Preserved Forests in the Service of Nature and People

by Mustafa Zvizdić

On 7 October, the Dinarides Protection Day is marked for the fifth time since its establishment. Marking the Dinarides Protection Day points out the importance of the natural and cultural heritage of the countries of the Dinaric Arc, as well as the interweaving of the natural wealth and cultural-historical values ​​of this in many ways special area in Europe.

To this end, this year we want to point out the sensitivity and threat of forests and forest complexes both in protected areas and in the entire territory of the Dinarides, as well as the need for additional efforts at the regional and national levels to improve and preserve these important ecosystems.

Forest ecosystems are the most represented and one of the most important ecosystems in the area of ​​the Dinarides, which represent one of the most forest-rich regions in Europe. This wealth is characterized not only by a large area under forests, but also by a large number of plant and animal species that live in forest ecosystems, as well as by the beauty of the area.

Forest coverage in the Dinarides ranges from 31% in Serbia to as much as 61.5% in Montenegro and 62% in Slovenia, which is significantly higher than the average in the EU (39%).

Preservation of forests and other ecosystems is one of the 17 global goals of the United Nations that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Also, the Action Plan for the implementation of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans foresees the development and implementation of the Plan for the restoration of the forest landscapes of the Western Balkans until 2023 as one of the obligations.

The importance of forests is manifold. In addition to providing food, clean water and building materials, they mitigate the effects of climate change, protect the earth from erosion, are habitats for many wild species of plants and animals, and improve our quality of life.

However, despite such importance, the forests and forest ecosystems of the Dinarides are increasingly endangered due to the existing socio-economic circumstances. The main reason for the disappearance of forests is their unsustainable use, based on excessive use. Wood is mainly exploited for firewood and lumber. A significant factor in the destruction of forests is also illegal logging, which is still present in certain parts of the Western Balkans. Clear cutting, regardless of the size of the area on which it is carried out, causes the disappearance and fragmentation of the natural habitats of many wild species of plants and animals. Also, unplanned and illegal felling of forests leads to pronounced soil erosion and occurrence of landslides. This has the further consequence of disrupting underground flows and drying up of springs which in rural areas rich in forests are the main source of drinking water for the local population.

In addition to illegal logging, the frequency and intensity of forest fires at the level of landscapes and open spaces are increasing due to pronounced climate changes. This leads to a decrease in the resilience of forest ecosystems and leaves a huge possibility for forests to be exposed to other risks such as various diseases or pests.

This requires better preparedness and effective agreements, but also a holistic and thorough review and management of forest ecosystems not only in protected areas but also more broadly at local, national and regional levels. The common interest and need of the countries of the Dinaric Arc is to increase the resilience of the Western Balkan forests and landscapes, which can only be achieved through joint efforts through the improvement of regional cooperation so that the region is better prepared to face risks and threats to forest ecosystems. Therefore, the Parks Dinarides as a regional organization call on all actors, decision-makers, managers of protected areas, foresters, private forest owners, to invest additional efforts in establishing long-term interdepartmental cooperation, regional and national networks and strengthening capacities in order to effectively respond to increasingly pronounced pressures on forests. ecosystems in the Dinarides area. Only with a broader approach based on national and international knowledge and expertise, achieving cooperation of all sectors, involving the community and key participants and developing common policies and strategies can we contribute to increasing the resilience of forests, their preservation and sustainable management in the Dinarides.

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