Skip to Navigation Youtube Instagram

" Live out of your imagination

not your history "

Stephen R. Covey

Stepping into Europe’s Last Old Growth Forest

July 11th, 2014

An article by Jeremy Hance…

 

Wolves in Bialovieza Forest

Wolves in Bialovieza Forest

 

There is almost nothing left of Europe’s famed forests, those that provided for human communities for millennia and gave life to the world’s most famous fairytales. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t forests in Europe, far from it: approximately 35 percent of the EU is currently covered in forest. But almost all of this is either plantations or secondary growth, having been logged sometime in the last few hundred years and in many areas logged in the last couple decades. This is why, according to author and guide, Lukasz Mazurek, the Bialowieza Forest is so special: “You really feel here like you travelled back in time some hundreds or thousands of years.”

Straddling the border between Poland and Belarus, the Bialowieza Forest is Europe’s last lowland old-growth forest, parts of which have never been cut by man. The entire forest covers about 140,000 hectares, or around 15 percent the size of Yellowstone National Park. Here, trees are king: growing over 40 meters (over 130 feet) tall, some were saplings when Christopher Columbus was born.

Moreover, most of Europe’s forests are now bereft of their megafauna: bears, wolves, red deer, moose have all seen their ranges squeezed considerably in the last few centuries. Other species have vanished altogether: it’s hard to imagine that Europe’s forests used to include lions, hyenas, elephants, rhinos, and giant cattle known as aurochs, which only went extinct in the 17th Century.

But, in Bialowieza, says Mazurek, “The food chains are almost unbroken.” The forest is home to wolves, lynx, boar, elk, red deer, roe deer, and its most iconic animal, the European bison (Bison bonasus). This species, the biggest land mammal in Europe, went extinct in the wild in the 1920s, but has since made a remarkable come-back…to read more click here.