ROTATE project meeting in Ulvik (26-27 April 2023)

Our visit to Norway was a continuation of the exchange of experiences that two of us had last autumn. This time six Czech participants from two institutions (Institute of Botany of the CAS and Faculty of Environment of the Czech University of Life Sciences) took part in the meeting.

Czech team in Bergen. Photo by O. Vild








After a meeting in Bergen with our colleagues from Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research and a fascinating stop at the Steinsdalsfossen waterfall, our first study stop was at Arne Fykse’s farm. As well as running a hospitality business, he is musically gifted, as we were lucky enough to judge. Arne introduced us to the various joys and sorrows of his livelihood, giving us a tour of his farm, which focuses on apple growing and pollarding (cutting trees for buck).

Farmer Arne Fyksa demonstrating his piece of art made from pollarded tree. Photo by O. Vild

He continues the family tradition with enthusiasm, despite relatively low support (about NOK 100-500 per tree per year). He described to us the main tree species that can be used in this way for fuel or as fodder for livestock. (He used to raise sheep, but now focuses only on primary production.) These are mainly ash trees, which unfortunately have been dying in recent years from ash necrosis caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. There are also linden trees (mainly the bark from the branches is used), elm, birch (which cannot be completely pruned as it is sensitive), oak (which lives to a ripe old age) and willow (which provides nectar for bees even in early spring). The wood can also have a high aesthetic value, as Arne showed us in his carvings made from old dead logs. He also showed us a special tool called a hovold, which was used to pull down bundles of branches to make them easier to handle. In the process, the wood was put in salt water so that it could be bent. Old oaks grow on his property, providing habitat for other tree species such as birch and mountain ash.

Czech scientists studying interesting merging of three woody species. Photo by P. Petřík
P. Szabó and P. Petřík admiring pollarded tree. Photo by J. Doudová

After the farm, we continued on to the Uranes Nature Reserve, which was established in 1984 to protect the forest in the central part of the Hardanger Fjord area. Uranes protects one of the most valuable deciduous temperate forests in Hordaland because of its size, species richness and variability. The steep slopes are covered with oaks, lindens and birches with a varied herbaceous undergrowth and in some places even spring gardens. Traces of game activity were also evident, peeling the bark and nibbling the seedlings. On the twisted or several-headed tree trunks we admired lichens of the genus Lobaria, otherwise rare in our country, resembling lungs by their name.

Lichen Lobaria pulmonaria. Photo by P. Petřík







Old tree with many stems in the Uranes reserve. Photo by J. Doudová

The following morning was already filled with discussions about the ongoing project. Jana Doudová, the project leader, presented us with the progress and an overview of publications. In particular, we discussed the long-term effect of burrowing on biodiversity in forests, specifically whether weather extremes or management effects have a greater impact. Fride Høistad Schei introduced us to the basic characteristics of Norwegian nature, the oceanicity gradient and the distribution of phytogeographically important plants. The results of repeated records from ash dominated plots presented by her showed minimal changes in the species composition of the understory despite significant ash mortality. Jørund Johanssen talked about a socio-economic study involving 12 pollarding farms. Even though it is not the main activity for 2/3 of them, these farmers own an average of 50 trees per farm. It was also interesting to note that they use the leaves from pollarding as medicine for their cattle. There was a debate on whether the practice of pollarding trees in forests is sustainable. It involves thinning the whole forest, which may seem uneconomical, but the ecological benefits are considerable because of the increase in biodiversity. Radim Hédl presented an overview of coppicing for the Czech Republic and the results of a multitaxon study of coppiced areas, where the organisms studied responded differently to lightening and coppicing can be an important tool for the conservation of some of them. Finally, there was a discussion under the chairmanship of Ondřej Vild on the publicity for the project.

Discussion on the traditional methods in forests. Photo by P. Petřík

On the last day we stopped at a farmer’s house in Ulvik. Besides pollarding, he is involved in gardening and sheep grazing and has a great knowledge of biology. He maintains a diverse range of habitats with different uses on his land. The Norwegian colleagues then took us back to Bergen, where we have already spent experiences and discussions, e.g. on pollarding, which is also used in urban greenery care, but is still not appreciated here. 

Written by Petr Petřík