located in the south and north part of the Forest (orange diagonal lines).
We see a tight network of monitored areas, where the research was carried out. Each of the 1400 points is an area of 400m squared, indicated by circles having a radius of 11.28 m. Each of these points will be available for observation, it will be possible to find out the species inhabiting that particular area, as well as compare various parts of the forest and personally assess how human activity, or its absence impacts the ecosystem of the Forest. Pictures and films will be available. Everyone will be able to comment on what they see. This will be a social action on a global scale. An invitation to the real world of the Bialowieza Forest by means of a virtual tool.
A couple of interesting conclusions may be drawn even today
The amount of wood from dead trees – the so called deadwood (expressed in cubic meters per hectare), which is an indicator of biological diversity is very large. This was found to be the case in national parks, nature reserves and state forests. In the entire Forest it is more than 3.8 million cubic meters. The map depicts the special location of deadwood in the Bialowieza Forest. However, the stage of decay of the wood differs. Red indicates wood in an advanced state of decay, green indicates deadwood that has not decayed yet.
Deadwood is the living environment of subcortical species protected under the Habitats Directive, such as Cucujus cinnaberinus, Cucujus haematodes, Boros Schneideri. The research carried out helped to determine their population and habitats.
The indicator of the average biomass of ground beetle clusters helps to determine soil quality and find out disturbances in forest biocenosis. A detailed study on the subject contains a list of 109 species retained in 634 areas. In course of the study a total of over 94 thousand individuals.
Expansive plant species with various intensity live in the entire Bialowieza Forest (large circles show a coverage degree of over 75% of the area).
This is not at all surprising when you know that the Bialowieza Forest was inhabited by humans in prehistoric times, and man is present there to this day.
What is the future of the Bialowieza Forest?
We shall see how the story unfolds. We will use objective scientific methods and the best specialists in natural environment science. The area left untouched without any activity (1/3 of the area managed by State Forests) will be compared with areas that are managed in accordance with the principles of sustainable development.
The internet application that we are planning to develop will let everyone observe the changes taking place personally. The whole world will be able to make use of the knowledge that we will make available and find out for themselves in what way the centuries old heritage of mankind helped preserve this magnificent forest – the Bialowieza Forest. We encourage everyone to be a part of this fascinating scientific adventure.