Storms like this, or large-scale windthrow events, were never very common, but an event like this was to be expected.
As always, there are a number of minor causes, but two main “culprits” should be highlighted: not only did the spruce dominance impoverish the forest species, but climate change and its side effects were also on the horizon.
Monoculture is the opposite of high biodiversity areas. Monocultures are man-made areas, which means that they are artificial and often focus on a single species. Such areas are established or established for the purpose of higher income.
Monoculture forests can still be found in the Hășmaș and Țarcu Mountains. These extensive spruce forests are remnants of the monoculture forests of the 19th century, which, unlike natural and species-rich forests, are highly sensitive to external environmental influences. The most vulnerable aspect of the pines is hidden in their roots. With a relatively short root sistem, they are unlikely to reach deeper water reserves and are easily vulnerable in the event of a dry spell or heatwave. At the same time, this root system does not provide adequate protection against strong winds. During a major storm, the pine canopy of several hectares of land can be destroyed. Although these forests have survived and functioned until today, climate change and the extreme weather conditions it brings have sealed their fate.
Make it more liveable and safer
Our aim is not only to replant the damaged forest, but also to create a more diverse forest.
We plan to help other native species to establish alongside spruce. It is true that most of the bare areas would eventually be reforested, but they would remain equally vulnerable. This is because spruce seeds, in particular, would sprout from the spruce-only forest surrounding the bare patches in the damaged forest patches.
We cannot say when, but such a weather event will happen again, even in the near future. Climate scientists say that extreme weather events will only become more frequent than they are now. If we don’t change the structure of the forest, many hectares of forest will continue to be threatened in the future. So without external support, forests will not be able to strengthen in line with climate change. In short, PANDO is helping to put these forests on a more stable rootstocks.
Beech (Fagus sylvatica), unlike pines, develops a deep root system with many main branches, which is ideal for resisting desiccation and strong mechanical forces. In the event of a sudden heatwave, it can access deeper water reserves and, through evaporation, keep its environment slightly cooler, which retains some of its moisture. Stronger gusts of wind also do not cause much damage to beech, as the root system, which penetrates deep into the ground, provides greater stability. If it can protect itself, it can also protect others: it acts as a shield for weaker trees behind it.
The forest is a habitat. Like a home to humans, forests can be home to many species of plants and animals. The more diverse and versatile this home, the more inhabitants it has. This makes a forest more diverse and healthier. For if there are pine trees with pine cones, beech trees with acorns and shrubs with berries, then neither wild boar, nor Eurasian jay, nor bears will want to live outside the forest. A mixed forest would already call its old inhabitants home.
Achieving our aim
Focusing on the original species composition, in addition to the spruce (Picea abies) seedlings, we also planted pine (Abies alba) and beech (Fagus sylvatica) seedlings. The three tree species together would not only increase grouse diversity, but also make the forest itself more climate-resilient. The project is planned to run for 4 years, during which time 1,000,000 saplings will be planted and 314 hectares (ha) of damaged areas will be repaired and restored.