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    The Wind in the Forest: Destructive Force or Foresters’ Ally

    The element of wind remains a subject that lacks comprehensive understanding, often surprising meteorologists with unexpected phenomena. Its multifaceted nature encompasses both positive and devastating impacts on nature, making it a significant player among all climatic factors.

    In our country, the frequency of sudden events accompanied by strong gusts of wind is on the rise, leading to extensive damage to forests. Unfortunately, these incidents are expected to recur in the future. The impact on the forest, both ecologically and economically, is beyond imagination. Even with the aid of advanced tools like meteorological stations, satellite imagery, and weather radars, pinpointing the exact locations where these destructive winds will strike remains impossible. The complex interplay of numerous factors can trigger winds reaching dangerous speeds of 90 kilometres per hour or higher. Forest damage typically occurs when wind speeds surpass 17 m/s or reach 8 degrees on the Beaufort scale.

    Devastating Hurricane in Poland: Unprecedented Forest Damage and Ecological Consequences

    On the night of August 11-12, 2017, Poland experienced one of its most devastating hurricanes. The powerful winds of the hurricane-ravaged nearly 120,000 hectares of forest across multiple forest districts, predominantly in Pomerania and Kujawy. The aftermath resulted in the loss of approximately 10 million cubic meters of timber. This unprecedented scale of forest damage had never been witnessed in the 100-year history of the State Forests. To put it into perspective, the total area of destruction was one and a half times larger than the size of Warsaw.

    In Bory Tucholskie, the scene resembled an apocalyptic landscape as entire forests were decimated, rather than just isolated trees. The elemental forces also inflicted substantial harm on the region’s natural resources. Furthermore, the destruction of forests led to noticeable alterations in the local microclimate.

    Enhancing Wind Resilience: Modifying Tree Stands and Silvicultural Practices for Vulnerable Areas

    Therefore, it is already necessary, at least in areas considered to be highly vulnerable to hurricane winds, to modify the shape of tree stands by introducing wind-tolerant tree species.

    Individual tree species vary in their wind resistance. They can be ranked in this respect as follows:

    • very resistant species: pine, oak, holm oak,
    • hardy species: fir, black pine, larch, field elm, mountain elm, black alder, lime tree,
    • medium resistant species: beech, hornbeam, sycamore, maple, ash, grey alder, black poplar, white poplar, aspen, willow,
    • species with low resistance: spruce, birch.

    It is crucial to prioritize the implementation of silvicultural practices that promote stability and preserve spatial and temporal order, as they play a pivotal role in mitigating the detrimental impacts of wind. Key measures include constructing resilient overstorey, diligently managing tree stands from their early stages, establishing and maintaining windbreaks along the perimeters, and carefully planning the spatial organization of the forest. By engaging in these rational activities, foresters can substantially minimize the risk posed by the wind to the forest ecosystem.

    Following the most catastrophic events, nature has a remarkable ability to rebound, albeit with a little assistance, to accelerate its restoration towards its original state, a process that can span several decades.

    State Forests / press material

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