Białowieża Forest

Coordinates: 52°45′N 23°59′E / 52.750°N 23.983°E / 52.750; 23.983
This article is about a World Heritage Site
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Białowieża Forest
IUCN category II (national park)
Wisent in natural habitat
LocationHrodna and Brest administrative districts of Belarus, Podlaskie Voivodeship in Poland
Coordinates52°45′N 23°59′E / 52.750°N 23.983°E / 52.750; 23.983
Area152.2 km² [1]
Governing bodyMinistry of the Environment of Belarus and Poland

Białowieża Forest [1] is an ancient woodland. It is on the border between Poland and Belarus. It is 70 km (43 mi) north of Brest (Belarus) and 62 km (39 mi) southeast of Białystok (Poland). It is one of the last and largest remaining parts of the large primeval forest that once went across the European Plain.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve are in parts of the Brest Voblast and Hrodna Voblast in Belarus. On the Polish side they are near the town of Białowieża in the Podlaskie Voivodeship. Białowieża means the White Tower in Polish.

The border between the two countries runs through the forest. There is a border crossing for hikers and cyclists. The forest is home to 800 wisent, the continent's heaviest land animals.[2]

Belarusian section[change | change source]

On the Belarusian side the Biosphere Reserve is 1,771 km2 (684 sq mi). The National Park and World Heritage Site are 876 km2 (338 sq mi). The Belavezhskaya Pushcha headquarters at Kamieniuki, Belarus has a laboratory and a zoo. The zoo has wisent, konik (a semi-wild horse), wild boar, moose, and other animals. There is also a small museum, restaurant, snack bar and hotel. Because of the lack of facilities and having few tourists in the country, few foreign tourists visit the Belarusian Pushcha each year.

Polish section[change | change source]

Białowieża National Park

On the Polish side, part of the Białowieża Forest is protected as the Białowieża National Park (Białowieski Park Narodowy). It has a general area of about 100 km2 (39 sq mi). There is also the Białowieża Glade (Polana Białowieska). This has several buildings first owned by the tsars of Russia. The tsars were the last private owners of the forest (from 1888 to 1917) when the whole forest was in the Russian Empire. A hotel, restaurant and parking areas are there. Guided tours into the strictly controlled areas of the park can be arranged on foot or by horse-drawn carriage. About 200,000 tourists visit the Polish part of the forest each year. Activities are: bird watching with local ornithologist,[3] watching bisons in their natural environment,[3] and sledge and carriage rides with a bonfire.[3] The popular village of Białowieża is in the forest.

Named oaks[change | change source]

The King of Nieznanowo oak

The forest has a number of large, ancient pedunculate oaks (Quercus robur), some of which are individually named. Trunk circumferences are measured at breast height, 130 cm (51 in) above the ground.

  • Great Mamamuszi. Circumference 690 cm (270 in) (2005), height 34 m (112 ft). One of the thickest oaks in the forest, with a beautiful column-like trunk. The tree's name stems from Molière's The Bourgeois Gentleman. Since 1989 the tree's circumference grew by 10 cm (3.9 in). Of all the oaks in Belovezhskaya Pushcha with a circumference above 600 cm (240 in), it is in the best condition.
  • The King of Nieznanowo. Circumference 620 cm (240 in), height 38 m (125 ft). This tree has one of the most columnar trunks among the oaks in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, interestingly set in the ground. The first branches arise at the height of 18 m. It has been gradually dying since 1998. As of 2005, only two small branches still have leaves. Since the mid-1960s its trunk circumference has grown by about 45 cm (18 in).
  • Emperor of the South. Circumference 610 cm (240 in), height 40 m (130 ft). The tree shows no clear signs of dying.
  • Emperor of the North. Circumference 605 cm (238 in), height 37 m (121 ft). The tree has a very regular trunk and shows no clear signs of dying.
  • Southern Cross. Circumference 630 cm (250 in), height 36 m (118 ft). At the base of the trunk it has a considerable lesion in the bark on the eastern side. From the mid-1960s its circumference has grown by 65 cm (26 in). The name is from the shape of its crown, whose main branches look like a cross.
  • The Guardian of Zwierzyniec. Circumference 658 cm (259 in), height 37 m (121 ft). This is one of the thickest oaks in the forest. The tree is largely bent down westwards, which most probably has contributed to the large circumference of the trunk at its base. All the branches are live, indicating that the tree is in good condition.
Emperor of the South oak
  • Barrel Oak. Circumference 740 cm (290 in), height over 30 m (98 ft). This tree is named for its barrel-shaped trunk, and is the oak which reaches the greatest trunk circumference among the Białowieża oaks. The tree is dead and largely has no bark, and is around 450 years old.
  • Dominator Oak. Circumference 680 cm (270 in), height over 36 m (118 ft). One of the thickest oaks of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, the tree has been dead since 1992 and its trunk is now largely has no bark. For many years it dominated the Puszcza Belovezhskaya Pushcha as far as size is concerned. Its age is about 450 years.
  • The Jagiełło Oak. Circumference (when growing) 550 cm (220 in), height 39 m (128 ft). It blew down in 1974, but is probably the most famous of the trees in the forest. It is said that King Władysław II Jagiełło rested beneath it before the Battle of Grunwald in 1410. Although in fact the tree is believed to have been only 450 years old when it blew down.
  • Tsar Oak (Polish) (Polish: Dąb Car) of Poland. Circumference 640 cm (250 in), height 41 m (135 ft). The tree's volume has been estimated at 75 m3 (2,600 cu ft). It died in 1984, and for over 20 years it has been standing dead on the edge of the valley of Leśna Prawa river. Today the trunk is totally missing bark and some of the branches have broken off and lie at the base of the trunk.
  • Tsar Oak (Belarusian) (Cyrillic: Царь-Дуб) of Belarus. Oldest Belarusian oak, standing 46m tall, having a diameter larger than 2m, and being over 800 years of age. It stands 2 km from Staroje Romatowo. It has been a national monument since 1963.[4]

Logging[change | change source]

Polish environmentalists say that logging is threatening the flora and fauna in the forest, including species of rare birds. Poland's state forestry board is saying that it is being done for protection and for ecological reasons.[5]

References[change | change source]

  1. known as Belovezhskaya Pushcha "Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Białowieża Forest" at the UNESCO official webpage in Belarus and Puszcza Białowieska in Poland
  2. Baczynska, Gabriela (28 September 2008). "FEATURE-Climate change clouds fate of ancient Polish woods". Reuters. Retrieved 28 September 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Information Centre + Tourist & Guide Service". Archived from the original on 2012-11-18. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  4. (in Russian) "Царь -дуб" (accessed 4 May 2009)
  5. "Logging a threat to Europe's last primeval forest: activists". AFP. Google Search. August 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2010.[permanent dead link]

Other websites[change | change source]

Media related to Białowieża Forest at Wikimedia Commons