In his News Feature “Last stands” (8
December 2017, p. 1240), E. Stokstad
discusses the arguments between foresters
and ecologists over how much logging to
allow in Poland’s Białowieża Forest. This
conflict is no longer only about environmental values and priorities, but also the
broader political stakes.
Białowieża Forest, with its wild roaming bison, has always been important to
the Polish people. For the new conservative government, the Forest has become a
battleground with the EU for the hearts
and minds of Poland’s electorate, as a
symbol of national identity. The Minister
of Environment simply could not be seen
to back down. Complying with the EU’s
demands to cease logging in Białowieża
(1) would have constituted surrendering
national self-determination. The situation
was exacerbated by the Minister having
previously lost face over another EU decision regarding the Via Baltica highway (2).
The dispute over Białowieża epitomizes the struggle between the Polish
Government’s nationalism and the transnational interests of the EU. In doing so,
it echoes other nationalist governments’
lack of concern for international environmental issues, most notably including
U.S. President Trump’s withdrawal of the
United States from the Paris Agreement,
which may have irreparable consequences
for the future of our planet.
Natural science alone seems unable to
Edited by Jennifer Sills
inform environmental decisions that stem
primarily from politicians’ core beliefs
and those of their electorates. There is an
A bison grazes
urgent and growing need for integrated
Malgorzata Blicharska1 and
approaches with social science to identify
environmental solutions that address both
national and transnational concerns (3).
Richard J. Smithers2
1Natural Resources and Sustainable Development,
Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University,
75 236 Uppsala, Sweden. 2Ricardo Energy and
Environment, Harwell, Didcot, OX11 0QR, UK.
1. Court of Justice of the EU, Order of the Court in Case
C-441/17R (2017); http://curia.europa.eu/juris/liste.jsf?l
2. S. Fuller, Soc.Movement Stud .12, 335 (2013).
3. H. Hackmann etal ., Nat.Clim.Change4, 653 (2014).
Logging data lacking
In his News Feature “Last Stands” (8
December 2017, p. 1240), E. Stokstad
describes the fierce conflict over the
protection of Europe’s most primeval
forest area, the Białowieża Forest, now
facing an outbreak of the spruce bark
beetle (Ips typographus). The question
of how to respond to this outbreak boils
down to deciding whether active measures
should be taken to protect biodiversity,
or whether it should be allowed to evolve
solely by natural processes, including
periodic bark beetle outbreaks. We agree
with Stokstad that the above question
is essentially one of values and, as such,
lies beyond the scope of the natural sci-
ences. However, the use of sanitary and
salvage logging as measures of biodiver-
sity protection should certainly rest on
solid scientific evidence—yet a research
conference recently organized by the
Polish Academy of Sciences has shown
that evidence in favor of such measures is
weak, at best (1).
This conference brought to light a general
lack of controlled, replicated studies concerning the efficacy of efforts to contain bark
beetle outbreaks by means of sanitary logging in lowland old-growth forests. Although
the Polish State Forests administration managing the Białowieża Forest has recently
initiated such study by establishing a “
reference” area, its soundness is questionable
because it lacks proper replication (2). Study
design issues are further complicated by the
Białowieża Forest’s mosaic of protected and
managed tree stands. Bark beetles spread
rapidly, so it remains unclear whether sanitary logging limited to unprotected areas
can restrain the outbreak (3). Relevant meta-analyses are also scant, and those currently
available actually point to adverse effects of
salvage logging on biodiversity (4, 5).
The above methodological weaknesses
must be urgently tackled, preferably by
large-scale, replicated studies. In the
Białowieża Forest, this can only be achieved
through trans-border collaboration with
the Belarusian side, which manages two-thirds of the tree stands. The Polish and
Belarusian Academies of Sciences have
already started collaboration on this issue
(1). We surely need to learn the right lessons
from the current outbreak, given that the
next one will inevitably come; with the
encroachment of global warming, outbreaks
are occurring with increased frequency (6).
Marek Konarzewski,1 Romuald Zabielski,2
Rafał Kowalczyk,3 Jerzy Duszyn´ski4*
1Institute of Biology, University of Białystok, 15-245
Białystok, Poland. 2Faculty of Veterinary Medicine,
Warsaw University of Life Sciences–SGGW, 02-787
Warsaw, Poland. 3Mammal Research Institute, Polish
Academy of Sciences, 17-230 Białowieża, Poland.
4Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Polish
Academy of Sciences, 02-093 Warsaw, Poland.
*Corresponding author. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Managing bark beetle outbreak in Białowieża Primeval
Forest (2017); www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFCDbAp24sk.
2. L. Fahse, M. Heurich, Ecol. Model .222, 1833 (2011).
3. S. H. Hurlbert, Ecol.Monogr.54, 87 (1984).
4. S. Thorn et al., J. Appl. Ecol. 10.1111/1365-2664.12945
5. A. Chaudahary et al ., Sci. Rep.6, 23954 (2016).
6. R. Seidl,BioScience 64, 1159 (2014).
threatens the Arctic
The expansion of transport infrastructure
endangers many wild places, particularly in
the tropics (“Roads to riches or ruin?,” W. F.
Laurance and I. Burgués Arrea, Perspectives,
27 October 2017, p. 442). Opening transport