I’ve just added my signature to a campaign to save the Šumava Forest - mounted by the Czech Society for Ornithology (CSO/BirdLife Czechia) - our BirdLife partner in the Czech Republic. Here’s the link if you want to go there first (but do come back).
I haven’t been to the Šumava Forest itself, but I have seen it. On a trip to Bavaria with my father – we spent several days in the Bayerischer Wald National Park surrounded by the spruce forests and walking some of the mountains. From one of these, we looked across a landscape separated by a very substantial fence; a stark reminder we were in West Germany and over there was Czechoslovakia.
That was in 1976, and since then so much has changed. The history of nations is not usually the subject of this blog – but today all of the Bohemian Forest of which the Bayerischer Wald and the Šumava Forests are part is within the European Union. But there is another profound change that has swept the forest, caused not by the ebb and flow of European politics but by a tiny beetle. Large parts of the forest have been affected by spruce bark beetle – their attentions will kill the trees as they burrow and feed. Spruce bark beetles have changed the landscape and have done so only over a couple of decades.
The Šumava Mountains host a considerable area of virgin and secondary spruce forest which is home to some exciting wildlife including Tengmalm’s owls, three-toed woodpeckers and capercaillies. It’s designated as a national park, a Special Protection Area (SPA), and is one of the best wilderness areas in Central Europe.
A stream in the pristine forest - photo credit CSO
Outbreaks of these beetles are a natural part of the forest ecosystem, and over time, young trees will replace those killed by the beetles. Our colleagues at CSO have built a compelling case showing clearly that leaving core parts of the forest alone to regenerate naturally without intervention is beneficial to the target species (those three-toed woodpeckers and capercaillies for example).
However, instead of allowing natural regeneration to occur, the National Park Authority is using the infestation as an excuse to open up the affected areas to commercial logging. This activity will damage large areas of forest, but in addition, it risks opening up parts of the National Park to other commercial interests in the future.
Logging - photo credit CSO
Zdenek Vermouzek, CSO’s Director said ‘The National Park Authority and the national government have ignored their international obligations to ensure that no activities impact on the special birds that make Šumava their home. The authorities need to stop the logging immediately and do a proper assessment of what the best management action (if any) is required to ensure that the integrity of the forest is maintained’.
So – do please help by writing to the Czech Prime Minister and here’s the link again.
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