Preservation of a natural and historical heritage as a basis for sustainable development: A multidisciplinary analysis of the situation in Białowieża Primeval Forest, Poland

Andrzej Bobiec
Tytuł czasopisma
Tytuł tomu
It has been shown that development and management cannot be considered sustainable unless the scarcest natural resources, including the remaining natural forests, are preserved. Sustainable forestry should exclude silvicultural intervention in remnants of old-growth forests for the sake of a “multiple function” paradigm. Sustainability of forestry policy does not exclude any particular techniques or tools if appropriately applied with regard to the spatial scale and specific situation of an ecosystem. It should embrace both large protected areas, small key habitats, as well as a wide range of multiple-use forests where silvicultural techniques, including agroforestry, can be applied if justifiable. The preservation of natural ecosystems and restoration management should be internationally recognized as basic criterions of sustainable development. They are responsible for biodiversity protection, basic and applied knowledge of natural processes, and the quality of human life. The Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF), Poland, is a training ground where multiple of management and preservation reveal their acute forms, providing an exceptional study case. Conflicting concepts of forest management and preservation of natural processes are reflected in the entire natural and cultural complex. Future BPF management should embrace all aspects of the area: ecological, social, historical and economical. Therefore, it should refer to the ancient tradition of forest protection which involved the participation of local people, and led to an intricate but resilient entity. For this purpose, adjustment of institutions to the character of the area is necessary. Both financial and political support will be critical to successfully preserve the BPF and restore positive human attitudes. The vision presented in this report refers to the state-of-the art conservation concept known as “Parks-for-Life”. It also adopts the experience of US national parks that have secured the preservation of their natural processes in protected areas and contributed largely to their local, regional and national economies. The analysis presented in the report has led to the following conclusions: 1. Monetary evaluation of natural areas does not cover most of intrinsic values and their importance to humanity. Therefore, it cannot be regarded as an ample approach to support conservation needs. 2. The preservation of natural forest remnants in order to secure perpetuity of natural processes, such as the role of natural disturbances, is indispensable to the sustainable development of human societies. 3. Multipurpose forestry should be considered at an appropriate spatial scale, and involve wide spectrum of forestry practices and conservation regimes. Ecologically sustainable forestry on a wide scale does not exclude intensive short rotation management in certain areas. That is, if it does not compromise preservation of natural and semi-natural ecosystems, and does not lead to depletion of biodiversity and site productivity. 4. The Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF), in northeastern Poland, covers the last tracks of natural deciduous forests in the Northern Hemisphere, representing the temperate climatic zone. Inappropriate institutional and management applications have deteriorated the ecological state of the forest, and undermined its unique developmental potential for local communities. In particular, the misconceived “multipurpose forestry”, applied at the micro scale level of the ecosystem, has been responsible for the irreversible loss of old-growth forests and their specific biodiversity. Thus, the European conservation legislature appears to be inadequate in providing conservation assistance to the BPF. This is for lack of a European “wilderness act”, which would enable the best preserved natural forests to be kept “wild forever”. 5. The BPF’s ecosystem requires a uniformed approach to its management, with priority placed on preservation of its natural processes. The concept of “Parks for Life”, involving various protection zones, promoting development of sustainable tourism and referring to the rich traditions and history of the region, is the most recommendable way to manage the BPF. The Białowieża National Park should be considered as paramount to the social, economical, and ecological systems of the area. Economic mechanisms involving the international community, and institutional approaches could secure the participation of local people in the decision making process. Successful multi-party agencies in the USA, involved in the management of protected areas, could be adequate models for BPF. 6. The BPF should be better explored as an international training center for conservation, restoration, and rural development. The theoretical and scientific status of this area should be accompanied by a model natural forest status, recognized worldwide by forestry and conservation authorities. 7. Necessary institutional changes (i.e. extension of the national park onto the entire Polish BPF, establishment of the Białowieża Forest Agency) should be supported by the whole EU community. In particular, sound financial mechanisms (such as a “European natural forest supply price” and “the Białowieża endowment fund”) should be implemented to support adequate preservation measures and sustainable local development. 8. Simultaneously, a program for revitalizing local communities, by referring to their rich and diverse traditions and history should be developed.
Słowa kluczowe
Bobiec A. 2003. Preservation of a natural and historical heritage as a basis for sustainable development: A multidisciplinary analysis of the situation in Bialowieza Primeval Forest, Poland. Bialowieza Forest Insitute, Bialowieza-Syracuse-Narewka.