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. 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 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 three-day workshop started with a trip to the managed part of the Białowieża Forest. Participants visited the stands attacked by bark beetle and discussed the species composition and biodiversity management, under the guidance of Andrzej Antczak from the Białowieża Forest District.

The second day was dedicated to presentations by experts and moderators divided into five thematic groups: forest ecology; disturbances, forest biodiversity, conservation and management; socio-economic aspects; forest history and forest policy and governance.

The highlight of the day was an evening tour of the strict protected zone of the Białowieża National Park guided by park rangers and nature protection specialists.

The third day was entirely devoted to the discussion about the multi-author-evidence paper presenting scientific evidence for the five topical areas, based on the agreement and disagreement points. 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 policy makers and media.

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

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