|Low Tatra mountains, Slovakia
Intensive timber harvesting led in the most damaged areas of the Low Tatra mountains to a significant decrease of forest owl populations. Numbers of Pygmy Owl decreased by about 66% (Pačenovský 2010) and in the most damaged areas by 87% since 2004. Research on the no-take zones, with untouched windfallen trees in Tichá and Kôprová valley, proved that these zones are rich in biodiversity in comparison with neighbouring areas where windfallen trees have been harvested (Topercer 2009). However, the no-take zones are breeding habitats for many forest species and these cannot find suitable breeding conditions in areas where windfallen trees have been harvested. Other localities where logging did not take place were treated with chemicals. Where chemical spraying is applied there is a recorded 16% smaller number of bird species compared to areas without chemical spraying. Combined, intensive logging and chemical spraying in Low Tatra mountains has led to a significant loss of biodiversity. Abundance of forest owls decreased in the most damaged areas by 2/3 in the last six years.
Currently, an intensive discussion about forest management and logging in coniferous forests is underway in Slovakia. In 2004 a storm had caused massive windfalls of trees in the High (125km2) and Low Tatra mountains. Following this, forest management authorities demanded interventions and management in the affected areas and in areas where the Spruce bark beetle population has invaded. Conservation organisations and scientific institutions however insisted in less extensive interventions and designation of no-take zones, where wind fallen trees will be left for succession. Unfortunately, their opinion was overruled and intensive logging of fallen trees took place at 93% in this area of Tatra national park and only the remaining 7% were left as no-take zones. Even in this small area, forestry organizations applied measures to prevent the spread of Spruce Bark Beetle by requesting a permit to log the remaining fallen trees. The permit was granted in 2007 but there were protests from local NGOs, through national petitions and also, the European Commission. As a consequence, logging was halted and small areas in the High Tatra were left as no-take zones. However, intensive logging continued in other mountains, which were not as widely debated in the media.
In the Low Tatra intensive logging took place with clear-cuts of 45 km2 of forests from 2004 with the aim to stop the spread of Spruce bark beetle. This affected 10 % of the forested area of the National Park and Natura 2000 site “Nízke Tatry”, whereabout half of the forested area has an average age of more than 100 years. These intensive interventions have not only led to a significant loss of biodiversity but also result in the fact that a number of logging companies will not have any timber for harvesting in the coming years. If the current management practice remains unchanged the extinction of some forest species in Low Tatra Mountains is a real risk.
Pačenovský S 2010: Vplyv veľkoplošného odlesňovania na početnosť lesnýchsov v NP Nízke Tatry. – Dravce a sovy 2010, 26-28.
Topercer J. 2009: Posmršťové vtáčie zoskupenia a biotopy v NPR Tichá dolina: štruktúra, činitele, manažmentový význam. In: Tužinský L., Gregor J. (eds) Vplyv vetrovej kalamity na vývoj lesných porastov vo Vysokých Tatrách, Technická univerzita, Zvolen, pp. 155–164.
Jozef Ridzoň, ridzon(at)vtaky.sk