Tag Archives: Carpathians

Longo mai organized a day dedicated to the forests: “We need the forest and the forest needs us”

On Sunday, 03.11., Longo mai had organised a theme day on forests which took place in Basel (Switzerland). The event focused mainly on the situation of forests in the Carpathians. The occasion was the support of the campaign “Free Svydovets” which is committed to the preservation of a near-natural forest in the Ukrainian Carpathians. Unfortunately, this valuable forest is threatened by construction plans for a planned ski resort.

Since Ukraine imposed an export ban on roundwood (unprocessed wood that has only been cut into sections) in 2015, many observers suspect that the exchange of timber on the Romanian-Ukrainian border has increased massively. There is much to suspect that roundwood is being smuggled from Ukraine to Romania for resale. In addition, roundwood is probably declared and exported as firewood in the Ukraine, but then, once outside Ukraine, sold as roundwood again (roundwood is much more expensive than firewood). The overexploitation of forests in the Carpathians, both in Romania and in Ukraine, threatens the last primeval and natural forests in Europe.

The clear cuts in Ukraine, however, are not only due to illegal timber trade; the ancient forests are also being logged for big tourist projects. For example, the Svydovets mountain massif, which is characterised by old and species-rich forests, is to be almost completely cleared and to be replaced by a gigantic ski resort. There, 28000 hotel beds, supermarkets and even an own aerodrm are plannd to be built. This is outraging idea is planned by the oligarch Igor Kolomoiski, who already owns a ski resort on the neighbouring mountain.

Svydovets includes the 3000ha beech forest area “Carpathian biosphere reserve Svydovets” protected by UNESCO, which is also a part of the transnational world natural heritage “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe”, which also includes a large part of the Romanian beech forests as well as small areas from Germany (e.g. Jasmund and Hainich National Park). Although the resort is planned to be a few metres away from the World Heritage Site (600m according to the activists at the event), it is very likely that the forest will still suffer from the ecological consequences of the construction and operation of the resort.

The mountain massif with its alpine pastures, natural lakes and old forests is home to 93 endangered (national red list) animal and plant species, including brown bear, lynx, capercaillie and Carpathian newt.

Free Svydovets has launched a petition that can be signed here: https://freesvydovets.org/en/

Additionally, the issue of the safety of foresters and activists also played an important role in the event. Forest conservationists and foresters in the Carpathians are under massive threat: In Romania, two foresters/rangers that have been combating illegal logging have been murdered in recent weeks. Unfortunately, these are not single cases: The Romanian Forest Union has registered 650 attacks and 6 murders of forest workers and rangers in the last five years. The Ukrainian activists* reported that the population of the surrounding villages in Svydovets are massively intimidated and therefore do not defend themselves against the large-scale project.

There is an urgent need for the governments of Ukraine and Romania to ensure and fully implement the laws on forest protection. Since Romania also disregards EU nature conservation law, the EU Commission also has an important role to play.

Because we need the forest and now the forest needs our help!

 

The event was organised by the Longo mai cooperative. Speeches were given by the author Ernst Zürcher (“The Trees and the Invisible”), the two representatives of the Free Svydovets campaigns Iris and Oreste del Sol as well as Dr. Lukas Straumann (Bruno-Manser Fonds) and two representatives of the Longo maï Cooperative Treynas in the French Massif Central, who are committed to sustainable forest management there.

Presentation of the Campaign “Free Svydovets” © Janinka Lutze
One presentation slide showing the location of Svydovets © Janinka Lutze
Many interested people at the event © Janinka Lutze
Information material on forests in Romania and Ukraine © Janinka Lutze

IUCN red list: Loss of old trees threatens wood-dependent beetles

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) raises the alarm: “Almost a fifth (18%) of European wood depending (saproxylic) beetles assessed so far are at risk of extinction due to ongoing decline in large veteran trees across Europe”.

Many of these unseen species are extremely rare today as a result of the management of Europe’s forests, which lead to younger, often planted and monotonous forests. The whole natural life cycle of European beech forests lasts more than 500 years, but managed forests are normally cut at an age of 80 – 130 years. This leads to a lack of old veteran trees and dead wood. Old-growth and primeval forests have been almost completely extinct in the EU. Only in the Carpathians (especially in Romania), the Dinaric Alps, the Balkans, in the Bialowieza region (Poland) and in northern Scandinavia larger remnants of wild forests have survived.

According to IUCN, saproxylic beetles depend on dead and decaying wood for at least part of their life cycle, and are involved in decomposition processes and the recycling of nutrients in natural ecosystems. “They also provide an important food source for birds and mammals, and some species are even involved in pollination,” it is explained in the report.

The new European Red List of Saproxylic Beetles by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assesses the conservation status of almost 700 species of saproxylic beetles. 80 European experts across Europe contributed to the project.

“Some beetle species require old trees that need hundreds of years to grow, so conservation efforts need to focus on long-term strategies to protect old trees across different landscapes in Europe, to ensure that the vital ecosystem services provided by these beetles continue,” Jane Smart, Director, IUCN Global Species Programme, says.
Here you can read the full IUCN press release.

However the reality in Europe today looks differently: Increasing demand for wood as raw material and as energy source increases the pressure also on highly valuable old-growth and primeval forest remains. The situation is particularly bad in Romania, where “virgin” and old-growth forests are being logged at a frightening pace, in front of the eyes of authorities and the Government. Read more about the situation in Romania: Facts about forest destruction.

The forest destruction in the Carpathians, in particular in Romania, has been raising concerns by both NGOs and scientists. Nature conservation foundation EuroNatur and the Romanian NGO AgentGreen call on the Romanian Government to take immediate action to enforce existing law and to halt devastation of national parks and EU Natura 2000 sites.

Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of EuroNatur, reacted shocked to recent reports about logging of old-growth forests in Romanian national parks: “It’s absolutely unacceptable that Europe’s last big primeval forests in Romania are being wiped out by state institutions. The incompetence of state-employed national park forest officials is unbearable: Old-growth forests with deadwood are not ‘sick’ and do not need chainsaws to ‘get light’.”

Gabriel Schwaderer calls on the European Commission to intervene, like in the case of Białowieża primeval forest in Poland. “In Romania, we are confronted with the worst nature conservation crisis in present-day Europe. If Europe continues to just stand aside and look, these forests will be largely lost very soon.”

Sign the petition to prevent the planned and irreparable degradation of the paradise forests!

Extremly rare saproxylic hermit beetle (Osmoderma eremita) in the centuries old forests of Romania’s Fagaras mountains (Boia Mica valley).

Europe’s last primary forests fall victim to logging

Not even protected areas are spared +++ Deforestation in Romanian Natura 2000 site uncovered +++ Urgent call for EU to intervene immediately

Press release, 23 February 2016

Radolfzell. “Right now, our continent’s last primeval forests are being cut down in Romania and nobody is intervening”, warns Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of international nature conservation foundation EuroNatur. Many of the European Union’s last old-growth beach forests that survived until now, are growing in Romania. But week after week thousands of these trees are being cut down, both legally and illegally, and exported or sold to large timber companies. At this moment, the Romanian environmental NGO Agent Green reports deforestations in the Ţarcu Mountains. Despite being a protected area and part of the European Network of nature conservation sites Natura 2000, entire mountainsides have already been denuded of trees. The remnant forests are to be cut down in the coming weeks.

EuroNatur calls on both the European Commission and the Government of Romania to intervene against this destruction of European natural heritage. “Old-growth beech forests are an outstanding part of our European natural heritage. It is our duty to preserve the last remnants both for future generations and as habitats for bears, wolves and lynxes”, says Gabriel Schwaderer. Europe’s last large-scale primeval beech forests grow in the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine, Slovakia, and Romania. In November 2015, 30 renowned experts from 12 European countries, including Germany, Austria, Ukraine, Italy, and Romania, gathered on the Isle of Vilm and agreed on a resolution on European Beech Forests. The resolution calls on governments to effectively protect old-growth European beech forest ecosystems. In particular, the Beech Forest Network calls for a general logging moratorium in these areas.

Background information:

  • Beech forest have been especially characterizing for European landscapes. The European beech is growing from lowland and montane areas of western and central Europe up to the tree limit area in southern and south-eastern Europe.
  • The transnational serial UNESCO World Heritage property “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” comprises 15 component parts in Germany, Slovakia and Ukraine amounting to 33,761 hectares. Link to the “Vilm resolution” of the Beech Forest Network of Europe of 19 November 2015.
Fagaras Natura 2000 Site, Romania - May 2016: Ancient forest and logging in the southern Carpathians.
Large scale logging in Fagaras Natura 2000 Site.