Straddling the border between Poland and Belarus is the Białowieża Forest. Stretching on for 3,000km², this ancient natural wonder is one of the largest remaining parts of the primeval land that once peppered the entirety of the European Plain. Home to a unique ecology, the forest is protected as a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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However, around 150,000 acres of the forest sits outside that protective status. Almost half of the trees in the entire forest are dead, eaten away by infestation from an insect called the spruce bark beetle. This infestation was used by the Polish government as justification to log down the forest on the edges of the UNESCO-protected area. Despite a court order from the European Court of Justice, and pressure from activist groups such as Greenpeace, the logging continued for well over a year.
The science behind this justification was not sound. When a tree dies, the beetle moves on to a new one - therefore logging the dead trees does nothing to halt the issue. Not only that, but the deaths of the forest’s trees are a part of its ecosystem, the dead wood providing nutrients for species of fungi and insects endemic to the area. In fact, the forest's UNESCO status was initially granted because of these primeval processes taking place - this cycle of life and death.