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Forests are an integral element of the natural environment. According to the National environmental policy from 2002 they should be utilized in a balanced and sustainable way in order to ensure their durability and multifunctionality for the future generations. Forests fulfil a lot of environmental functions, among others by stabilizing water circulation in nature, protecting soils from erosion, shaping global and local climate, as well as creating conditions for the maintenance of biological potential of a large number of species, ecosystems and genetic values of organisms. Forests play important production functions, by supplying timber, as well as fruit, herbs and mushrooms. They also fulfil vital social functions.


The basic objective of forest management involves "gradual increase in forest cover up to ca 30% in 2010 and to 33% in 2050, extending the scope of renaturalization of forest areas, implementing the principles of protection and increase in biological diversity in forests by introducing indigenous species and reconstructing monocultures".

in: "The National Environmental Policy for 2003-2006 and its 2010 outlook".


Forests in Poland cover the area of 9 065.9 thousand hectares (according to the Central Statistical Office - state as at 31.12.2008), which corresponds to 29.0% of country forest cover (Fig. 4.2.1.). Poland's forest cover, specified according to an international standard, amounted to 30.3% at the end of 2008 and was lower than the European average (33.8% excluding the Russian Federation).

Fig. 4.2.1. Area of forests in Poland in 1998-2008 (source: CSO)

Species structure of the Polish forests has been undergoing positive changes since 1945, involving a gradual increase in deciduous species in the forests managed by the State Forests National Forest Holding (SF NFH). Coniferous species account for more than 75% of the total forest area in the country. This includes 69.3% share of pine tree in the area of SF NFH and 63% in private and municipality forests.

Dominance of pine forest stands results from the structure of habitats occupied by forests. Forests grow on the poorest soils, therefore coniferous habitats covering 54.5% are in the majority. Broadleaved forests cover 45.5%, of which 3.8% include alder and riparian trees. This situation results from large-space afforestation of post-agricultural land carried out in 1950's (Fig. 4.2.2.).

Fig. 4.2.2. Species structure of forests managed by State Forests NFH in 1945-2008 (source:  BFMG,CSO)

The age structure of the State Forests NFH is dominated by age class III stands (41-60 years) and age class IV stands (61-80 years) covering 24.7% and 19.2% of space respectively. 35% private and municipality forests (state from 1999) were covered by age class II stands (21-40 years), 25% were age class III stands. VI and VII age class stands (above 100 years) including RC (restocking class), CFR (class for restocking) and CSS (stands with selection structure) occupy 14.1% area of SF NFH. Non-forested area covers ca 5% of area in private and municipality forests, and 1.3% in SF NFH (Fig. 4.2.3.).

Fig. 4.2.3. Forest stand structure by age classes in State Forests (1.01.2008) and in private and municipal forests (1.01.1999), (source: BFMG)

*- in private and municipal forests V and higher age classes jointly

There is a constant increase in the share of stands above 80 years, from ca 0.9 million hectares in 1945 to ca 1.55 million hectares in 2008 (excluding RC and CFR). Average age stand in 2008 in state forests was 60 years, while in private forests in 1999 it was 40 years (Fig. 4.2.3.).

According recent information provided by BFMG and SF NFH timber resources in forests managed by SF NFH reached 1676.2 million m3 gross merchantable timber. Total size of timber resources in forests under all forms of ownership (expert's estimates) is ca 1 914 million m3 of gross merchantable timber (state as at 1 January 2008) (Fig 4.2.4.).

Fig. 4.2.4. Volume of timber resources in Polish forests in 1967-2008 in million m3 of gross merchantable timber (source: CSO,BFMG)


Health condition of forests in Poland over the past decade was characterized by a lot of stability. The share of healthy trees (defoliation up to 10%, class 0) ranged between 8.10% in 2003 to 12.21% in 2005. The share of damaged trees (defoliation above 25%, class 2-4) reached the lowest level of 30.6% in 2001 and the highest level of 34.78% in 2003. The structure of forest monitoring observation plots was changed in 2006 and as a result studies covered forests of all ownership categories, as well as younger stands (aged 20-40 years). The changes were reflected in the results of research on the health condition of forests in 2006-2008: there was an increase in the share of healthy trees up to 27.01% in 2006 and a decrease in the share of damaged trees with the lowest level of 18.01% in 2008 (Fig. 4.2.5.).

Fig. 4.2.5. Percentage share of trees in defoliation classes in permanent observation plots I range in 1998-2008 (source: CIEP/SEM)

Areal differentiation of the health state of forests in Poland has been decreasing. In 1998-2008 the level of tree health in Southern Poland increased significantly, reducing the previous difference between Northern and Southern Poland  (Fig. 4.2.6., Fig. 4.2.7.).


Fig. 4.2.6. Level of forest damage in 1998 based on defoliation assessment in permanent observation plots with focus on 3 defoliation classes (source: CIEP/SEM)


Fig. 4.2.7. Level of forest damage in 1998 based on defoliation assessment in permanent observation plots with focus on 3 defoliation classes (source: CIEP/SEM)

In 2008 beech stands were the most healthy - 43,37% of healthy trees and 9,97% of damaged trees. The least healthy were oak stands - 14.46% of healthy trees and 28.02% of damaged trees, and spruce stands - 25.30% healthy trees and 25.94% of damaged trees (table 4.2.1.).


Tab. 4.2.1. Percentage share of trees in defoliation classes by species in permanent observation plots 1st range - tree stands aged above 20 years - all forms of ownership, 2008



Defoliation classes

Percentage of defoliation




other conifer- rous trees

total conife-

rous trees





other  deci- duous trees

total deci- duous trees

total all species

0-without defoliation














1-slight defoliation














2-average defoliation














3-large defoliation

> 60%













4- dead trees















Health state of forests ranks Poland in the group of countries with an average health level. Percentage share of healthy trees in Europe ranges from 3.1 to 74.6, while in Poland it is 24.5%. The share of damaged trees in Europe ranges from 8.0% to 56.7, while in Poland it amounts to 18.0%.

The perspectives of future tree health largely depend on climatic changes. Changes in the volume of atmospheric precipitation will be of particular importance. If the increase in average annual temperature is accompanied by a falling volume of precipitation, the health of tree stands in Poland will deteriorate.

Tree health in Poland depends of abiotic and biotic factors of natural and anthropogenic nature.

The most important abiotic factors involve changes of weather conditions, in particular the volume of atmospheric precipitation, which has impact on the level of satisfaction of water needs of tree stands. In recent years the sum of precipitation during the vegetation period oscillated around a multi-year mean and had no negative impact on the health condition of forests.  Water deficits in forest stands were only regional and relatively short.

The condition of tree stands is also influenced by temperature anomalies, reduced level of ground waters and strong winds. In 2008 (October 2007 - September 2008) in forests managed by SF NFH damages caused by abiotic factors were identified on the area of 117 thousand hectares stands aged 20 years and more, including more than 61 thousand hectares damaged stands as a result of wind.

The main anthropogenic factors involved pollution of air, water and soils, as well as fires. The role of air pollution in the context of forest health has reduced significantly (although it is still important in the South of the country), which is mainly related to a reduced sulphur dioxide concentration in atmospheric air in recent years. However, a maintaining NO2 level in air, as well as deposits of eutrifying compounds are still an important factor. Large deposits of biogenic compounds result in the increase of tree stands, but at the same time make the stands more sensitive to the impact of negative biotic and abiotic factors.

Fire hazard in forests is strictly related to weather conditions and biotic factors (nature of habitat, composition of species). Arsons and accidental fires are an important factor. The highest number of fires (17 088) and burnt area (21 200 hectares) was recorded in 2003, and the cause of fires involved weather conditions and fire propagation from non-forest areas. There were 9091 forest fires and 3028 hectares forest stands were burnt in 2008 (Fig. 4.2.8.). The most fires were recorded at the territory of Mazovian Voivodship. The lowest number of fires occured in Opolskie and Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodship.

Fig. 4.2.8. Number of fires / burnt area in ha in Poland in 1998-2008 (source: CSO)

Health of stands is also conditioned by biotic factors which include above all insect pests and fungal diseases. The most endangered tree stands involve the ones located in the North of the country, i.e. in western part of the Mazurian Lakeland, as well as at Pomorskie and Wielkopolske Lakeland. Moreover, there is an equally large threat posed by insect pests focused in the regions of Southern Poland (in Sudety Mountains, Śląsk Opolski and Beskid Wysoki) (Fig. 4.2.9.).

Fig. 4.2.9. Polish forest zones at risk of insect pests (total - primary and secondary) (source: FRI)

Provisions of the "National environmental policy" and "National policy on forests" provide for activities aimed at preserving and protecting forest resources, in line with the principle of permanent and sustainable forest development. In order to promote an environmentally friendly model of forest management at the territory of SF NFH 19 Promotional Forest Complexes (PFC) covering the area of 999.2 thousand hectares (as at 2008 according to CSO) were established.

The area of forests with the status of protected forests due to their dominant ecological function has been successfully increasing. Total area of protected forests in Poland is 3 299.1 thousand hectares, which accounts for 36.4% (9 065.9 thousand hectares) of the total forest area (as at 2008 according to CSO).  The area of private protected forests is estimated to be 73.3 thousand hectares, which accounts for 4.5% of their total area, while municipal forests in this category cover 25.8 thousand hectares (30.2%). Work aimed at enriching the composition of species in forests and adjusting it to forest habitats has been carried out for many years now.

7.9 thousand hectares of agricultural land unfit for agricultural production and wasteland were afforested in 2008 under the "National programme for increasing forest cover".  194.3 thousand hectares of land were afforested in 1998-2008 (according to CSO, 2008) (Fig. 4.2.10).

Fig. 4.2.2010. Area of afforestation in thousands hectares in Poland in 1998-2008 (source: CSO)

Forests are covered by a whole range of conservation activities, among others to protect them from insect pests, in order to improve tree health. Rescue activities limiting the abundance of harmful insect species were carried out on the total area of 85.5 thousand hectares (Pine-tree Lappet was eradicated on the largest area of 34.5 thousand hectares) in 2008.

Another important issue related to forests involves activities aimed at increasing biodiversity. These activities are based on: keeping rotten trees and fallen trunks (the so called dead wood), protecting mature trees, keeping naturally valuable peatland and meadows within forests, creating the so called forest depots and reconstructing forest stand in order to differentiate the composition of species.




Forest cover in Poland has grown over the past few years from 28.7% in 2004 (forest area – 8 972.5 thousand hectares) to 29.0% at the end of 2008 (forest area – 9 065.9 thousand hectares). Forest stands are continuously reconstructed to adjust the composition of their species to the habitat. Moreover, the share of stands above 90 years (excluding RC and CFR) has been constantly growing. Average age of forest stands is 60 years.

Health condition of forests in Poland in the decade under discussion was characterized by a lot of stability. The difference in health between forest stands in the South and in the North of the country has decreased.