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Caring for the environment is at the heart of foresters’ work. We can be proud because 30% of Poland’s territory is made up of forests. We protect priceless natural resources. More than 80% of protected areas are located on State Forests land.
State Forests for the Environment
Let’s start with what forests mean to the world. In the process of photosynthesis, plants take carbon dioxide from the air and give back the oxygen necessary for life. So it is not without reason that we call forests the great oxygen factories. Forests are particularly important for developed societies living in areas with high levels of pollution and climate change due to industrial activities. A forest usually represents a huge area that works well as a natural air filter. Trees are good at trapping all sorts of industrial pollutants generated by factories. One adult pine tree ‘produces’ the oxygen for three people to live!
A forest growing on mountain slopes can hold an enormous amount of water. Also, forested mountain soils and litter are as absorbent as a sponge and retain a lot of water during heavy rainfall or melting snow, giving it back later gradually. As a result, expensive dams and reservoirs protecting inhabited areas from flooding do not have to be built everywhere in the mountains. As an example, we can mention the flood of the century in 1997. Huge masses of water flowed down the treeless slopes of the Sudetenland, wreaking havoc in the Oder basin. Of course, the forests would not have protected the inhabitants from such a terrible cataclysm, as it was caused by unusually heavy precipitation, but if the ‘forest barrier’ had been in place, the damage would probably have been much less.
The role of trees
Nearly half of the forest stands in State Forests are called protective forests. They protect many elements of the natural environment. The largest number of protective forests is in industrial impact zones. No less important and numerous are water-protective forests, protecting, for example, springs or river and lake shores from subsidence. Forests also provide protection for soils, preventing their erosion or depletion. They act as a barrier to avalanches and landslides in the mountains. They protect the local microclimate of health resorts, which is particularly beneficial for rehabilitation and treatment. They also have a wind-protective function – by reducing the force of the wind several times, they shield human settlements and agricultural crops. They beautify the landscape and recreation areas of the population.
Forests for biodiversity
Forest conversion, heathland mowing, the establishment of bee hives, and the activities of the Forest Gene Bank are just a few smaller or larger examples of measures aimed at preserving biodiversity.
For many years, State Forests have been involved in activities to preserve as many species as possible. They actively protect valuable habitats with rare plants and animals – Poland’s largest mammals such as the European bison and the small dormouse. Foresters know that protecting biodiversity depends on sustainable land use. That is why, among other things, they preserve old hollow trees in the forests, which are valuable for biodiversity.
Did you know that…
- Just one hectare of forest can absorb up to 140-250 tonnes of CO2 in a year!
- One adult pine tree produces the oxygen for three people to live!
- The forest is a natural retention reservoir filtering and storing clean and healthy water.
- Trees release antibacterial substances – phytoncides – into the atmosphere.
- Pine, birch, and juniper trees produce a bacteria-free zone of up to 3-5 m around them. Pine phytoncides cure tuberculosis. Substances secreted by oaks kill dysentery bacteria. Fir needles cure diphtheria.
- The forest reduces noise levels.