Primeval for­est is an in­spi­ra­tional won­der

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

REG­U­LAR read­ers may re­mem­ber my trip into the depths of the Bialowieza (Be­owlaveeska) Re­serve in Poland, the last great de­cid­u­ous for­est in Europe.

It’s 2,000 years in the mak­ing and strictly pro­tected from the hand of man. Even the Nazis dur­ing the Se­cond World War en­sured that the Euro­pean Bi­son were left alone, and they ac­tu­ally shot a few of their own sol­diers for poach­ing this mag­nif­i­cent crea­ture.

Of course, as you may imag­ine, it was a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, and some of my con­tacts told me that Her­mann Go­er­ing, a big fan of hunt­ing, was known to have shot a large bull bi­son for his tro­phy wall.

To be alone in the for­est, thou­sands of acres of it, and the same again over the bor­der into Be­larus, was a truly in­spir­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and I was sad­dened to hear that the Pol­ish govern­ment are hint­ing that they wish to au­tho­rise the felling of some of the trees. The whole point of Bialowieza, it’s unique­ness, is that it is left alone, and when trees fall down, un­less they fall across a forestry road, they are left in situ and na­ture takes over.

It is es­ti­mated that there are as many fallen trees in var­i­ous states of de­cay, teem­ing with thou­sands of species of wildlife, as there are healthy trees; it is in­deed a mag­i­cal place.

I saw black wood­peck­ers hit­ting some of the dead trees like jack-ham­mers, tim­ber fly­ing ev­ery­where as they searched for grubs; mar­velled at wolf tracks in the snow; pho­tographed pa­rades of red deer as they made their way across open ground and, best of all, came face to face with the bi­son.

Some of my friends in the area have re­cently taken part in protests against the pro­posed tree-felling, some­thing I may have joined my­self if the flights had been con­ve­nient.

The For­est is a Unesco World Her­itage Site. World Her­itage Sites are cul­tural and/or nat­u­ral sites con­sid­ered to be of out­stand­ing uni­ver­sal value – places or build­ings which are con­sid­ered to have spe­cial im­por­tance for ev­ery­one.

They are thought to rep­re­sent the most sig­nif­i­cant, unique or best ex­am­ples of the world’s cul­tural and/or nat­u­ral her­itage. Be­cause of this they have been in­scribed on the World Her­itage List by the World Her­itage Com­mit­tee.

Once a coun­try signs the Con­ven­tion, and has sites in­scribed on the World Her­itage List, the re­sult­ing pres­tige of­ten helps raise aware­ness among cit­i­zens and gov­ern­ments for her­itage preser­va­tion. Greater aware­ness leads to a gen­eral rise in the level of the pro­tec­tion and con­ser­va­tion given to her­itage prop­er­ties.

A coun­try may also re­ceive fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance and ex­pert ad­vice from the World Her­itage Com­mit­tee to sup­port ac­tiv­i­ties for the preser­va­tion of its sites. To­day, 191 coun­tries (called States Par­ties) have rat­i­fied the Con­ven­tion, mak­ing it an al­most uni­ver­sally ac­cepted set of prin­ci­ples and frame­work of ac­tion.

The fol­low­ing is how Unesco de­scribe the area: A com­plex of low­land forests that are char­ac­ter­is­tics of the Cen­tral Euro­pean mixed forests ter­res­trial ecore­gion. The area has ex­cep­tional con­ser­va­tion sig­nif­i­cance due to the scale of its old growth forests, which in­clude ex­ten­sive undis­turbed ar­eas where nat­u­ral pro­cesses are on-go­ing.

A con­se­quence is the rich­ness in dead wood, stand­ing and on the ground, and con­se­quently a high di­ver­sity of fungi and saprox­ylic in­ver­te­brates.

Fifty nine mam­mal species, over 250 bird, 13 am­phib­ian, seven rep­tile and over 12,000 in­ver­te­brate species.

The iconic sym­bol of the prop­erty is the Euro­pean Bi­son: ap­prox­i­mately 900 in­di­vid­u­als in the whole prop­erty which make al­most 25 per cent of the to­tal world’s pop­u­la­tion and over 30 per cent of free-liv­ing an­i­mals.

Bialowieza For­est con­serves a di­verse com­plex of pro­tected for­est ecosys­tems and a range of as­so­ci­ated non-for­est habi­tats, in­clud­ing wet mead­ows, river val­leys and other wetlands.

The large and in­te­gral for­est area sup­ports com­plete food webs in­clud­ing vi­able pop­u­la­tions of large mam­mals and large car­ni­vores (wolf, lynx and ot­ter) amongst oth­ers.

The Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

●● Red deer at Bialowieza For­est, Poland

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