The Forest of Białowieża, which straddles the border of Poland and Belarus, is unique in Europe: it is incredibly ancient. Woodland has been continuously present there for some 12,000 years. With the protection of 6059 hectares from human disturbance within the Polish national park, as well as the return of its iconic European bison herds from the brink of extinction, the forest is widely regarded as a model for restoring biodiversity or “rewilding”, which areas across Europe are trying to emulate.
Human memories are remarkably short – often only a generation or so. What we remember as “natural” landscape is often what we remember experiencing as a child. This makes conservation and landscape management particularly subject to “shifting baseline syndrome” – a psychological phenomenon which describes how each new generation accepts as natural or normal the situation in which it was raised. This means that significant time depth is rarely considered in future planning. But understanding environmental change, and planning for the future impact of our species, must include a long-term perspective. MORE
Header image: bison in the forest of Białowieża. Credit: © Magnus Elander.