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"Only when the society will have the responsibility not only to access, which has a direct benefit, but also the whole creation from the beginning is what this world can be called mature. Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)"

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Less Old Growth Forests than estimated

Mapping of the old growth forests in Slovakia has shown that their occurrence is significantly lower than it was originally estimated. Out of originally an extensive area of the old growth forests nowadays are preserved only small isolated fragments that represent only about 0, 47% forest area of Slovakia.

During the past two years FSC Slovakia has undertaken first and a very complex mapping aimed at the identification of the old growth forests in Slovakia. Outputs of the mapping have been today presented during conference “Old Growth Forests in Slovakia” held in Banska Bystrica.

So far, the only comprehensive overview of the old growth forests was published by prof. Korpeľ in 1989 in his publication “Old Growth Forests in Slovakia”. The publication lists 74 old growth forests nature reserves in Slovakia on the estimated area of 18 000 to 20 000 ha.

“Unfortunately, these estimates have not been fulfilled. During project implementation we have mapped 332 selected sites on the total area of 53 000 hectares. The old growth forests were identified on 122 localities on the total area of 10 120 hectares that represents only 0, 47% area of Slovak forests.” - says Juraj Vysoky, executive director of FSC Slovakia.

Almost all of the Slovak forests are currently being managed. OGF are mostly preserved only on small areas that are hard to access. Consciousness of the society has played significantly smaller role in their conservation. However, the old growth forests play an irreplaceable part in the conservation of the biological diversity, in a field of science and are source of an extraordinary aesthetical experience. This is because the old growth forests represent forests as they are in their natural form and in the form created by the nature itself with no active human interference.  Therefore, quite justly they can be considered the most precious remains of forests and quite justly they deserve adequate protection. Despite of this, only a small part of them is included within strictly protected areas. (In Slovakia these are Nature reserves, Protected Areas, A-zone of the National Parks).

“Out of 122 old growth forests sites only 55 is currently protected adequately, another 16 old growth forests are protected on the larger part and 8 on the smaller part of their area.  Protection of 43 sites of the OGF is problematic, 33 of them is situated in the protected areas but with the level of protection that enables logging and 10 sites of the OGF is situated in the unprotected areas” states Pavol Polák.

Forestry management activities (logging, building of roads, and use of chemicals) that are nowadays planned even on the sites which were not previously managed or were difficult to access in the past directly result in the reduction of the old growth forests areas in Slovakia. Substantial areas of the old growth forests were logged within management activities focused on a “preservation” of spruce stands against the bark beetle. Some of the examples include logging in Smrekovica or logging of a vast areas in the National Park Low Tatras. The old growth forests are being logged even on the Unesco world heritage sites, in the Carpathian beech forests in Vihorlat. Due to the ignorance or thoughtlessness are the old growth forests in Slovakia being permanently more or less purposely damaged and their already small area is still decreasing.

Mapping of the old growth forests was carried out during implementation of the project “Protection of the Old Growth Forests in Slovakia”. The project was also focused on the improvement of their protection, increasing of the public awareness and pointing out on the sensible utilization of the old growth forests within cognitive tourism.

Project was funded by EEA and Norway grants and State budget of the Slovak republic. Project was also co-funded by WWF Danube Carpathian Programme.