From June 29 to July 5, 2019, twenty-five representatives of nature protected areas in Ukraine, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine, the State Forestry Agency of Ukraine and other institutions as well as project experts went on a study trip to two major national parks in Europe: the Bavarian Forest National Park (Germany) and Kalkalpen National Park (Austria). This field trip was part of the project “Support to Nature Protected Areas in Ukraine” (SNPA) and contributed to the project goal to learn from leading environmental institutions in Europe about their management of drought damage in protected areas.
The Bavarian Forest National Park was chosen as a destination because it is considered to be the leading national park in Europe in terms of protecting natural processes and development of wildlife. More than 20 years ago, almost 6,000 hectares of spruce forests in Bavarian Forest National Park died as a result of several drought years. Backed by political consent, the park management decided to leave the dying trees untouched. The result is remarkable: a natural forest has emerged, with high species richness across all taxa and a tree density almost twice as high as in planted forests. This vivid example shows how forests can recover and adapt in times of more and more frequent drought periods and expected increases in natural disturbances (such as windfall, bark beetle outbreaks and even forest fires).
The visits to the two national parks were composed of lecture sessions, field excursions and talks. During meetings with experts from the visited parks, several topics were discussed, e.g. non-interference in cases of bark-beetle infestations, development of natural forests after windfall or pest infestations, management of hunting and forestry and the impact of climate change on biodiversity. In addition, the Ukrainian delegation had the opportunity to get acquainted with the structure and management of the national parks as a whole.
The experience the participants gained in Bavarian Forest National Park will be very helpful for the further development of nature conservation and forest management in the large nature reserves of the Carpathians as well as in the northern and central parts of Ukraine.
The next stage of this project activity will be the organization of a working group that develops recommendations for the management of drought-affected forest stands in nature protected areas covered by the SNPA project.