On 21 March people worldwide celebrate the UN International Day of Forests (#IntForestDay). Forests are essential for life on Earth: they are the largest stores of carbon after oceans and provide habitat for 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. But some of the most precious forests in Europe are under threat. Despite the continuous increase of forest land in Europe, biodiversity is not thriving, with many forest habitats being threatened by unsustainable forest management practices and forest fragmentation. Even illegal logging, which is most often witnessed in the context of tropical rainforests, is also happening in Europe – spotlight on Poland and Bulgaria.
We often forget that virgin forests are still present in Europe. These are untouched, centuries-old ecosystems unaffected by human developments. WWF has been campaigning to save two of these last pristine places, which are now under threat: Białowieża Forest in Poland and Pirin National Park in Bulgaria. These irreplaceable sites are part of our natural heritage and they are under increasing pressure from logging and development. Several of Europe’s ancient forests are UNESCO World Heritage Sites but their main legal protection comes from EU nature laws, such as the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. Unfortunately, some governments feel that they can ignore these binding laws, undermining their objective to protect threatened species and habitats. WWF has therefore been calling on the European Commission to enforce these laws and protect Europe’s old-growth forests.