An increasingly vulnerable species
To comply with FSC’s requirements for forest managers to protect rare species and their habitat in the forest areas they manage.
The Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga) is a migratory species categorized as “vulnerable” to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The Greater Spotted Eagle is an extremely rare species – with an estimated population between 3,000 to 9,000 individuals worldwide – that breeds from Central Europe across Eurasia – and migrates to Southeast Asia for the winter.
Compared to most eagles species, they usually prefer to stay in wetlands – especially during their breeding period. That is why they occupy mainly lowland forests or forest edges near wet areas – such as meadows, bogs, and marshes, along with river-valley woodland.
After Russia, Belarus hosts the biggest population of Greater Spotted Eagles worldwide with an estimated population of 180 pairs.
Unfortunately, the population keeps decreasing, and in many European countries – like Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Moldova – it has already disappeared. The future of the species remains uncertain.
In Belarus for instance, land users have been more actively transforming eagle habitat in recent years, by building new forest roads and intensifying forest management. The land owners have also been draining wetlands. These new developments lead to Greater Spotted Eagles losing their nests as well as their hunting grounds. Additionally, Greater Spotted Eagles are very shy and do not tolerate human presence in their surroundings and consequently abandon their territories once people start exploring them.
This situation makes the conservation of the species in Belarus vital.
Conservation laws complicate matters
The Greater Spotted Eagle is already protected by the Belarusian nature conservation law, but this law is considered too complicated to implement.
For example, the national legislation states that only plots sheltering Greater Spotted Eagles that were inspected in a proper way, and sufficiently documented before being approved by all concerned Belarusian state agencies and institutions, can be turned from “management areas” into “specially protected areas.”
It can take up to nine months to finalize the procedure due to this administrative burden and, in the meantime, the plots hosting the eagles are not protected in any way.
FSC requirements inspire forest managers to act
In that context, FSC-certified forestry companies and institutions have a key role to play in a country that has one of the highest number of FSC-certified forests in Europe – almost 9 million certified ha.
For instance, the forest managers in charge of the area of Stolin – FSC certified as a member of the Brest State Forest Management Board group certification (FSC-C003988) – implement measures to help preserve high conservation values in their forests, including rare or endangered animal species.
Stolin management works hand in hand with volunteers and ENGOs to search for and map these high conservation values, and then voluntarily protect them by excluding their areas from their forest management operations until they are officially recognized by the State as special protected areas.
FSC requirements inspired the strategies of these forest managers, as well as their actions related to their forests. The FSC forest management standards cover all relevant forest species – including all the plans and animals present. The FSC Principle 6 – one of the essential FSC rules to be implemented – states that “the [certified] Organization* shall protect rare species* and threatened species* and their habitats* in the Management Unit* through conservation zones*, protection areas*, connectivity* and/or (where necessary) other direct measures for their survival and viability.” FSC created the high conservation value concept itself and the first high conservation value mentioned is actually dedicated to “species diversity, concentrations of biological diversity, including endemic species, and rare, threatened or endangered species, that are significant at global, regional or national levels.”
The APB-Birdlife Belarus, one of the Stolin forest management partners, is part one of the organizations making considerable efforts to preserve the eagle population in Belarus. This FSC promoter and trademark license holder has petitioned successfully for the Greater Spotted Eagle to be named “Bird of the Year 2019” in Belarus, shining a much needed light on the conservation status of the beautiful bird.
Recently, the two partners helped FSC Belarus organize a tour for Belarussian media to assess the conservation of the Greater Spotted Eagle population on the territory of the Stolin forest management area. There, the journalists could see the preservation initiatives in action, and quietly observe the nest of one of the rarest bird species of the country.
By applying FSC requirements, forest managers go beyond simply acting responsibly to manage forests and preserve rare species in line with the state legislation. They also demonstrate their commitment towards a broader society and future generations.