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Forests and biodiversity in Poland
November 29, 2018, 3:31 pm
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Poland is home to forest areas spanning 9.2 million ha, or 29.5% of forest cover. From 2012 until 2016, average forest resources in Poland, which are much higher than the pan-European average estimated at 163 cc/ha, stood at 269 cc/ha (including land relevant to silviculture). Poland is one of the leaders in the region in terms of implementing sustainable and multifunctional forest management. Forests are a vital and ever-growing natural resource in Poland.

Foresters plant approx. 500 million trees annually, a figure that corresponds to the size of the EU population. Polish forests hold FSC and PEFC certificates, a testament to sustainable forest management. The volume of timber harvested in Poland has doubled since 1990 to 39 million cubic metres, which has not compromised the country’s forest resources, as reflected by their steady growth. Forests provide vital ecosystem services, and most of them benefit from protection in Poland - Natura 2000 sites account for 38% of the area of State Forests. Nevertheless, we continue to undertake measures to do more in this respect.

Forests and climate

In 2017, State Forests launched the Carbon Forests project, which strives to introduce additional measures that have a positive impact on the carbon balance in the forest ecosystem, provided that in given circumstances, such measures go beyond the standards of sustainable forest management pursued in Poland. In reality, it means undertaking measures to increase the country’s forest area (afforestation potential is reflected by the size of nearly 2 million ha of low-quality soil that fails to guarantee agricultural production profitability) as well as introducing tier-2 approach, and fast-growing species, and underplantings, as well as promoting natural renewals, which eventually should lead to an increase in the volume of biomass accumulated in forest ecosystems.

The objective of the project is to increase CO2 absorption by forests as a result of additional forestry initiatives. These goals will also be pursued through another initiative launched by State Forests to promote timber houses demonstrating unique carbon storage capabilities.
Assertions:

• Forests are not only a significant repository of carbon, but also demonstrate major mitigation potential, which may be increased through the implementation of additional measures in the forest sector. Such activities are also contributing to an increase in biodiversity.
• Poland is implementing the Forest Carbon Farms project based on additional activities related to the goal of sustainable forest management. These activities will lead to an increase in carbon dioxide absorption.

Forests and biodiversity

The most common tree species in Polish forests include pine, spruce, fir, oak, beech, hornbeam, birch, alder and aspen. Protected forests account for 53.2% of the total forested area in Poland. Projects funded by the EU and from the national budget are implemented in Polish forests to protect biodiversity. Examples of such initiatives include projects to protect the European bison (Bison bonasus), the wood grouse (Tetrao urogallus), the black grouse (Tetrao tetrix) the lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina), and the osprey (Pandion haliaetus), the development of small water retention reservoirs in lowland and mountain forests, protection of wetlands as well as the development of small-scale tourism infrastructure in protected areas whose key role is to divert recreational pressure from the most valuable species and sites in a given area.

In order to boost the effective management of forest areas that demonstrate high species diversity, including Natura 2000 sites, State Forests introduced periodical counts of species of plants, animals and other living organisms. Implementation of a major environmental inventory project within the premises of Białowieża Forest and the Regional Directorate of State Forests in Krosno commenced in 2016.

Management principles that embrace the goals of universal nature conservation, reinforcement of the habitat-forming functions of the forest, sustainable use of forest resources, economic stability of forest management and socialisation of forest management as a public good are mainly developed within the premises of Promotional Forest Complexes (PFC), established in Poland since 1994. PFCs are large, compact areas of forest being a part of one or several forest districts. Created all across the country, they showcase the variability of conditions in habitats, the diverse composition of forest species and the multitude of its functions. PFCs are also a vehicle for promoting sustainable forest management, supporting scientific research and educating the wider public about the forest.

Assertions:
• Forests provide vital ecosystem services and most benefit from protection in Poland - Natura 2000 sites account for 38% of the area of State Forests. Projects funded by the EU and from the national budget are implemented in Polish forests to protect biodiversity.
• In addition, forest management plans contain nature conservation schemes that set guidelines for protection-related measures and methods for their implementation.

The European cooperation network INTEGRATE

In March 2018, Poland assumed leadership of the European cooperation network INTEGRATE, established to promote the integration of nature conservation with sustainable forest management. The European network INTEGRATE is a vital initiative undertaken as part of implementation of the New EU Forestry Strategy. Actions undertaken by Poland during its presidency of the INTEGRATE network are focused on challenges relating to communicating and showcasing the potential of this approach to policy-makers, administration, practitioners and researchers. In addition, Poland strives to reinforce cooperation on a European level by exchanging knowledge and practices between different countries. A seminar dedicated to exchanging experiences on the impacts of the European spruce bark beetle was held in Białowieża from 25 to 27 June 2018. It was an expert level meeting.

Assertions:
• Since March 2018, Poland has assumed the presidency in the European cooperation network INTEGRATE, established to promote the integration of nature conservation with sustainable forest management.

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