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Logging a threat to Europe's last primeval forest: activists

The vast Bialowieza forest, which covers some 140,000 hectares (345,000 acres) and spans the Polish-Belarussian border, is the final remnant of a massive woodland that covered Europe after the last Ice Age, which ended about 10,000 years ago.
by Staff Writers
Warsaw (AFP) Aug 4, 2010
Polish environmentalists on Wednesday warned deforestation was threatening flora and fauna in Europe's last first-growth woodland and said they had complained to the EU over logging practices.

"The current way of harvesting wood from the Bialowieza forest completely contradicts European Union requirements, particularly with regard to its Bird and Habitats directives," activist Krzysztof Okrasinski said, quoted by the Polish PAP news agency.

Activists insist logging is limiting habitat of certain rare birds.

A Polish forestry official however denied any logging for commercial purposes in Bialowieza, saying that only diseased or infested trees were being felled.

"Any lumber we get is from trees felled for ecological and protective reasons," Anna Malinowska, spokeswoman for Poland's state forestry board, said adding that without selective logging, infestations had spread on the Belarussian side of the woodland.

The vast Bialowieza forest, which covers some 140,000 hectares (345,000 acres) and spans the Polish-Belarussian border, is the final remnant of a massive woodland that covered Europe after the last Ice Age, which ended about 10,000 years ago.

About 800 European bison live there freely, with some 400 living on the Polish side. It is also home to rare bird species and lynx.

earlier related report
Research finds 'waves' of deforestation
London (UPI) Aug 3, 2010 - European scientists studying tropical forest deforestation around the world say it happens in "waves," with highest-value timber being removed in a first wave.

An international team of researchers says economics drives each succeeding wave, with high-value trees being in the first "wave," followed by a wave that removed mid-value timber before the remaining wood was felled for charcoal, the BBC reported Monday.

"This translates to a prediction that waves of forest degradation will emanate from major demand centers and expand into nearby forested areas, targeting resources in sequence, starting with those of highest value," a study printed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said.

The team says the deforestation model could help manage forests as vital carbon sinks and limit the loss of biodiversity.

The team used data collected around Tanzania's largest city, Dar es Salaam, to see how far the degradation "waves" traveled between 1991 and 2005.

"The first wave that emanates is high-value timber, and that is mostly used for export," Antje Ahrends of the Royal Botanical Garden, Edinburgh, said. "There has been a massive demand for this in China, and this is where most of the timber ends up."

The second wave saw medium-valued timber trees being felled, generally used in the city for construction and furniture.

"This is expanding very rapidly, in line with urban migration," she said. "The town has an average growth rate of about 7 percent each year, so there is -- again -- a rapidly growing demand for this material."

The third and final wave involved local people collecting wood to make charcoal for cooking.

"It's the most destructive of all of the waves because charcoal burners would collect everything," Ahrends said.

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Russian highway protestors target French company
Moscow (AFP) Aug 3, 2010
Russians demonstrated outside Moscow's French cultural centre on Tuesday to protest against the construction of a highway through a forest that is being part-financed by a French company. "Napoleon burnt Moscow but he has not felled the trees," one banner said, brandished by some 20 people gathered in front of the centre to protest the project that is set to destroy part of Khimki forest. ... read more

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