Today is the 21st of March, World Forest Day. While the whole world reports on daily statistics related to the pandemic of the COVID19, the (remaining) forest expanses quietly continue to produce air and ensure the survival of life on Earth.
About 50% of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s surface is covered by forests. And more importantly our forests are in the largest percentage of natural forests, consist of our (autochthonous) tree species. Our forests (as opposed to many) are not just “factories” for wood production. Forests also provide us with water and air, ensuring protection against erosion, torrents, floods. They are a habitat for various species, plants and animals. One of the characteristics of the Balkan forests is that they are rich in biodiversity. Also our forests are really ours – they are mostly owned by our country and they are taken care of by forest enterprises that manages on the principle of sustainability which means that the forest cover is a permanent category (clear cats are not allowed, logging is slightly less than the wood biomass that has grown in the past period). This type of forest management is considered to be one of the most acceptable in modern forestry science because it has the least impact on the ecosystem. We are one step ahead of the developed world – because we have been managing forests this way for almost a century. The secret to the validity of such management is very simple – it is about imitating natural processes.
However, forest expanses around the globe are disappearing in the need for new agricultural lands, new infrastructure, exploitation of mineral resources and more. With the disappearance and degradation of forests, many species lose their permanent habitat which ultimately leads to their extinction. All living organisms are habitats for numerous microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, etc.). Like all living things, viruses are fighting the battle for their survival. With the extinction of their hosts (wild animals), these microorganisms are in search of a new host for their survival, and the permanently growing human population with several billion individuals acts as a very enticing host. Many viruses and bacteria are too weak for us, many fail to adapt (mutate) and adapt to life on the remaining (other) species.
We are witnessing that one type of Crown (Corona) virus has made a triumph. It has adapted to human body and now nature does its own thing. We believe and wish the human body to find the strength to cope with this virus as it has with many others so far.
Are we going to learn something from this unwanted experience? Will we realize that we are not alone on the planet, that we are not sufficient on our own, that we need coexistence with other species, and that their existence and survival is a greater guarantee of natural balance and a basic precondition for survival?
Today, in the age of the COVID19, everyone living in densely populated places is jealous of people who live closer to nature and forests, because staying in such a space gives a genuine sense of security and protection. Let us protect each other, reduce our social contacts, and when the situation with COVID19 passes we need to preserve our forests, because forests protect us!