Suur Munamägi's spruce-fir forest disappearing due to beetle infestation

Suur Munamägi.
Suur Munamägi. Source: Martin Mark

The bark beetle infestation has severely damaged the century-old spruce-fir stand of Suur Munamägi, the highest point in Estonia and the Baltic states, which is located in the southeast corner of Estonia. There is no alternative but awaiting the natural regeneration of the forest.

Suur Munamägi is Estonians' pride, offering breathtaking views even on cloudy days. However, this beauty is now severely damaged by the bark beetle, which destroys and thins the forest.

Kaili Viilma, head of the Nature Management Department at the Environment Board, confirmed that the Suur Munamägi spruce-fir forest is rapidly dying.

"It is a mature spruce that is nearing the end of its biological life cycle, located on warm soil and exposed to the sun; all of this makes it an easy target for woodworms [bark beetle]. Due to the damage, these spruces are now rapidly dying. We will no longer be able to intervene in this process or take action," Viilma said.

Ivar Sibula, forestry specialist at the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMU), said that the most routine course of action is to cut down withered spruce trees.

Hilly and forested landscape around Suur Munamägi. Source: Hannu

"Insects that are beneficial to the forest and are the spruce beetle's adversaries inhabit these dead trees. And if we remove the trees from the forest now, we will further reduce the population of these insects, allowing the spruce beetle to cause even greater damage to the forest," Sibul said.

Viilma said that a decision on how to support the park when it begins to regenerate will be made in the coming weeks.

"We are considering, for example, the harvesting of trees, how much and by what means to dispose of dead wood, and whether we could help this natural regeneration, perhaps by active maintenance techniques, etc.," Viilma said.

Looking ahead, one of the solutions to the problem, Sibula said, is to plant mixed forests.

"This gives chances for other forest species and habitats, and as we know, the spruce beetle's natural enemies, whether predatory insects or parasitic organisms, keep the spruce beetle population in the wild under control," Sibul said.

Mount Suur Munamägi in Southern Estonia Source: Aleksander Kaasik


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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