Bialowieza Forest: an ancient home to bisons, lynxes, otters and owls

The Bialowieza Forest covers more than 140,000hectares, straddling Poland’s eastern border with Belarus. It is Europe’s best-preserved forest ecosystem, according to the World Wildlife Fund, a nature conservation group.
Part of the forest, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is protected from human intervention by its status as a natural park,but the rest can be used under certain conditions for forestry industry purposes.
Here are some of the forest’s special features:
The Bialowieza Forest is home to more than 5,500 PLANT SPECIES and11,564 ANIMAL SPECIES, according to environmental groups.
The plant-life is characteristic of Central European mixed forests.Because so much of the forest is undisturbed, it includes old trees and dead wood where FUNGI can flourish, providing food for INSECTS.The forest includes more than 12,000 invertebrate species, according to UNESCO.
This in turn nourishes other species. The forest is home to more than250 types of BIRD, 13 AMPHIBIAN species and seven types of REPTILE,as well as 59 different MAMMALS.
These include the EUROPEAN BISON, the forest’s iconic symbol. With around 900 individuals, the Bialowieza Forest houses more than 30 percent of the world’s free-living population, according to UNESCO.
The forest also supports large carnivores such as WOLVES, LYNXES and OTTERS. The bird life includes rare nesting SONGBIRDS, WOODPECKERS,and OWLS.
The area also includes WETLANDS such as river valleys and wet meadows that further encourage biodiversity.
The forest’s insect life includes the controversial BARK BEETLE. The Polish government says these are a pest which must be tackled through logging. But environmentalists argue that they are part of the forest ecosystem and estimate that the latest outbreak would collapse within two years without intervention. — dpa