Bratislava, Slovakia – The Slovak government voted this week for the establishment of a new cross-country nature reserve to protect old growth forests, the World Wide Fund (WFF) said in a communique.
Following a petition launched last year by WWF Slovakia and the NGO OZ Prales signed by over 30,000 people, the Old Growth Forest Reserve includes 76 state-owned forests covering a total area of almost 6,500 hectares across Slovakia.
The two organisations spearheaded efforts to map old growth forests from 2009 to 2015 and found that over 10,000 hectares remained in Slovakia out of which one third was insufficiently protected.
“When in 2017 WWF Slovakia entered into negotiations about the protection of old growth forests in Slovakia, the topic was impassable for many foresters or officials,” explained Miroslava Plassmann, director of WWF Slovakia, warning that the “global loss of diversity we are witnessing nowadays is historically the largest and fastest ever.”
The new natural reserve, which will become effective on December 1, is in line with the European Union’s biodiversity strategy and the Carpathian Convention aiming to make “all of the EU’s remaining primary and old-growth forests […] strictly protected.”
“Under the Carpathian Convention, Slovakia made a commitment to identify its natural and old growth forests,” said Marian Jasik, a conservation expert from OZ Prales. “In addition to all those involved in mapping and ensuring the protection of forests, I would like to thank all foresters who perceived the protection of old growth forests as our commitment to future generations.”
With approximately 40% of its territory covered in forests, Slovakia is one of the most forested countries in Europe.
Also called primary or primeval forests, old growth forests are defined by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as “naturally regenerated forests of native tree species where there are no clearly visible indications of human activity and the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed”.
They represent more than one third of the world’s forests, covering a total area of approximately 1.1 billion hectares. Three countries (Brazil, Canada and Russia) account for more than half of the world’s old growth forests.