By Caroline Kibii
I begin this journey at Trieste, one of the port cities of Italy bordering Slovenia and Austria. I arrive by train at around 14.45hours, CEST; it is foggy, I can’t see beyond 50meters. I decide to head straight to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. From Trieste to Ljubljana, there are many uninhabited lands and several trees. Because it was winter, one could easily mistake the trees for shrubs.
I wanted to share the story about forests, wood fuel use, and snowfall. One question that lingered in my mind is how Slovenia manages to preserve its forests despite many people using wood as a supplemental energy source, mainly for heating? Some use timber/wood when constructing their homes as heat insulators. Slovenia can get really cold, foggy, and rainy, mainly during winter.
We drove across the country, from the city to the Alps, climbed the mountains, went back through the villages surrounded by thick forests on both sides of the road. I was made to understand that regular forest cleaning is done; this means that the dry tree branches and fallen trees are removed. This happens both in private and government forests.
Slovenia’s forests are dense and cover over 50 percent of the country. Without going deep into science, it is believed to be one of the most afforested countries in Europe. Slovenia’s population is low, about two million people; this could give a different scope and trigger discussion around population growth and land degradation discourse. A critical aspect to note is the enhanced forest planning and applicable legislation. Private forest owners have the right to take part in the planning process.
From my observation and interaction with a few locals, Slovenians value nature; hence, their relationship with environmental resources is stronger, meaning they extract forest products without straining them. Tree tracking seems to be a norm; I saw several trees tagged with the year they were planted.
The beautiful Slovenian scenery and landscape are attributed partly to the dense forests. Spring through Autumn manifests immense beauty due to the colourful trees-this is what attracts several tourists in addition to those thrilled by the Julian Alps.
Hiking the Julian Alps is relatively easy (maybe not for all) and thrilling during snowy periods, which I attribute to thick forests and undisturbed soils. Slovenian lakes in the Alps valley survive thanks to the preserved forests and water running downhill, for instance, Lake Bohinj, which has very clear waters. Also, the likes of Lake Bled, a famous tourist attraction dating back to the ice age, formed due to the melting of the Bohinj glacier.
It is very safe to drink tap water in Slovenia because of its pristine nature.
Recognisable, forest policies, good governance, proper planning, regulated economic and social development, and low population growth influence the size, density, and nature of forests.
Suggested read: Forests and Human health