Czech Republic getting greener as forest area increases by thousands of hectares every year

Foto: Morty, Creative Commons 2.0

The Czech national anthem describes the Czech Republic as paradise on earth, boasting waters murmuring through its meadows and forests rustling over rocky hills. Well, it looks like the country is delivering on its promises - in just forty years the area covered by forests has increased by 50,000 hectares.

Hugo Roldan is the Agriculture Ministry's spokesman:

"Foresters have been exploiting the forests very carefully, so that every year timber harvesting is lower than the increment of timber in the forests. Since we joined the European Union, farmers deciding to cover part of their arable land are offered subsidies and some of them are applying for them. But since we've only been members for a year, this new factor has not played a significant role in the increasing area of forest land so far."

One reason why these subsidies are offered is because there is an excess of food production in the European Union. Could this have a negative effect on the Czech Republic in the long run, if too many farmers shift to forestry? The Agricultural Ministry says there's no cause for concern and the country's self-sustenance is not threatened:

"We don't think so because the production of food for people and food stuffs for animals will remain a priority of farmers. Farmers will always give priority to the production of wheat and to keep cattle on their land instead of cover all the land with forests. The subsidies given to increase the amount of forests are very well balanced with the area that we expect to remain for the production of food."

Photo: Morty,  Creative Commons 2.0
There are currently 2,645,000 hectares of forest in the Czech Republic, well above the EU average. More than three quarters of all forests are state owned and the remaining twenty-five percent belong to private owners. Forests are important to us because they clean the air and water, protect the soil from erosion, and maintain a balanced climate. So, has the significant rise in forest area over the past forty years had any evident effect on the country's natural environment?

"The influence is definitely very positive because all the above-mentioned reasons. The soil is protected against erosion and floods because the roots of the trees protect it. Forests also produce oxygen, which contributes to a cleaner and healthier atmosphere. Finally, the country has more timber as a source of renewable material for construction, the production of furniture, and many other things, of course."