Natural windstorm requires natural solutions
The most heavily damaged area was Tatra National Park, the pearl of the Carpathian Mountains, natural and cultural symbol of Slovakia, established in 1949. The wind that reached 173 km per hour, literally swept the south slopes of the National Park covered mostly by 40-110 year-old spruce forest.
The storm damaged 2.5 million cubic meters of softwood, which represents 90 percent of the annual extraction in this category of wood in Slovakia. Slovak Environment Minister László Miklos marked the situation as the greatest ecological catastrophe in the last 100 years, with damages reaching SKK 1 billion (USD $254.7 million).
“People cannot get over the view - a sixty-kilometer-long and ten-kilometer-wide area from Podbanský to Ždiar. The area was originally covered with coniferous forest, but now looks like a moonscape. We could not believe our eyes, the whole valley looked like a “battlefield”. The few trees that were left were broken in the middle and other ones were upturned with the roots fully exposed. Houses which were originally in the middle of the forest, were situated on an open field,” said Suzanne Lieberman, Carpathian Ecoregion Initiative Coordinator, witness of the storm.
The most affected forests are mostly artificially planted spruce monocultures in the lower part of the National Park and only small areas were destroyed containing more natural types of trees of varied age. The Slovakian Ministry of Agriculture announced several measures to manage the situation including “ felling and cleaning the area completely, burning the felled waste or chemically treating the area."
WWF and local environmental NGOs call upon the Slovakian government to manage the situation as a natural process and not as an ecological disaster. This requires more environmentally friendly restoration such as ensuring sufficient deadwood, new plantation with indigenous species and avoiding the use of chemicals and radical infrastructural development in the area.
“The National Park administration has now a great opportunity to demonstrate the strength of natural processes, as it happened. Model areas could be established, especially on the edge of the core zone of the national park, where natural regeneration should be promoted with no removal of the dead trees, which will become the best nurseries for the new, natural forest.
Similar situation happened in the Bayerischer Wald National Park in Germany where they completely rebuilt their natural forests after a similar windstorm. To work together with local stakeholders and external experts would be the best start to develop the restoration process, ” said Erika Stanciu, WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme‘s forest expert.
“If Slovakia wants to promote a model of how natural forest ecosystems could be restored with the help of windstorm, this is the best moment to do so and to transform the so-called disaster into a positive action for nature conservation,” said Peter Medved director of Slovak Environmental Partnership.
For further information:
Bernadett Hajdu, Communication Manager
WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme
Tel: +43 1 524 54 70