GB No. 2(17)/95


About 40 kilometers south of Zielona Góra is the Szprotawa locality. Farther to the south we can see a big green spot on the map -- this is the Lower Silesian Woods. East of Szprotawa on the border of the Lower Silesian Woods is a very interesting area -- the "Buczyna Szprotawska" reserve. Although the borders of the reserve are not well marked, we can't be mistaken. Suddenly, out of a rather dull, piney forest we come to a green Eden full of birds singing. From time to time through the chirping of small birds we can hear the voice of a hoopoe or a black woodpecker. We notice the huge trunks growing from the soft, green carpet of the forest floor. At first it is difficult to say what kind of trees they are. We are used to beech trees with a diameter no more than a few score centimetres, covered by a smooth and somewhat silvery bark. But here we are surrounded by huge tree columns reaching up the sky with 2 meter diameters. The trunks are covered by cracking bark, where we can find a variety of lichens. The tree crowns are so high that we cannot recognize the leaves. Fortunately, dry leaves from last year and characteristic nuts lie on the ground. They confirm that these trunks belong to a representative of the forest aristocracy -- the beech. We are in a very old (up to 160 years old) beech forest with some oaks and limes. Apart from the valuable trees, there are many plants of interest to biologists. A lot of them are protected by law.

Some of the beechnuts show characteristic attack marks -- this is evidence of a small, rare tree rodent -- the fat dormouse (see article "About the fat dormouse..."). Fat dormice were first recorded here in the fifties. The research of Miros3aw Jurczyszyn (one of our members) confirmed that a large population of fat dormice lives on the reserve territorry. This is the last place in Western Poland where fat dormice are found. Fortunately, the high number of individuals of this species here and the large area of beech forest which is good habitat for the fat dormouse ensure the survival of this wonderful little animal.

The facts mentioned above confirm that the protection of Buczyna Szprotawska is a necessity. Meanwhile we are noticing things which are very unusual for a reserve -- things like stacks of cut trees, some felled beech trunks, and plenty of tractor marks on the ground. What is going on? Before we answer we have to remind ourselves that it is only a partial reserve, which means that certain activities are allowed. The sphere of it is organized in a 10 year long plan (called an "operat"). Nowadays when people have to finance themselves independently, having a partial reserve creates a serious problem for the forest administration. The "sanitary cutting" which is required by the "operat" is very expensive. At the same time, it is a source of income. It's not unusual, then, that there is a tendency to make full use of these sanitary cuttings. This is what has happened in Buczyna Szprotawska. The purpose of the sanitary cutting is to cut down ill, weak, or dead trees in order to save the healthy ones. Unfortunately, in order to sell the wood people often cut down living trees with dead parts. These trees would provide a habitat for many kinds of insects, birds, and fat dormice, and would play an important role in maintaining the biodiversity for many years.

Another danger is forest rejuvenation: In selected parts of the forest, a "cutting down of nests" will be applied. The idea is to make gaps in densely covered areas. These gaps are then planted with young beeches. Some of the gaps are big, so instead of beeches other, light-loving trees grow. When the young trees grow up, the rest of the old tree cover is going to be cut down. These activities will lead to total displacement of the old tree cover. In the Buczyna Szprotawska reserve partial cutting has already taken place. The second cutting was planned for last winter. Fortunately it was postponed till the next "seed" year, which will be in the next two or three years. The last part of the plan is cutting down all the old trees once the young trees are 30 years old. But the fat dormice wouldn't survive till then. They are adapted to living in the tree tops. When there are gaps in the canopy and the tree-tops don't overlap the environment isn't suitable for fat dormice. Since there are no good habitats for them near Buczyna Szprotawska, the animals would have to die there. A lot of birds would have to leave the reserve as well.

To sum up, there is a plan to change the last beautiful patch of wonderful, old beech forest into an ordinary young forest (OK if still beech forest). "Salamandra" is going to protect the Buczyna Szprotawska reserve. It is not yet too late. The cuttings already carried out can vary the age structure of the trees and start the natural cycle of forest regeneration. But there is one condition -- we have to stop all kinds of economic activity in the reserve. There are three ways of doing this. First, we must change the reserve's classification from partial to strict reserve. Second, we must change the 10 year plan for the Buczyna Szprotawska reserve. Third, we must declare strict protection on the most valuable parts of the reserve. To be succcessful, we need help, some money, and good cooperation with decision makers. So far we have had a good experience with the Morasko Meteorite Reserve project. We are counting on the help of local authorities. Maybe some of you have the spare time, motivation, and resources to join us. Buczyna Szprotawska can't die!

Andrzej Kepel
Polish Nature Protection Association "Salamander"
(Polskie Towarzystwo Ochrony Przyrody "Salamandra")
Umultowska 100/42
60-614 Poznań

GB No. 2(17)/95 | Contents