The tragic beauty of Europe’s vanishing forest; Jackie Friedman; The Week

Belarus – Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Bialowieza Forest

One of the world’s oldest ecosystems is under siege by a tiny, deadly force.

Straddling the border of Poland and Belarus, the Bialowieza Forest is home to 20,000 animal species, including roughly a quarter of the world’s bison population. At nearly 600 square miles, it is the largest remaining section of the continent’s oldest primeval forest, which once stretched across the entire European plain. Its delicate ecosystem, largely untouched by humans, dates back to the Ice Age, some 10,000 years ago.

That this ancient forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, and its wildlife are so well preserved is a testament to decades of conservation efforts. But, despite such protection, the Bialowieza Forest remains threatened by a deadly force: An infestation of bark beetles that are consuming spruce trees at an alarming rate.

The situation has splintered environmentalists.

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