Slovenia hosts confernce to save its forests

Slovenia is well known for its forest clad landscape so it was a good choice for the Conference: 'Forests - The Future for Slovenia', held in Ljubljana last week. The conference heard that Slovenia's tall trees face some challenges if they are to be sustained for the future. A joint Netherlands and Slovenia monitoring project found pollution and global warming are the greatest threats.

In the last two years Slovene partners with experts from the Netherlands succeeded to establish the Intensive Forests Monitoring Programme in Slovenia. The programme is in compliance with the common programme EU Forests and the Forest Focus scheme, which is obligatory to all EU Member States. Dr Wim de Vries is a project co-ordinator of the Forest Intensive Monitoring project in Slovenia:

"This programme The European Forest Monitoring programme started about ten years ago and at that time it was mainly to monitor the impacts of air pollution that was the major focus to see what happens with forest conditions like the vitality of the forest and also what happens to the species below the forest, because of impulse of nitrogen and sulphur on the eco system. Nowadays more emphasis is given, indeed to the biological diversity and also the potential of forests to keep CO2 from the atmosphere, which is changing our climate.

"Our aim is to know what things like climate change and air pollution do, how do they affect our forests in terms of the diversity of plant species in terms of condition of the forest, the quality of ground water, soil water, surface water. And as such it can influence policy making, because we do want to know, how effective our measures to reduce emissions are and if they are not reduced, which can happen, because traffic increases, how bad or what's the impact on our eco-system. These monitoring systems do serve as important data for evaluating the effects."

The question is what activities should be taken by the governments to reduce pollution?

"The activities of the government, also in relation to the European Commission, is of course, to set standards in terms of what acceptable emissions of nitrogen oxides SO2 are. I believe that ultimately it's the reduction of emissions that's relevant and, of course as such the government is the body to give those targets."

Dr. Primoz Simoncic of the Slovenian Forestry Institute presented the first results of the project at this week's conference. And here is what he believes are the main dangers to Slovenia's forests:

"Because of climatic changes, like the temperature is rising, also the precipitation changed, we could have a lot of drought in summer periods, especially in the Carst region in the Pannonian parts, maybe some tree species are more subject to this new conditions and diseases and insects could attack them much easier and this means these trees could be damaged or the mortality is higher. Ill trees need to be cut and sometimes a huge amount of cutting occurs."

Photo: Morty,  Creative Commons 2.0
Hopefully politicians and the public will be more aware of the consequences of air pollution and the consequences for forests in the future, as with the increase of traffic and pollution in general these green lungs will be more and more important for us and for the generations to come.

Unfortunately, the heads of big industrial companies are still reluctant to lower emission of dangerous substances because this means less money for them. But maybe Russia's ratification of the Kyoto protocol is a good sign for the future that the awareness in the heads of those responsible will eventually grow. As we know pollution is a global issue.