In Europe only some small isolated patches of forests with a high degree of naturalness still exist. These are forests, whose structure, composition and function has been shaped by natural dynamics without substantial anthropogenic influence over the long period. In this respect, Białowieża Forest is a unique location in Europe, with continuous forest cover for close to 12,000 years. The palynological, archaeological and historical data document only a weak anthropogenic fingerprint compared to other European lowland forests in Holocene history. Due to long-lasting protection, a large portion of the forest is still composed of stands originating from the pre-silvicultural period. Moreover, the stands of Białowieża Forest converted by silvicultural activities during the 20th century have the potential to recover owing to patches of stands with high naturalness, scattered throughout the forest. As conflict over management of the forest has recurred regularly for close to century, there is a need to summarize our knowledge on the forest history and natural assets, to help making scientifically informed decisions over its future. Expansion of a non-intervention approach to the Polish part of the forest is suggested to increase the stability of the entire ecosystem and enhance the chances for its successful adaptation to changing environmental conditions. This will increase the importance of Białowieża Forest as an open-door laboratory for biology, ecology, and forestry.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited