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The oaks of Europe



Europe's temperate oak forest belt, although in a rather fragmented condition, abuts the taiga from the south and stretches from the westerns edge of Europe (northern Portugal and Spain) to the Ural mountains.
The largest amounts of oak forest in the Temperate Zone are found:
in Russia (3.7 million hectares),
in France (2.1 million hectares),
in Ukraine (1.7 million hectares),
in Germany (900,000 hectares),
in Denmark (500,000 hectares),
and in Croatia (300,000 hectares).

The Oak forests are the most rich ecosystems in the temperate zone Once Oak forest were one of the major forests in Europe.


Since the beginning of history, the area of European broadleaf forests with the predominance of the oak has shrunk several times over as a result of human activity, generally due to the introduction of agriculture on previously forested lands. In all of Europe, only ten million hectares of oak forest remain in the Temperate Zone.

At the present moment, the existence of sizeable tracts (around 100,000 hectares) is known in Chuvashy (the former warping oak groves), in the Tul'skaya and Kaluzhskaya oblasts (Tul'sky and Kaluzhsky barricades), and in the Belovezhskaya forest on the border of Belrus and Poland.

The current condition of a significant portion of oak forests in the Temperate Zone of Europe is considered critical, showing a tendency toward its eventual worsening. The pace and depth of the degradation of these systems is fully comparable to that which is observed in the tropical rain forests.

In the past decade, non-governmental environmental organizations introduced major initiatives to save boreal forests, achieving considerable results. Europe's forests, however, consist of both taiga and the broadleaf forests of the Temperate Zone, which are widely spread in Russia.

In contrast to boreal forests, timbering in the oak forests of the Temperate Zone of Europe is conducted on a far smaller scale and is decentralized, which creates problems for controlling the timbering. Given the high value of oak lumber, these factors create a premise for the development of small-scale but active illegal cutting in such countries as Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Recent years have witnessed a decline in interest toward oaks in comparison to beeches in the forestry plans of Central and Western Europe. The beech is much more stable in conditions of "new damage," and is also easy to cultivate. In Russia, the oak is one of the most valuable varieties, seeing as the beech does not grow there naturally. The situation in the forest sector of the country, however, does not contribute to the continuation of the complex work of restoring oak forests.

Even at the present starting stage there is significant number of people interested in oak forest restoration activities.

The oaks are being planted by activivsts in Tatarstan, Novgorod and Vladimir regions.

The SEU Forest Campaign is actively searching for different partners to spread th program to all regions in Russia and abroad, assists activists with information and planting materials. The idea of the program is to involve as much people as possible from all parts of society, to make them feel that oakgrove restoration is their achievment, that foraet belong to all of them, and that they should share the responsibilty of caring for it.

Today we are publsihing the set of information and are working on the manual "Plant your own oak grove" (Publication in Russian).

The more active work of the in this zone will aim at helping to develop scientifically based criteria for protecting southern taiga and coniferous-broadleaf forests and coordinating its efforts with the work of other social organizations. The first stage of this work will focus on the oak forests of the Temperate Zone, which are the most typical southern neighbors of the boreal forests of the entire European continent.

  • To identify the gravest problems and possible paths to the solutions thereof on the basis of the condition of the forest ecosystems of the temperate broadleaf forest belt;
  • To engage the support of local NGOs in coordination and organization of work;
  • To formulate a single position unified by principal demands directed at the preservation and recovery of taiga and temperate broadleaf forests alike in the southern part of the taiga zone and the coniferous-broadleaf forest belt.

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