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Forest

All secrets of Nature and Culture - all in one!

You must see and feel it! Many values in one place – this is the charm of Białowieża Village and its neighborhood. This is amazing borderland...

 

Biological Diversity of Białowieża Forest
Białowieża Forest is a unique place in terms of biodiversity

 

Biodiversity of Białowieża Forest

With its geographical location and hundreds of years of protection it has become home to thousands of organisms which in other places have become extinct because of human activity. However, the difference between Białowieża Forest and other forests is not just reflected in the higher number of species. It is also associated with the ongoing processes that take place throughout the entire ecosystem. When we penetrate the wildest parts of this old forest we can imagine how Europe would have looked without humans.

 

Trees in the pristine forest

Białowieża Forest is more than trees. Nevertheless, these are trees that are responsible for its unique quality, because they are very tall and even when without leaves they deprive the rest of the vegetation from much of the sunlight. Enormous spruces tower above the forest canopy formed by oaks, limes and ashes. The lower compact tree layer is formed by hornbeams, maples and elms. In land depressions and along waterflows alder and bird cherry trees prevail, while in drier habitats we mostly find pine trees. These trees are all the more spectacular because of their size and, most of all, because they are older than those in other forests in Poland. For many species in Białowieża Forest two hundred years is just middle age, and the oldest pines and oaks live long, reaching the advanced age of 400 years. This means that many of them can remember times when the soldiers of Napoleon's army marched across Białowieża Forest, and some date back to times when the last kings of Poland hunted here. Anyone who assumes that natural forest is formed only by old trees is very much mistaken. In fact, wherever more light can get through, we can find thousands of juvenile trees. Because there are so many old trees, the number of seeds produced is huge. Although most of them end up in the stomachs of voracious rodents, wild boar, deer and European bison, a large fraction are still able to germinate and start competing for space and light.

 

Abundance of seeds - abundance of food

Periods of abundant fruiting of deciduous trees, mainly oak, lime, hornbeam and maple, occur in Białowieża Forest every 6 to 7 years. These are mast years and they set up a specific rhythm in forest life which affects the functioning of the entire ecosystem. Firstly, seeds are eaten by the two most common rodent species of the forest, the bank vole and the yellow necked mouse. In years when food is abundant their populations increase from a few dozen to over three hundred individuals per hectare. Mast years are also followed by an increase in the populations of tawny owls, weasels, foxes, martens and many other predators that hunt rodents. Larger animals also benefit from the abundance of acorns and other seeds. Seeds are gladly eaten by European bison and deer, whild wild boars have more numerous offspring and a higher survival rate in winter. Unfortunately, the plentiful period is followed by a period of hunger, because seed reserves are quickly depleted. Also, after mast years, the greatest loss in the number of hatched flycatchers and other birds nesting in tree holes is recorded, because their nests are plundered by hungry rodents and predators. Over subsequent years the balance is recovered, until the next explosion in the population of seeds and rodents.

The second feature characteristic of Białowieża Forest is THE VAST AMOUNT OF DEADWOOD, both in the form of standing trees and fallen logs and branches on the ground.

 

Deadwood in the forest

This is an exceptionally important although still underestimated element of the natural environment, because more than fifty per cent of plant, animal and fungi species living in the forest are associated with deadwood. From the human point of view dying back and decay are nothing but a waste of precious material. However, in the forest these processes serve as the main source of organic matter, elements and water necessary for other organisms, and create a habitat for thousands of species whose life depends on the presence of deadwood.

For forest rodents logs lying on the ground are perfect hiding places, and for predators they serve as a hunting spot. In a shady and cool forest, tree logs on the ground are natural basking places for reptiles and various invertebrates. All woodpecker species forage on deadwood, and two of them, the three-toed woodpecker and the white-backed woodpecker, are strongly associated with it. The three-toed woodpecker has a very narrow speciality, as it feeds almost exclusively on the larvae of the spruce bark beetle and other beetles that live in dying and dead spruce trees. For nesting, other bird species, flycatchers for example, prefer natural holes in dead logs and branches. Forest owls, e.g. the tawny owl and pygmy owl, also nest this way.

 

Living deadwood
While speaking about deadwood we have to mention invertebrates, the largest group of forest inhabitants.
Beetle species such as Scriptoleptura variicornis, Boros schneideri and Pytho kolwensis live nowhere else but on large pieces of deadwood. On the other hand, the hermit beetle ( Osmoderma eremita ) and the lucanid beetle ( Ceruchus chrysomelinus ) live only in decaying tree hollows, while the Goldstreifiger ( Buprestis splendens ) and Agrilus pseudocyaneus prefer dead pieces of very old trees.

Fungi are a special group associated with deadwood, as they are among very few organisms that have acquired the ability to decompose cellulose and lignin, the major structural materials of wood. Therefore, it is not surprising that a vast number of the approximately 2,000 larger fungi species found in Białowieża Forest live only on decaying and dying trees. In spring, among the melting snow, we can spot the vivid-red fruit bodies of the scarlet elf cap ( Sarcoscypha coccinea ) growing on fallen twigs. On dead spruce logs we can find the beautifully-coloured fruit bodies of Pycnoporellus alboluteus and Fomitopsis rosea , while the sulphur polypore ( Laetiporus sulphureus ) and the beefsteak polypore ( Fistulina hepatica ) can be found on oaks. The fruit bodies of the coral spine fungus ( Hericium clathroides ), resembling fragile corals, are truly ornamental features of the wild parts of the forest. On dead standing hornbeams we can sometimes find a real relict of old-growth forest - the few millimetre-long fruit bodies of the Fenugreek Stalkball ( Phleogena faginea ), which produce a spicy fragrance.


The list of invertebrates and fungi associated with deadwood is almost endless, but we should remember that this biodiversity is limited almost exclusively to Białowieża Forest, which for many species has become the only habitat or a habitat with their largest population size in Poland. This has happened not because Białowieża Forest is solitary and isolated, like a coral reef, but because it is the only place where organisms can still find favourable living conditions, mainly old and dead trees.


Uniqueness of Białowieża Forest

This old forest is not formed only by trees, living or dead, but also by thousands of other creatures linked within a complicated network of relationships. Białowieża Forest has a unique role among other European forests. Not only because of the European bison, wolves and lynx living here, but because of the natural processes that take place in this complicated ecosystem. This forest is a window through which we see the past, but also a reference standard for other forest areas, and as important as Sevred is for metrology. Białowieża Forest is a unique place, and is the last well-preserved forest on the European lowland and the remnant of primeval forests that once stretched across the whole of Europe.

Here we describe for you the most important places in our region. Enjoy!

 

Białowieża Forest

fot. K.Komar

Białowieża National Park

fot. T.Mueller

The Orłówka Protected Area

fot. K.Komar

 

The Hwoźna Protected Area

fot. Z.Niechoda

European bison Show Reserve of Białowieża National Park fot. K.Komar

Natural History Museum of Białowieża National Park 

Natural History Museum  

" Old Białowieża" and "Royal Oaks" Trail

fot. K.Komar

 

"The Bison's Ribs" - Żebra Żubrafot. A.Gierasimiuk 

           

 

Topiło Lake

 fot. K.Komar

 

 

 

Siemianówka Lake

fot. M.Korniluk 

 

 

 

Białowieża village 

 fot. S.Roesner

 

Historic Palace Park complex  

 Nature Education Center

 

Culture

 

Bison Land Life Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIODIVERSITY WORKSHOP

fot. K.Komar
fot. Z.Niechoda
fot. K.Komar
fot. T.Mueller
fot. K.Komar
Aegithalos caudatos
fot. K.Komar
Bufo bufo
Hwozna Protected Area
fot. K.Komar

 

 

 

 
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