The deafening silence of the forests

The deafening silence of the forests

Bass Rock is an island not too far off the coast of Scotland, east of Edinburgh. It is home to the largest northern gannet (Morus bassanus) colony in the world, hosting nearly 75,000 couples each year. Together with their babies, the population of birds nesting on the rock exceeded 200,000. For this, Bass Rock has earned Sir David Attenborough’s claim to be one of the “wildlife wonders of the world.”

A few months ago, the bird flu virus – partly the result of violent human interventions on the planet – affected the island’s feathered inhabitants. With each passing day, more and more birds died, until the island was given over to absolute silence. “This deadly silence in a place that used to be so alive is chilling, it has really shocked us,” a representative of an environmental organization in the area told the Financial Times.

In the Greek forests that burned – and continue to burn – this year, we have the same image, the same feeling. In Rhodes, Corfu, Achaia, Evia, Magnesia, western Attica and wherever else our country has been scorched this summer, the absence of sounds signals the death of nature. How many years will pass before the rustling of leaves, the chirping of birds, the crawling of reptiles, the chirping of cicadas can be heard again?

The more climate change intensifies and the state apparatus proves unprepared or inadequate, the more vulnerable our forests become

It takes at least two decades for a forest to regenerate, experts say (if it’s spruce or black pine that burned, its takes more than double that time), provided the burned area is put under strict protection. However, for the entire cycle of life to return to the ecological balance that existed before the blaze, i.e. for the animal populations to be restored, half a century may not be enough. Even then, some species may have been lost forever from that particular ecosystem.

The more climate change intensifies and the state apparatus proves unprepared or inadequate, the more vulnerable our forests become. We are sure to see more sweeping fires that will destroy everything in their path in the years ahead. But will we also see an organized, long-term, scientifically guided prevention effort? That’s the real question. We do not need impressive statements from officials and tears on social media. We need action. This is the only thing that counts.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago,” according to a Chinese proverb. “The second best time is now.” The same applies to the best time to effectively protect it.

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