Białowieża Forest

An intensive Rhizosphere workshop took place over a number of days at the Białowieża Forest National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Poland in April 2019.

Working from the Białowieża Geobotanical Station of Warsaw University the Rhizosphere: the Big Network of Small Worlds interdisciplinary working group immersed themselves in the most natural forest ecosystem within the temperature zone of Europe.

Research Center of WAM UAM in Białowieża, Poland.

Dr hab.prof Bogdan Jaroszewicz Head of the Białowieża Geobotanical Station introduced the Rhizosphere group who were composed of artists, scientists, members of ASN and students from the Studio for Transdisciplinary Projects and Research, Faculty of Artistic Education and Curatorial Studies of the University of Arts (UAP) to a detailed overview of the Białowieża Forest.

Listen to Białowieża Forest National Park courtesy of Piotr Słomczewski

Dr hab.prof Bogdan Jaroszewicz’s research covers inter alia: influence of large herbivores on vegetation, frugivory, zoochoric seed dispersal, pollination and the ecology of soil seed banks and he considers how plant-animal interactions interplay in the process of plant migrations and resulting shifts in their range limits within his work. After covering 6,000 years of the Białowieża Forest with his unique insight Dr hab.prof Bogdan Jaroszewicz lead the group through parts of the forest, immersing the interdisciplinary group in the landscapes rich biodiversity.

Rhizosphere: the Big Network of Small Worlds

Rhizosphere group lead by Prof UAP, Dr hab. Joanna Hoffmann, University of Arts Poznan and Prof UAM, Dr hab. Władysław Polcyn, Faculty of Biology of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań researched various parts of the protected 100 km2 within Białowieża Forest National Park gathering valuable data to contribute to the Rhizosphere: the Big Net Work of Small Worlds project.

Traversing extensive old-growth forest and wetlands the group documented root systems, dead wood (25% of total volume), thriving Linden, hornbeam and ancient oak trees. Capturing film and photographic documentation of spruce trees ravaged by spruce bark beetles, and diverse flora and fauna that form a rich carpet of texture and tones. Albeit for a brief time before the forest canopy peaks and limits the light to the forest floor.

The group experienced vast stretches of wild garlic, hepatica, golden saxifradge, common toothwort, European wood anemone and Corydalis cava to name only a few of the spectacular spring flowers. Colorful fungi were documented drawing from the 3500 species of funghi that feature in the park. Remarkable lichens were also documented some of the 1600 species that flourish as part of the Białowieża Forests rich biodiversity.

Variations of the chequered skipper butterfly were encountered in addition to a large number of the 9 species of woodpeckers that inhabit the forest, contributing to the rich soundscape that also includes the Tawny owl as part of the 250 bird species inhabiting the forest.

Listen to Białowieża Forest National Park courtesy of Piotr Słomczewski

Breeding birds have been monitored for more than 40 years on permanent study plots in oak-hornbeam forests, ash-alder and spruce-pine forests of the Białowieża National Park (Tomiałojć et al. 1984; Tomiałojć, Wesołowski 1994, 1996; Wesołowski et al. 2002, 2006,2010, 2015).

Białowieża Forest plants species have been flowering two weeks earlier than they used to, something of a global change, as documented by the Research Center of WAM UAM in Białowieża since 1960. Robins also arrive one week earlier to the area than they did thirty years ago. Other issues that directly affect the park include decreased groundwater.

Prof UAM, Dr hab. Władysław Polcyn gave a workshop on grassroots communities and their unique communication tools. Knowledge that empowered the Rhizosphere group to consider their real time encounters of the forest in new ways.

Białowieża Forest

Why is the Białowieża Forest recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site?

  • A primary forest including both conifers and broadleaved trees covering a total area of 141,885 hectares.
  • Home to the largest population of the property’s iconic species, the European bison, 900 individuals, 25% of the total world’s population.
  • A primary forest including both conifers and broadleaved trees covering a total area of 141,885 hectares.
  • The area has exceptionally conservation significance due to the scale of its old growth forests, which include extensive undisturbed areas where natural processes are on-going.
  • High diversity of fungi and saproxylic invertebrates.
  • The diverse and rich wildlife includes 59 mammal species, over 250 bird, 13 amphibian, 7 reptile and over 12,000 invertebrate species.
  • The forest area supports complete food webs including viable populations of large mammals and large carnivores (wolf, lynx and otter) amongst others.
  • The long tradition of research on the little disturbed forest ecosystem and the numerous publications, including a description of new species, also contributes significantly to the values of the property being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Listen to Białowieża Forest National Park courtesy of Piotr Słomczewski

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Rhizosphere: the Big Network of Small Worlds