Białowieża Science Initiative – workshop

Scientific author workshop in the Białowieża Forest

31 July - 1 August - Białowieża, Poland


Between 31st of July and 1st of August, 20 scientists gathered to collect and review the existing interdisciplinary scientific knowledge about the Białowieża Forest and to discuss consensus and dissent points from the perspective of their research. This author workshop was the first part of a three-step scientific exercise ‘Białowieża Science Initiative’, organised by EFI Bonn.

The Białowieża Forest is a large forest complex on the border between Poland and Belarus composed of conifers and broadleaves. It is situated on the border between Poland and Belarus. The most recent controversy related to the forest refers to the management of the European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus) outbreak. This conflict has had a significant impact on the social perception of forestry and nature conservation in Poland and beyond.

While the controversy draws on partially contradicting scientific arguments, researchers presenting diverse views on the management of Białowieża forest rarely meet for joint discussions.

EFI came up with the Białowieża Science Initiative as a platform providing space for open discussion based on scientific evidence regarding the current and future situation in the Białowieża Forest. The main goals of the event were to:

  1. Identify consensus and dissent points from the perspective of science, and make different viewpoints visible based on the best available scientific knowledge,
  2. Draw lessons from the Białowieża case for other areas in Europe facing similar challenges, and
  3. Publish the findings of this science dialogue in a multi-author paper understandable for decision-makers, media and society.

A thee-day-long workshop started with a trip to the part of the Białowieża Forest managed by State Forests Enterprise. With Mr. Andrzej Antczak from the Białowieża Forest District participants visited stands attacked by bark beetle and discussed the species composition and biodiversity management.

The second day was facilitated by Ewa Hermanowicz and it was filled with presentations by experts and moderators divided into five thematic group. Bogdan Jaroszewicz, Per Angelstam, and Frits Mohren led the session titled „Forest Ecology“. This part was very much interlinked with the discussion within the second group „Disturbances, forest (biodiversity) conservation and management“ with contributions by Jan Holeksa&Jerzy Szwagrzyk, Jacek Hilszczanski, Grzegorz Mikusinski, and Bart Muys. The third group guided by Jette Bredahl Jacobsen and Georg Winkel and the evidence statements prepared by Malgorzata Blicharska and Zbigniew Witkowski concentrated on socio-economic importance. It was followed by a discussion on “Forest History” with a presentation by Tomasz Samojlik and Rafal Zaplata and commentary by Agata Konczal and Gordon Winder. The last session was devoted to the topic of “Forest policy and governance”. The evidence-based statements prepared by Krzysztof Niedzialkowski and Andrzej Konieczny were commented by Metodi Sotirov and Lukas Giessen. Great moderation by Ewa Hermanowicz significantly helped to achieve valuable remarks and conclusions of that day. The closing point of the agenda of the second day was a trip to the strict protected zone of the Bialowieza National Park guided by park rangers and nature protection specialists: Tomasz Kolodziejczak, Mateusz Szymura, and Jaroslaw Tomana.

The third day was entirely devoted to the discussion on the next steps: the shape of the multi-author-evidence paper presenting scientific evidence for the five topical areas, and to a discussion on agreement and disagreement points on the past, present and future situation in the Białowieża Forest. All scientists declared their willingness to contribute to the paper - a great achievement of the initiative.

The compilation of a multi-author evidence paper is planned for October 2018. Its publication will be followed by a presentation of findings to policymakers and media.

The Białowieża Science Initiative is a part of the INFORMAR project.