Report says 50 percent of Czechia’s forests are threatened by bark beetle

Foto: Archiv ČRo7

Forest owners in the Czech Republic face damages of up to 40 million crowns this year from an escalating spread of bark beetle, suggests a report by the think-tank Czech Forest, an independent group of experts in the forestry sector. The report warns that in the future, bark beetle infestation could affect up to 50 percent of the country’s forests.

Photo: Martina Schneibergová

With its largely coniferous forests, the Czech Republic is one of the European countries most affected by the ongoing bark beetle calamity. According to the report by the Czech Forest think-tank, which was released on Monday, the area affected by bark beetle is likely to reach some 66,000 hectares this year.

The report also suggests about 30 million cubic metres of timber will be lost to the bark beetle. That figure is nearly double the 18 million last year, which saw the most costly bark beetle calamity in two centuries.

Pavel Kindlmann | Photo: Ben Skála,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0
Professor Pavel Kindlmann from the Institute for Environmental Studies of Prague’s Charles University told Czech Radio that the results of the study are in accordance with his own estimates, and therefore have not come as a surprise:

“The current situation is something that was to be expected. Scientists have warned about it for years. They also suggested various measures that should be taken to prevent the situation from happening.

“Firstly, it concerned changes to the structure of the forests that would replace spruce monocultures by mixed forests.

“The second thing is the revitalisation itself. In the current situation, when so many trees have to be cut down, it might be cheaper to allow at least some of the forests to regenerate on their own, just like it is happening in the Šumava National Park.”

The current bark beetle crisis is said to be the worst to ever hit the forestry industry. Due to the drop in timber prices, logging costs often rise above sale prices, suggests the report, adding that that the fight against the calamity and the subsequent reforestation is becoming nearly impossible to finance.

Professor Kindelmann says it is too late to stop the calamity altogether, however, there are measures that could at least slow down the process:

Photo: L. Shyamal,  Creative Commons 3.0
“The calamity is so large that we are not able to cut down all the afflicted trees. We should only do it where it makes sense. At the moment, forest owners have to announce a public tender for the felling of the afflicted trees.

“Before it takes place, the bark beetle often leaves the trees and it no longer makes sense to cut them down.

“Of course, no trees should be felled in national parks. And in some cases, even the owners of agricultural forests should consider letting them deal with the situation on their own.”

The ongoing bark beetle infestation has been fuelled by periods of dry and hot weather that experts associate with climate change. That has weakened the natural defences of the trees and facilitated the reproduction of the beetle.