There are more and more forests in Poland. The forest cover increased from 21% in the year 1945 to 29.4% at present. From 1995 to 2014 the forest area enlarged by 504 thousand hectares. The basis for the afforestation works in Poland is the National Programme for the Augmentation of Forest Cover with the assumption to increase the forest cover up to 30% in 2020 and up to 33% in 2050. Poland’s forests are rich in flora, fauna and fungi; 65% of species occurring in Poland live there.
The forests in Poland grow on the poorest soils, mostly as a result of developing farming in the previous centuries. This affects also the spatial distribution of forest site types in Poland. Coniferous forests occur in more than 55% of the total forest area. The remaining part is taken by the broadleaved, mostly mixed. The small part is occupied by alder and riparian sites – a little more than 3%.
In the lowland and upland areas the most frequent species is pine. It overgrows 64.3% of the forests area in the State Forests Holding and 57.7 % of private and commune-owned forests. In the mountains spruce is predominant (western part) and spruce with beech (eastern part). The domination of pine in the forest stands is the result of the past forest management practice. Previously, the monoculture (one-species cultivation) was the forestry’s answer to the expanding industrial needs for timber. Such forests, however, were less resistant to climatic factors and were falling victim to pests more easily.
In Polish forests, the share of other (mostly broadleaved) tree species grows systematically. The foresters do not practice monoculture any more, instead they adjust the species composition of stands to that occurring naturally in a particular area. Therefore the area of broadleaved stands in the State Forests increased from 13% to more than 28.2% in the years 1945-2014. The more plentiful tree species are oak, ash, maple, sycamore, elm but also birch, beech, alder, poplar, hornbeam, aspen, linden and willow.
The forest stands aged from 40 to 80 years occur most frequently in Poland, and the average age of forest stands is 60. There are more and more big 80-year-old trees. Their area has increased from 0.9 million hectares to almost 1.85 million hectares since the end of the World War II.
Forest economy in the State Forests is based on forest management plans designed for a 10-year period. They are obligatory in each forest district. The forest management plans are prepared by specialist units such as the Bureau of Forest Management and Geodesy (BULiGL). The forest management plans are then approved by the Minister of the Environment, however this is preceded by social consultations on the matter.
The plan is prepared after thorough forest inventory and forest condition assessment. The foresters assess such forest traits as structure, age, species composition, health, soil and site conditions, etc. The activities assumed in the plan for further realization include forest management objectives and specific functions of the forest in the area of a particular forest district.
Sometimes it is also acceptable to establish a plan for a period shorter than 10 years. However, it happens only in justified cases such as great damage or natural disasters.
Contemporary management plans are created with the use of the newest technical achievements. The basic instrument is a forest digital map being a part of the spatial information system (Geographic Information System GIS). The map processes the data collected during field work and presents the results in a graphic form. For years, in forest management there have been applied more and more perfected methods of using aerial and satellite photographs, which complete the results of the fieldwork.
The forest management plan should include:
- Description of both forests and lands scheduled for afforestation,
- Analysis of forest economy in the past period,
- Nature conservation programme,
- Description of tasks concerning timber harvesting, afforestation and renewals, forest tending and protection, hunting management and creating forest infrastructure (buildings, roads).
The forest management plan is carried out on the basis of the instructions which are obligatory in the State Forests.