3modbiolvide
 
What is Ecology?
Ecology is a fundamental science that studies the mutual interactions between the environment, humans, animals, plants, microorganisms, and the relationships among organisms themselves, as well as the systems they are included in, from populations to biocenosis and the Earth's biosphere as a whole.

All living organisms, classified by their source of food, are divided into autotrophs and heterotrophs. Autotrophs are producers that can create organic substances from inorganic materials using chemical reactions and solar energy, thus forming the first level of the food pyramid or the basis of the food cycle. In contrast, heterotrophs are consumers that feed on parts of living organisms or other animals, obtaining organic substances in a ready-made form.

Consumers, according to physiology and dietary specifics, are divided into:
  saprophages - heterotrophic organisms that feed on the remains or excretions of organisms, further breaking down organic matter, sometimes down to minerals,

  phytophages - consume plants,

  zoophages - consume live animal diet, i.e., carnivores,

  necrophages – eat animal corpses or scavengers,

  detritophages – feed on organic remains of plants and animals.

Consumers are categorized by types:
  Type 1 consumers are animals that feed on plants, excluding parasitic plants and plants with mixed feeding.

  Type 2 consumers feed on uncooked animal meat, as no animal can process cooked meat.

  Type 3 consumers are scavengers.

 

Redfield Ratio
To assess the eutrophication level of a water body, the atomic ratio of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in the water is determined. In waters unaffected or minimally affected by human activities, the ratio of these elements in the water's living biomass is 106:16:1 (C:N:P), known as the Redfield Ratio. Eutrophication or massive algae growth is determined by changes in the nitrogen and phosphorus atomic ratio in the water body. If the N and P ratio is greater than 16:1 (increased nitrogen amount), green algae will proliferate in the water body, whereas if the N and P ratio is less than 16:1 (increased phosphorus amount), blue-green algae will proliferate. However, it should be emphasized that minor fluctuations between N and P are entirely normal in any water body, and algae are necessary as they are a source of food and oxygen for water organisms, but human economic activities significantly alter this ratio in many water bodies, causing eutrophication.
 
 
About Waters
In the Baltic Sea region countries, the level of conventional agriculture is very high—25% of the Baltic Sea drainage basin is used for agriculture, i.e., 0.4 million km². One characteristic of conventional agriculture is the use of artificial fertilizers, which increases the nitrogen and phosphorus in the total cycle, thus creating a large surplus of nutrients that irreversibly enters the cycle of living organisms and the environment. The major rivers flowing into the Baltic Sea bring up to 20,000 tons of phosphorus per year, causing it to overgrow and making it one of the most eutrophic seas in the world.

Although eutrophication of water bodies is a natural process necessary in nature, in Latvia, the degradation of water bodies is recognized as a serious problem, exacerbated by reckless human economic activity. Mineral fertilizers from agricultural lands are washed out of the soil by rain and melting snow and end up in ditches, rivers, and further into the sea. This runoff is accelerated by soil plowing and erosion. Eutrophication occurs, primarily due to the increase in nitrogen and phosphorus amounts in the water, which in turn promotes the proliferation of living organisms, reduces oxygen in the water, causes water turbidity, and even accumulates toxic substances. All these processes worsen the quality of surface waters. In such waters, the total mass of living organisms increases, but unfortunately, this promotes the reduction of biological diversity and the pronounced dominance of certain species, as many species cannot live in such an environment; they require clear, oxygen-rich water (for example, Najas, northern pike).

It has been proven that increased phosphorus and nitrogen influx stimulates the growth and massive proliferation of phytoplankton. Of course, algae in water bodies are very necessary for the existence of other organisms, but various nitrogen and phosphorus ratios, strongly influenced by human activity, can cause changes in the phytoplankton species composition, promoting specifically toxic algae development, such as blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, which is a serious problem in the Baltic Sea and other waters. Dead algae consume oxygen, creating dead zones in the waters. In the Baltic Sea, dead zones make up one-sixth of its area, inhabited only by organisms that do not require oxygen, i.e., anaerobes. There are neither fish nor plants. The substances released by decaying algae can cause skin, digestive system, and liver problems in humans. It is also essential not to forget about the pesticides used in conventional agriculture, which in increasingly large amounts are washed into water bodies with rainwater, hence the need for comprehensive water quality control at swimming sites.

Substances that enter the food cycle remain there. The process of eutrophication caused by human activity is almost irreversible, but it can be limited by changing land management systems and human habits. This is fought for by the greens, or more precisely, by forward-thinking people.

 

Forest Management in Latvia

2modizcirt

"Where the pine forests once rustled" (a typical modern Latvian landscape).

Every year in Latvia, 46,000 hectares of forest are cut down. Only 1% of old forests remain. Creating clear cuts increases the groundwater level and causes soil erosion. The more clear cuts there are, the higher the CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions. A large amount of nitrates, washed away from clear cuts and conventional agricultural lands with rainwater, ends up in water bodies and further out to sea.

According to a study by the Latvian State Forest Research Institute "Silava," 67% of the carbon stored in forest stands is found in the soil. After trees are cut down, the decomposition of organic matter and CO2 emission are encouraged. While Estonia has 15% protected areas where management is prohibited by law, Latvia only has 4%, and loggers are legally trying to reduce this figure even more.

Old trees, especially referring to deciduous trees like ancient oaks, send their roots very deep into the ground, up to 50 meters or more, drawing up important minerals from the depths of the earth such as silicon, iodine, lithium, bromine, vanadium, chromium, and many others, which are critically lacking in soil depleted by conventional agriculture. This is a natural mechanism by which the top fertile layer of soil in nature is formed and enriched. Cutting down old trees to maximize timber yields disrupts this mechanism. There is another mechanism in nature that does not work in Latvia – in the mountains, as rocks decompose, minerals in the form of dust end up in fertile mountain valleys. Without these mechanisms, then with time a desert is formed.

Reducing the number of old trees in forests harms biological diversity, for example, if a young oak hosts about 30 different species (lichens, mosses, algae, fungi, insects, birds, etc.), then on an old oak, this number is around 300. Those who believe that CO2 accumulation will start immediately after planting a new forest instead of clear cuts fail to understand that this will only happen after 30 years when a balance is reached and only then will CO2 accumulation begin.

Leaving small islands of protected areas that are not interconnected by "corridors" leads to species genetic homogeneity (the so-called inbreeding, when there is no exchange of genetic material over a long time), resulting in organisms being more susceptible to diseases and various genetic pathologies.

 
Maybe it's Enough to Ignore!
The catastrophic situation with the forests has been discussed on this website for a long time. At the climate conference in Glasgow, a warning was issued about the approaching ecological disaster in the context of deforestation - almost the same was said by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres in the presence of almost all world leaders. Maybe the responsible officials in the Ministry of Agriculture should listen to what has been said, instead of figuring out how to circumvent EU recommendations and guidelines on this issue? Perhaps something is being done in words to stop the rapid deforestation, but in practice, the opposite is happening – more and more trees are being cut down, including in EU-protected biotopes. They leave clear cuts even in spruce plantations that were planted before 40 years, which have just begun to absorb more CO2 than they emit.

 

Natural Meadows
Often there is a belief that preserving biological diversity means not interfering with natural processes at all, but this is not the case, because properly managing different biotopes benefits not only nature but also humans in the long run, and one of the biotope types that is most directly dependent on human economic activity is natural grasslands.

Latvia is located in the forest zone, which means that without human intervention, such a biotope cannot exist for long, although when the territory of Latvia was inhabited by large herbivores, such as aurochs, wisents, etc., natural grassland landscapes were almost daily, but as agriculture developed, not only did these herbivores disappear, but gradually so did their habitats – natural meadows, which less than 100 years ago occupied up to 30% of Latvia's territory, but today only 0.7%.

But what is a natural meadow? Is it an abandoned grain field? Or perhaps those green fields where large herds of cattle graze? No, a natural grassland is a large set of herbaceous plant species that have developed together over decades, cut or grazed annually (but not intensively). But you don't have to be a nature expert to tell whether the grassland under your feet is natural or not. If the number of species in a meadow exceeds 30, then the meadow is natural and biologically valuable. Like a forest, a meadow takes many decades to reach high biological value. A natural grassland can host up to 300 different plant species, which is about a third of the total plant species count in Latvia. Nearly half of the plant species listed in the Red Book are found ithis biotope.

But why do nature experts worry about the disappearance of this biotope? Because it plays an invaluable role in preserving biological diversity, but one might ask, what is biological diversity anyway? Is it just an abstract collection of species that nature defenders shout about, driven by their personal hobbies? Species diversity is not like a coin collection. It's important to understand that biological diversity is like a network of delicate interactions, with humans at its center. Any action unfavorable to biological diversity, in the near or distant future, also affects the quality of human life, for example, overgrazing a meadow reduces the number of flowering plants, which in turn decreases the insect population, affecting the surrounding bird population, but birds are natural pest controllers, without whom humans are forced to use pesticides, which negatively affect their own health. There are countless such cause-and-effect chains in nature because each species has its ecological niche, and its absence changes all ecological processes, most directly affecting humans.

All natural grasslands found in Latvia have a protected biotope status in Europe, as a natural meadow is one of the richest biotopes in the world in terms of the number of plant and insect species. But its value is not only in biological diversity. Natural grasslands play a significant role in the soil formation process (making the soil richer), erosion control, carbon fixation, surface runoff pollution purification, flood regulation, and they are a feeding place and habitat for wildlife, most of which are also involved in other ecosystem food chains. All biotopes are directly or indirectly related not only to each other but also to humans, because humans are long-term dependent on the ecological processes they most often unfortunately affect very adversely.

If natural meadows are not properly managed in the near future, they will soon disappear completely. Their disappearance is most promoted by the establishment of agricultural lands because, plowing a species-rich, biologically valuable grassland, it can only regain its original value after several decades, but unfortunately, where it is not plowed, it is intensively grazed or excessively early and intensively mowed, without considering the maturation processes of plant seeds. The best way to manage these biotopes is grazing, which is unfortunately almost not used today. More often, large herds of livestock can be seen, but a high concentration of livestock negatively affects the grassland overall – the vegetation is excessively trampled, and the soil becomes saturated with nutrients, resulting in a very rapid decrease in species diversity, as low-demanding species are outcompeted, and their place is taken by nutrient-demanding species, which directly affects the insect population, and further also animals and birds, but after some time also human life, when we complain that flocks of migratory birds damage winter crops or that pests have multiplied in the garden.

However, there is another very significant factor that affects this and other biotopes worldwide – habitat fragmentation. Sometimes, driving along the highway, those few colorful midsummer flower fields among the vast wheat fields may deceptively indicate that natural meadows are not so rare and disappearing, but it's important to consider that the more fragmented a biotope is, the more endangered it is - in a small population, there is no gene exchange among plants within the species, the species become intolerant to external conditions and diseases, resulting in extinction. Meadow plant species are very poor at overcoming large distances, their seeds do not have suitable dispersal mechanisms, and they retain their germination ability for only a few years, so they cannot move far. Therefore, species extinction, even in a properly managed meadow, is a significant problem because this biotope in Latvia is extremely fragmented and occupies a very small area.

 
What's Happening with Biodiversity in Latvia?
The loss of biodiversity in recent decades in Latvia and worldwide is happening very rapidly. Why? Because the habitats of these species are disappearing from the landscape – natural meadows, old and biologically valuable forests, untouched bogs, and many other biotopes. While the Latvian government continues to lobby for large farmers and intensive forestry, the existence of Latvia's natural diversity depends only on small landowners and their enthusiasm, because the current tiny area of protected natural territories unfortunately cannot ensure the long-term potential for preserving biodiversity. It must be understood that biodiversity can only exist at the landscape level, not in a few isolated reserves, because a large part of species can survive and reproduce only within metapopulations, or they require gene exchange - reproduction among populations living in different areas. This is a very simple and well-known law of population genetics to any biologist. However, for this gene exchange to occur, the species must be able to move from one area to another. And today, the biggest obstacle to this is habitat fragmentation (unfortunately, Latvia is an absolute leader in the European Union) – the species simply do not have a dispersal path. In Latvia, forests are extremely fragmented, and natural meadows have survived only in small fragments – the rare animal or plant seed can cover distances of tens of kilometers tothe nearest habitat.

The lifestyle, land management, and use methods in recent decades in Latvia and worldwide have changed dramatically. To put it a bit poetically, instead of landscapes of blooming meadows and green forests, we see horizons filled with rapeseed fields, while forests have turned into clear-cut and monoculture puzzles. Actually, all this is only logical – humans continue to benefit from nature, as has been the case since the moment humans began to inhabit this planet. However, the way Latvia's nature, which is our common property and value, is used is absolutely unsustainable and aimed only at short-term profit. Of course, I don't mean to say that forests should not be cut down or that we all have to return to living in the countryside and collecting hay with rakes, as our ancestors did. Yes, along with changes in our lifestyle, Latvia's nature has changed irreversibly, but even today, it is absolutely possible to manage in a way that maintains a very high level of biological diversity. This knowledge is already available to us, what's needed next is just public understanding, because the biggest beneficiary of a biologically diverse environment is humans themselves.

There are many examples of contradictory and ineffective nature conservation in Latvia. One of countless examples: many forest biotopes protected by the European Union do not have a protected status in Latvian legislation, for example, for such a valuable biotope as species-rich spruce forests. This means that any forest owner, including Latvian state forests, can destroy this biotope in unlimited amounts (unfortunately, this is what happens). They cannot even declare and create micro-reserves – areas with economic restrictions. So, there is absolutely no way to protect them, except if we find some very specially protected species in them, and we can destroy the biotope, which in Europe is recognized as a special value, in unlimited amounts. Why? Because our country's legislation does not mention them as specially protected. Although Latvian state forests also cut down large areas of old-growth forests every year, which, unlike species-rich spruce forests in the European Union, are not only protected but even a priority for protection, they can at least be protected in a small area with the help of micro-reserves.

Writing a doctoral dissertation could be done on the destruction of natural values and misleading the public by the large farmers lobbied by the Latvian government and Latvian state forests. However, it is much more important to increase public awareness of why biodiversity around us is so essential and how to preserve and promote it in our own land. It must be understood - the more biologically diverse the environment around us, the more stable it is. For example, an owner of a natural forest will never have to deal with root rot and spend large resources to combat it, as is currently happening in Latvian state forests, because in a biologically diverse forest, this fungus simply has nowhere to grow, as the diversity of fungi on trees is already large enough. Meanwhile, biologically old trees are a habitat for bird species that limit the spread of various garden pests. These are just simple examples to illustrate that we ourselves are the biggest beneficiaries of a species-rich environment, so below is a summary of information on how to promote and preserve biodiversity in your property.

 

                        Tips for Taking Care of Biodiversity in Your Land

What Forest Owners Should Know
The primary and main prerequisite for preserving biodiversity in forests is the presence of deadwood. At first glance, it might seem - why? The tree is no longer alive, and clearing it will make room for a new one. But a dead tree is much more alive than a flourishing one. In Latvia, every fourth species living in forests inhabits dead trees at some stage of its development. Thus, the presence of many hundreds of species in Latvian nature depends on it. Especially important in forests are snags – standing, dead trees. Such trees are inhabited by many species of epiphytic mosses and lichens, and they nest many bird species that cannot nest elsewhere. The volume of deadwood needed for a forest to be biologically diverse is 20 – 50 m3/ha. Remember, a dead tree is a great value – it is not a source of firewood. Particularly valuable are large fallen trees and snags. Remember, to obtain firewood, a live tree must be cut down. To increase the amount of deadwood, a tree can also be cut down purposefully and left as a habitat for species or by girdling a separate, live tree (stripping the bark to promote its transformation into a snag).

Although the forest is one of those ecosystems where biodiversity can be preserved without human intervention, it is very important to monitor and understand the processes occurring in your forest. The problem of invasive species spread is becoming increasingly relevant today, as often these species can become expansive, for example, the giant hogweed, which is a very serious problem in the forests around Riga, as it suppresses the growth of local species and reduces biodiversity. It is very important to maintain the forest's hydrological regime – not to dig ditches and not to drain your forest, especially crucial for wet forests, as changing growth conditions destroy the habitat for many species. Unfortunately, already a quarter of Latvia's forests have been drained to increase timber volumes. The intensive road network built by Latvian state forests to reduce timber extraction costs (incidentally obtaining additional timber) has a significant impact on the forest's moisture regime.

Of course, every forest owner is entitled to profit from the trees growing in their forest, but forest management can also be carried out while preserving biodiversity. In most forest types, the most suitable forest management method is selective cutting, preserving old trees. This is done by creating small openings while simultaneously preserving the forest biotope and ensuring the natural process of the forest. As there will be a large amount of incoming light in these openings, species diversity will increase very rapidly. Opening creation is similar to natural forest ecosystem processes when old, large-dimension trees fall. It is extremely important in this process not to disturb the soil, as is often observed in areas visited by harvesters, so this selective cutting should be done with small-sized equipment, as disturbing the soil negatively affects some of the natural processes occurring in the forest soil. The only forests in Latvia that cannot be regenerated using selective cutting are pine forests, as this tree species requires a very large amount of light for growth, so in this case, the so-called small clear-cut system – very small-sized clear cuts in the form of selective cutting – must be used.

Latvian biologists and forest experts have written a very valuable handbook "Conservation Guidelines for Protected Forest Biotope in Latvia. Forests". This book is available for free to everyone and can be found on the website of the Nature Conservation Agency.

 
What Meadow Owners should Know
For a long time, there was a belief in our society that protecting nature means not interfering with its processes. In recent years, Latvian scientists have managed to refute this belief, which originated during the Soviet era, through comprehensive studies. For a meadow to exist, it must be managed by mowing and removing grass or grazing. It is very important to understand that humans have inhabited the territory of Latvia for many thousands of years, and during this time, a very close connection has developed between us and Latvian nature, resulting in such a small country as Latvia having a very rich species diversity. With our economic activities, for example, by managing meadows for livestock grazing and hay mowing, we have historically created and provided a habitat for more than 500 plant species and a whole half a thousand insect species. These numbers seem amazing for such a small country, but without radically changing the current nature conservation system, this great diversity will soon be found only in herbariums and museum shelves. And today, it can be confidently stated that natural meadows in Latvia are not just threatened but have almost completely disappeared. Unfortunately, losing natural meadows will mean losing a whole third of all plant species in Latvia, and it is the last moment to protect them because it will no longer be possible later. Restoring a natural meadow requires from 30 to even 100 years.

The management of meadows aimed at preserving and promoting biological diversity is quite simple and understandable. It has only two methods – the grass must be mowed and removed or grazed. There are no other methods. However, there is no one-size-fits-all way to manage a meadow, as it is very dependent on growth conditions (moisture and soil fertility). In general, it is possible to outline only the main guidelines. Meadows should not be mowed too early, as plants will not be able to spread their seeds, nor should they be mowed too late, for example, in August, as it will promote the expansion of cereals (widespread propagation), and the meadow will very sharply lose plant and insect diversity. Moreover, the meadow should be mowed from the inside out to provide an escape opportunity for nesting birds.

Unfortunately, two extremes are observed in most of Latvia. The first - meadows are mowed, leaving the grass and thus overgrowing with worthless and expansive species, for example, the white-blooming cow parsley and tufted grass, then the meadow starts to resemble a jungle because, as the mowed plants decompose, soil fertility significantly increases, grass grows very tall, and under the large plants, due to the lack of light, other species cannot develop. That is why the mowed grass must not be left under any circumstances. The second - mowing the meadow several times a year, significantly reducing its fertility. Understand that the poorer the soil, the more biologically valuable the meadow will be, as in such soil, tall herbaceous plants cannot grow, which suppress the growth of other plants, but this law also has its limit. The meadow must not be over-mowed. However, natural meadows as an ecosystem have a very high resilience to environmental changes. Regularly, even twice a year, starting to mow a meadow overgrown with cow parsley, which was once so valuable and blooming, and removing the grass, it will quickly be able to restore its great diversity, as a large variety of flowering plant seeds is always found in the soil. Seeds can retain their germination ability for many years.

Small landowners can maintain natural meadows even simply near their homes, because in the critical situation that exists in Latvia, every square meter of natural meadow is very important. A natural meadow can also be created in your flower bed by sowing natural meadow seeds offered by the Latvian Nature Fund or simply collecting them along roadways. The management tips and methods for meadows are also compiled in a very valuable handbook "Conservation Guidelines for Protected Biotope in Latvia. Natural Meadows and Pastures", and it is available for free on the website of the Nature Conservation Agency. Understand that we ourselves are the biggest beneficiaries of the presence of natural meadows in Latvia, as this biotope provides us with many ecosystem services: they regulate pest spread, prevent floods, limit the spread of invasive species, ensure the availability of medicinal plants and fodder, maintain a large diversity of pollinators, store a large amount of carbon, improve water quality, and more.

 
Recommendations for Agricultural Landowners
Although it might seem at first that intensive agriculture is not compatible with biodiversity, and to some extent, this statement might be agreed upon, even organic farmers can farm causing great harm to natural diversity. Engaging in land plowing and various crop sowing, the decisive factor is not only the amount or presence of pesticides but also the presence of various landscape elements. In large agricultural areas, such as Zemgale, forest patches, bush clusters, unplowed field edges, abandoned homestead islands with old apple trees, and unmowed ditches have as much importance as the non-use of pesticides, because one of the biggest damages a farmer can do to nature is to create a clean monoculture field without any landscape elements, as these landscape elements are the only refuge for birds, mammals, and insects. They provide a small but real presence of species diversity in these areas.
 
 
How to Preserve Biodiversity?
Apart from the main method of educating the public, the government has effective mechanisms at its disposal – taxes and the reorientation of agricultural subsidies, supporting those who preserve and increase life, but not supporting those who destroy it, including ultimately humans. Economic growth should be viewed with foresight, not following the lobby of conventional agriculture's large producers. Understand that the immediate so-called economic benefits might have to be paid for very dearly in the future, if it will still be possible to correct anything.

Unfortunately, it must be stated that there is no such understanding at the government level. With increased land taxes, those who understand this and do not cut everything down, plow, mow, and poison are pressured.

Who's Online

We have 38 guests and no members online

2ekologija

                                             Ecology

We are told that all living things have evolved through the process of evolution, in an uncontrollable manner, as a result of random mutations and natural selection. However, in nature, everything from a drop of water to whole ecosystems operates strictly according to certain laws, everything is interconnected and functions absolutely according to a specific, precise logic.

All biological metabolic processes, DNA and RNA replication, cell nutrition and division, protein synthesis, toxin accumulation, and the immune system's function in both humans and animals occur similarly according to the same natural laws, although diet types and their processing specifics may vary.

Does humanity behave in this perfect ecosystem created by nature as nature intended? Ancient humans were never hunters in the sense that they were not predators with a whole range of specific characteristics – specialized claws, teeth, muscles, specific vision, stomach, intestinal tract. Humans do not have and have never had any morphological features of predatory animals. The jaw musculature, which should enable biting, grasping, and tearing, is completely unsuitable for such purposes. Predators, compared to humans, have much weaker lip innervation because lips serve only for mimics and saliva retention.

 

Why is Biodiversity Necessary?
It is said that a healthy human starts with a balanced and healthy diet from early childhood, but what about nature? Before seeking answers to this question, we first need to understand what exactly are healthy forests, meadows, and waters. Possibly, the first answer that comes to many people's minds is a green forest, free from waste, and this is not at all wrong. However, the basis of healthy meadow and forest ecosystems is much simpler and at the same time very complex – it is stable and long undisturbed soil with biodiversity in it, because only on such soil can a stable ecosystem form.

It must be understood that biodiversity is not just vibrant plants and birds, but the majority of the world's living organisms are not easily found and seen on a daily basis. 25% of the mass of the top soil layers is made up of living organisms. These are bacteria, algae, protozoa, worms, and various arthropods – a huge biodiversity of living species numbering in the tens of thousands that, over thousands of years of interaction both among themselves and with surface plants, have created a system that keeps the soil alive – decomposes, enriches with oxygen and nutrients, mineralizes, performs element exchange, and many other functions – thus creating a basis for biologically diverse forests and meadows with complex cycles of matter in nature, aimed at maintaining the stability and diversity of lakes, rivers, and seas. The state of surface waters depends directly on stable and biologically diverse forest ecosystems because coastal forests regulate nutrient input, prevent water overgrowth, with their root systems retain pollution input, and are a refuge and food source for thousands of water organism species. It must be understood that in nature, all ecosystems are interconnected, but the beginning of this complex system is precisely in the soil.

However, soil can fully perform its vital functions only if it is undisturbed. It must be understood that the less soil is disturbed, the more stable it is, and the more stable it is, the greater biological diversity it will have, which is the basis for the existence of our planet and our life on it, because precisely biodiversity, which includes millions of species, each performing its function in nature, maintains stability both in our planet's climate and in the water cycle and terrestrial processes, on which our health and quality of life depend.

However, humans, not understanding natural processes, purposefully disrupt this planetary order. The disruption of soil stability is not just about plowing, because even manicured gardens and agricultural lands with their variety of crops and weeds are a habitat for a large set of species that could not survive elsewhere, and food is needed for each of us. Soil stability is disrupted precisely by intensive agriculture and forestry, draining, pesticide use, liming, and many other activities to obtain short-term profits from resources accumulated by nature over hundreds of years. One of the most striking recent examples in Latvia and elsewhere in the world is clear-cutting. The fact that such forest management is not sustainable and is degrading to the environment has long been recognized by scientists at the global level, yet it remains the most popular method of timber extraction because it is faster, more profitable, and with lower costs than selective logging.

But why is the clear-cutting system so unfriendly to nature? Seeing a fresh clear-cut, a part of the society does not experience positive emotions because the forest has lost its aesthetic appeal and mushroom and berry picking spots are gone, but nature has lost much more than we can see with our eyes. Numerous studies have shown that clear-cutting destroys the huge biodiversity that has formed in the forest soil. It reduces to a critical level because the soil is exposed to the impact of heavy forestry machinery, which compacts it, the soil is disturbed and later also plowed and harrowed. Losing the shade and windbreak created by trees, the soil is exposed to

 erosion, drought, and temperature fluctuations. The soil has become unstable, and under these conditions, the soil biodiversity that had formed over decades can no longer be maintained. But what will be the consequences in the future?

Clear-cutting releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Although, for example, Latvian State Forests tirelessly, driven by their economic interests, continue to assert to the public that we can mitigate climate change by cutting down old trees and planting new ones, which will store carbon in their trunks as they grow, it must be understood that older trees have larger growth rings, which can accumulate a large biomass that only increases over the years. Scientists have proven that old trees are much better at accumulating carbon than young trees, and a greater amount of carbon is stored in the soil of old forests and their extensive root systems.

The impact of forestry, especially clear-cutting, on the climate is very significant. And also on surface waters. It may seem strange, how can clear-cutting, for example, a few hundred meters away from a river, affect it? However, after clear-cutting, a large amount of nitrates is leached into the groundwater. These nutrient-rich groundwaters, influenced by the relief, end up in rivers and lakes, where they promote water overgrowth and consequently the extinction of many species.

Of course, the forest that has been cut down will sooner or later regenerate and will bind some of the carbon back, also the leaching of nitrates will decrease after a few years, because nature has a great regeneration potential. A new forest will be planted in place of the clear-cutting and will grow, however, observing the current trends in forestry, doubts arise whether the soil stability will have time to recover before the forest is cut down again. But what is the new tree that grows on unstable and disturbed soil among other trees of the same species, which are just as old? Moreover, in a plantation where undergrowth is regularly cut down to promote the economic value of the growing tree, thus forming a plantation, not a diverse forest biotope. Such a forest formed by trees is weak and less resistant to both pests and climate changes, and there is one significant reason – the absence of old trees. It is precisely the old trees in the forest that maintain the stability of the biotope. It has been proven that with a network of underground fungal hyphae and roots, trees in the forest can warn of approaching pests, but if the soil is disturbed after clear-cutting, there are neither fungi nor root networks. Old trees with their deep root systems bring to the surface the microelements necessary for the growth of young trees and provide young trees with water in dry times. This is precisely why the diversity of tree ages in forests is so vitally important. But such a forest does not grow as fast and therefore does not meet the economic interests of modern foresters. However, only a natural and biologically diverse forest will be able to withstand the major climate changes expected in the future.

One of the most significant ecological problems in recent years, which only continues to intensify, is habitat fragmentation. Anyone can open satellite images of Latvia's territory and look at Latvia from above. Chessboards – that is the first association that comes to mind when looking at Latvia's forests on this map. According to European Union statistics, over the last thirty years, Latvia has been the absolute leader in the increase of habitat fragmentation among the member states. Forest masses are fragmented and divided into clear-cuts, young stands, middle-aged stands, etc. It is almost impossible to find a forest mass where one could walk straight ahead for half an hour, walking and not seeing any rectangular clear-cut or young stand. However, a fragmented forest is a biotope that has lost its naturalness and stability, although it still contains less affected areas. In these, more light shines through from clear-cuts and young stands, thereby increasing the temperature and evaporating more moisture, making it drier. In such a forest, the natural temperature and moisture regime (microclimate) is altered, which very adversely affects the species community in it, because new species enter this biotope that are alien to it and outcompete the natural species. Moreover, often the remaining forest area for many species has become too small to feed and maintain themselves, and as a result, this species becomes extinct. It is precisely because of forest fragmentation that the black stork in Latvia has almost become extinct, because this species requires undisturbed and unfragmented forest biotopes. The European roller and certain bird species are also at risk. The situation is further worsened by the intensive road network built by Latvian State Forests to make forest harvesting faster and more efficient. Slightly ironizing – to make it easier and faster to access pine and birch plantations. However, it has been researched that the impact of a newly built road can be observed up to 60 meters into the forest interior, and on certain species even up to 100 meters. These newly built forest roads, by dividing forests into smaller fragments, create an edge effect that affects the forest's temperature and moisture conditions, intensifies the impact of wind, and increases the amount of light entering the forest. All these changes pose threats to biodiversity, as they promote the entry of alien species and at the same time reduce forest species.

Latvia ranks fourth in the European Union in terms of the smallest percentage of protected natural areas, calculated in relation to the total area of the country. Unfortunately, according to the latest report of the Habitats Directive, 90% of all Latvian grasslands and forests are in poor condition, which is related to unsustainable management and Latvia as a natural resource extraction country. Although forestry makes up a large part of the state budget, Latvia stands out with low-value-added wood exports. According to the Central Bank's research data, more than half (52%) of the obtained wood materials are of low added value – it is firewood. However, these trees may seem of little value only to humans – for biodiversity, they are an opportunity to survive. Latvia is a firewood exporting country in the world, but it must be understood that all these resources are exhaustible, just like soil fertility. All the above indicators by no means indicate positive trends in nature conservation but make us realize how critical the current role is, even if small, but still existing network of protected natural areas in Latvia. However, it must be understood that in the long term, we can only preserve biodiversity if we maintain these species' habitats in the landscape, because gene exchange is essential for any species' survival in the face of environmental changes and diseases. No species can survive in the long term if its population is in isolation, for example, in a small nature reserve. To reduce the trend of decreasing biodiversity, the European Union's Biodiversity Strategy, several years ago, set a goal for each member state to protect at least 30% of terrestrial areas by 2030. This area of protected territories gives hope to preserve diversity in the long term, but Latvia is still very far from implementing this goal. This goal is currently far from being achieved even by potentially protected areas.

Unfortunately, the Latvian government also stands out for reducing the logging age this summer, citing the energy crisis. It doesn't matter that this law has not affected the price of wood chips. It only affected the number of logging permits issued, which immediately doubled afterward. Unfortunately, in the vote that took place in the summer on reducing pesticide use by 50%, the Ministry of Agriculture voted against. The European Commission's proposal was not supported, citing a decrease in yield and lack of alternatives, absolutely not understanding that the only alternative to living in a stable environment in the future is sustainable management. Unfortunately, there are very many such negative examples in the Latvian government that are lobbying for narrow interests.

It is worth mentioning the recent extensive logging of forests along the Amata River. News of this event shocked both social networks and news portals because the trail through these forests was part of a hiking route popular throughout Latvia. Shortly after this event, the Nature Conservation Agency reassured the public that the reason for this massive clear-cutting along the river was not the whims of foresters but an invasion of the eight-toothed bark beetle. To contain it, the private owner had to cut down the forest. This beetle invasion destroys commercially significant spruce forest plantations and causes large-scale damage throughout Northern Europe. For example, spruce stands are almost non-existent in Germany. In some places in Europe, bark beetle populations reach epidemic proportions, mostly in commercial 'plantation' forests, but can also affect natural forests, and the main method of combat is tree cutting and removal. However, looking at this situation from an ecological perspective, it seems a bit different. It is known that bark beetles most threaten weak spruce stands, for example, commercial spruce plantations, where biodiversity is very low, or stands that have suffered from floods and other disturbances. The reason is the weak communication between trees. They are not able to spread information about the presence of the pest through the root network as successfully, and therefore cannot synthesize the necessary amount of protective substances in time. Of course, climate change has a major impact on bark beetle invasions. Lacking severe cold, these insects do not freeze in winter. It must be understood that the bark beetle also has its place in the forest ecosystem processes. By destroying commercial soils, this insect tries to free up space for biodiversity. The bark beetle is just one of the many 'tools' nature uses to maintain species diversity, as in densely planted spruce stands, it is very low. It is interesting that news of bark beetle damage on the Amata shores shocked all media, but nowhere was it mentioned that the biggest enemy of the bark beetle, which limits its spread, is precisely the three-toed woodpecker, for which this insect is a significant part of its diet. However, for this bird species to survive, it needs old trees to carve out cavities and breed offspring. If there are none or very few in nature, as is currently the case in Latvia, there will be no enemies of the bark beetle, and it will continue to damage spruce stands. Cutting down sick trees can be compared to temporarily suppressing symptoms, which, of course, must be done, but it cannot be considered a long-term solution.

As ornithologists claim, in Latvia, over the last 20 years, the populations of 27 bird species have critically decreased. The corncrake has become a rarity, which used to be one of the most widespread birds. Also, the woodlark, the yellowhammer, and the black stork, which we once proudly regarded as a symbol of the naturalness of forests, are disappearing. Compared to loggers and farmers, birds do not have tractors to go and protest at the Saeima (Government of Latvia).

It must be understood that preserving and maintaining biodiversity does not mean isolating oneself from nature and turning all agricultural lands into forests, as society tends to ironize. Biodiversity in Latvia has also developed over millennia in conjunction with humans. Thanks to human economic activity, meadow biotopes were established and strengthened in Latvia, because without mowing or grazing, they cannot exist. Thanks to humans, diverse weed species communities were formed in agricultural lands. Currently, the traditional human lifestyle has changed, and with the help of pesticides, these weed communities are being destroyed, and although the scales have tipped in favor of intensive agriculture and forestry, it is necessary to find a balance between the use of natural resources and the maintenance of biodiversity, because only stable, natural, and species-rich ecosystems are the only way for humans to survive on this planet in the future.

 
About Latvian Waters
Health – this word is most often associated with us - people, but just as much it can be applied to the environment around us, especially to rivers and lakes, because just like human health, surface waters can be in good or bad condition. But what depends on the condition of the waters and which human activities most affect it?

One of the main and most important factors that ensure good river water quality is free flow, which simply means that the river is free from obstructions. The construction of small HPPs on Latvian rivers at the beginning of this century took place without any environmental impact assessment and left devastating consequences on Latvia's fish resources, resulting in significantly deteriorated fishing opportunities and also the condition of many other species that depended on these fish, such as the black stork and the river lamprey. The main reason is the interruption of the fish migration process, because salmonids and smelts are characterized by annual migration from feeding places to spawning places, for salmon, for example, it is the sea. As soon as a dam is built in the river, many fish species are no longer found in this river, which significantly affects the rest of the river fauna. If the river is not free, there will be no fish, so the amount of energy obtained from small HPPs is incomparably smaller than the damage done to the environment. It must be understood that fish resources in Latvian rivers can only be restored when the small HPP owners' lobby is stopped and these dams are demolished.

Another factor negatively affecting waters is the straightening of rivers. Its purpose is to accelerate water flow to drain the soil and obtain faster-growing forests and new agricultural lands. Unfortunately, in Latvia, approximately a third of the total river length is regulated and straightened. But how does a straightened river differ from a winding river? It must be understood that river bends play a very important function – in them, the river self-purifies from nutrients, washing them out. Moreover, straightening a river reduces the number of microhabitats in it, thereby also reducing the river's biological diversity.

The larger the amount of nutrients that enter the waters, the more they overgrow. As an example, Vaidava Lake in Vidzeme can be mentioned, where untreated wastewater was discharged during the Soviet era. Although nowadays untreated wastewater is no longer discharged into lakes, they continue to receive a large amount of nutrients, and the main cause is intensive agriculture. Unfortunately, plants only accumulate a small part of the used mineral fertilizer, and the rest is leached into the waters through the soil, promoting their overgrowth. Part of it also reaches the sea, promoting algae blooming, as a result of which dead zones, also called dead zones, are formed in the Baltic Sea. Research data is harsh – nowadays, a third of the Baltic Sea is already dead. In such oxygen-free zones, neither underwater plants can grow, nor can fish fry develop, resulting in a rapid decrease in Baltic Sea fish resources.

Unfortunately, freshwater experts have concluded that there are no longer any oligotrophic lakes in Latvia today – lakes with very few nutrients and clear water with high transparency. It must be emphasized that the overgrowth of lakes is a normal process, and any lake in its development process will become a swamp, but nowadays this process, like climate change, occurs hundreds of times faster than it should naturally. Reed mowing in lakes is very necessary so that Latvia does not lose the remaining biodiversity, but it is just a tough fight with the consequences that will never end if the current agricultural policy is not changed.

Another significant factor affecting water quality is chemical pollution. For example, such a heavy metal as lead, which unfortunately has plenty of sources of pollution today: organophosphorus mineral fertilizer used in agriculture, atmospheric pollution, metal processing and smelting, factory emissions, and of course, pesticides. Lead in the human body is very dangerous because it seriously affects brain function, causing neurological diseases and developmental disorders, as well as promoting liver and kidney function deterioration.

If nature's self-cleansing from other heavy metals takes several decades, then to self-cleanse from lead, it takes millennia.

One of the most significant sources of lead pollution is the lead pellets used in waterfowl hunting. Every year in the European Union, approximately a million waterfowl die from lead poisoning. But how does it happen? Most of the fired pellets simply fall into water bodies, where they further enter the food chain because birds accidentally swallow them, mistaking them for small stones and sand, which they eat to make it easier to digest food in the stomach. Dead waterfowl are eaten by predatory birds or scavengers, and further poisoning occurs, which can be lethal and is called secondary poisoning in biology. Realizing the harm caused by lead pellets, Latvia and the entire European Union banned the use of lead shot in wetlands – in marshes, lakes, river floodplains, etc., in 2023. But what happens to this lead that has already irreversibly entered the environment?

It must be understood that lead, unlike other heavy metals, very easily moves in the food chain. This element is found in nature in two forms - organic and inorganic. Lead methylation, according to a simplified definition, is a chemical process that denotes the transition of lead from inorganic to organic form. It is precisely the organic form of lead that is mobile and easily enters plants and further enters the food chain, for example, a fox hunting waterfowl that feed on lead-accumulated plants. It must be understood that humans are also part of the food chain, and lead can also enter our bodies.

Although the existing lead pollution in the environment cannot be eliminated anymore, however, with our economic activity, we can influence how much of the already existing lead enters the food chain, because, as mentioned earlier, if lead is in inorganic form, it practically does not move in the environment and does not cause much harm. Therefore, it is important to understand what factors promote the transition of lead from inorganic to organic form. One of the main factors is the amount of available oxygen, because lead methylation is an anaerobic process, i.e., it occurs in an environment where there is little oxygen, for example, in compacted soil or stagnant, nutrient-polluted water, where algae reproduction results in very low oxygen amounts.

One of the practical examples of this process is forestry near water bodies. Using heavy forestry machinery, the soil is compacted, reducing the amount of oxygen in it and promoting the transition of lead from inorganic to organic form, which is mobile, therefore further this lead easily leaches into water and enters the food chain. Negative impact is also caused by tracks left by machinery near water bodies, as most often they are filled with stagnant, shallow water with low oxygen content, which are favorable conditions for lead methylation. To reduce the entry of lead into the food chain, it is very important to ban the use of heavy machinery near water bodies, not to mention the transportation of logs across small water streams or ditches, which can also be observed in Latvia.

Using pesticides and lead-containing organophosphorus mineral fertilizer promotes the entry of lead into waters, because in conventional agriculture, using heavy machinery, the soil is most often excessively compacted, thereby promoting the lead methylation process.

 
About Forests and Biodiversity in Them
Sometimes in the media or the Ministry of Agriculture's annual publications, one can find a resonant statement - 28.2% of Latvia's forest area is occupied by protected natural areas. However, for a person whose everyday life is related to Latvian nature, this statement does not seem true, based only on personal observations in Latvian landscapes and satellite maps, where Latvia more resembles an artistic mosaic, rather than the greenest country in the world, as it is sometimes misleadingly claimed.

However, the Ministry of Agriculture in its publications chooses not to mention that only 13.7% of Latvia's forests have introduced restrictions on economic activity (lower indicators than in the EU), because there is no law in Latvia that provides for the protection of forest biotopes of European Union significance. So far, there are only public and resonant goals. The preservation of these forests in Latvia depends

 on the conscience of foresters. Theoretically, a forest on the map can be marked as EU-protected, but legally there are no restrictions on cutting it down. On the contrary – it is promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture, as evidenced by the guidelines given by the ministry to Latvian State Forests in the autumn of 2021, on how to avoid orders and cut down EU-protected forest areas. (source: https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/zemkopibas-ministrija-maca-latvijas-valsts-meziem-apiet-rikojumus-un-izcirst-es-aizsargajamos-mezus.a423692/)

Moreover, half of these 13.7% economically restricted forests are allowed to be clear-cut. A very important fact is also that the forest area in Latvia, which is allowed to remain untouched and where any economic activity is prohibited, is even more minuscule – only 4%, but, for example, in the neighboring country Estonia, it is 13%.

It must be added that the European Union has also initiated infringement proceedings against Latvia for insufficient protection of species and biotopes. Unfortunately, the sudden planned reform of the State Forest Service, within the framework of which the forest ranger capacity will be reduced by half, poses great threats to Latvia's forests, as it deliberately weakens the service's ability to monitor economic activity in the forest, which in some cases is illegal, both not respecting tree age and growth conditions.

It is no secret that logging volumes in Latvia are very large. Fortunately, very slowly, but still, some understanding of the forest's role not only, for example, in the economy or recreation but also in such an important issue as the ecological processes on which we all depend, is forming in society.

Seeing a clear-cut, we are often overcome with unpleasant feelings. This management method can be interpreted as one pleases, but it does not change the fact that the forest simply no longer exists. And, until the land torn apart by forest machinery regenerates and fully begins to perform its ecological functions again, many decades will be needed (unless, of course, it is cut down earlier). However, next time when going to the forest, it is worth paying more attention to something else – the roads built by Latvian State Forests – wide driveways with deep ditches, whose total length in LVM management in the state territory is almost 11,000 km, and in the coming years, it is planned to build another 4,000 km of such roads to more easily access the most remote corners with heavy logging machinery, because everything has been cut down in the more accessible places. At first glance, one might wonder - what harm can a road do to a forest? If only for the area cleared for construction purposes, which, for example, in 2018 was approximately 170 ha. Compared to the thousands of hectares of forest cut down in Latvia in one year, it is, of course, a negligible number, if not considering that the converted area will never become a forest again. However, the problem is much more serious.

Building a road in a forest, first of all, very rapidly changes the growing conditions along its edges. The available amount of light and nutrients increases, there are changes in soil moisture, density, and pH, caused by construction materials used. All these changes adversely affect plant species communities in the forest, moreover, one of the most significant problems is the promotion of alien and invasive species entry and spread by roads, which is a very serious threat to Latvian nature. Often invasive species are fast-growing and can produce a large amount of seeds, which is their advantage, outcompeting native species. Roads are their distribution corridors.

Road construction is one of the main reasons for forest habitat fragmentation. They reduce the continuity of the forest, thereby reducing the diversity of those species that require an undisturbed living environment or are less competitive. The resulting fragmentation also promotes the reduction of genetic variation in forest species, because the road is a barrier that plant seeds find difficult to overcome, thereby plants become less resistant to pests and environmental changes. Roads, by dividing forests into smaller fragments, create an edge effect that affects the forest's temperature and moisture conditions, intensifies the impact of wind, and increases the amount of light entering the forest. All these changes pose threats to biodiversity, as they promote the entry of alien species and at the same time reduce forest species.

So far, no such research has been conducted in Latvia, however, elsewhere in Europe and the world, it has been researched that the impact of a road on individual plant communities can be observed up to 60 meters into the forest interior, and on individual species even up to 100 meters. Building the road as narrow as possible and cutting down as few trees as possible affects biodiversity much less. However, the impact of the road on forest ecology is long-term, because even after the road is no longer used, it continues to affect the species composition. Unfortunately, LVM, when building roads, is based on economic interests, not on nature conservation. Quoting the company, "the proximity of roads allows reducing forestry and logging costs." Already today, the landscape of roads fragmented forests in Latvia resembles chessboards. Of course, there are also restrictions on road construction in Latvia. For example, in protected natural areas, but their area in the country is too small to preserve nature in the long term. Because to protect in the long term means to protect at the landscape level.

The conclusion is very short – forest roads disrupt the balance of this ecosystem. But, if the balance is disrupted in the forest due to various - both human-caused and natural - conditions, it can start to get sick. Various pest and disease invasions occur, which today are undoubtedly facilitated by climate change as well. The analogy can also be observed in agricultural monoculture fields, which are an unnatural and unstable formation, where pesticides are taken to help in such cases. In the forest, it is the "Harvester". However, nature is arranged very simply: pests settle there, where they have few natural enemies. Here is also the answer to one of today's most pressing questions – why do we need biodiversity? Simply put – it is biodiversity that ensures the stability of ecosystems. Therefore, if there is a sufficiently large diversity of pest natural enemies in the forest, they simply will not be able to massively reproduce.

Latvian State Forests often proudly proclaims that forest area in Latvia is constantly increasing and that in the times of Ulmanis our country had twice less forest than today. There is nothing false in this fact, if only deliberately misleading terminology is used, because the forest is not a bush-overgrown clear-cut, which the forestry sector likes to count as forest to improve statistics, but overall there has indeed become more forest. But have we ever thought about what used to be in the place of these forests? Quite simply: meadows and agricultural lands. But such meadows, where more than 50 different plant species grew in one square meter and which maintained a huge diversity of insects and birds. These natural meadows used to make up 30% of Latvia's territory. But what were the agricultural lands like? Free from pesticides and full of biodiversity. Just as much as natural meadows, of which less than one percent is left in Latvia, are endangered weed communities. Unfortunately, driving through Latvia, poppy and cornflower fields may not be seen even once. But in nature, nothing is superfluous, because even weed communities maintain the stability of agricultural lands. They protect the soil from erosion, absorb nutrients, preventing them from leaching out, maintain soil microflora. Ultimately, they maintain insect diversity, which is food for birds – the direct enemies of pests. Unfortunately, current pesticide use trends indicate that farmers have no understanding of these ecological processes, and weed communities are also on the brink of extinction. Of course, it must not be denied that with changing farming and human lifestyles, it would be very difficult to maintain natural meadows in such large areas today, and there would be no economic justification for it today, therefore we can maintain and promote biodiversity precisely in the forest.

In Latvia, the forest has been a resource for human survival and part of the Latvian economy for hundreds of years. Undeniably, also part of the Latvian national identity. But will it remain so in the future? Current trends do not indicate so. It is necessary to find a balance between the economy and nature conservation, because the role of both is undeniably absolutely equal. It is also necessary to continue to profit from the forest, as has been done for hundreds of years. This is not an easy task, because due to the lack of public understanding, conflicts are currently inevitable, although all this could be regulated with a compensation mechanism. Unfortunately, in the distribution of the Latvian budget, nature conservation is not allocated even half a percent. However, it is very desirable for all sector ministers, who make decisions, to understand a very simple truth: we are connected to nature in the most direct way, and its diversity must be preserved at the landscape level, because from this our own quality of life in the future depends. All changes begin with the promotion of people's understanding. First of all, in the understanding of those ministers who make decisions that will affect our future for decades and centuries. Unfortunately, the reality is that the Ministry of Agriculture is made up of people who do not have the slightest basics of understanding ecological processes.

 
About Current Forest Protection
Here and there along the roads, one can notice completely new posters, which do not seem to address the buyer, but a large and noticeable inscription states that (quoting) "Forests are the basis of Latvia's economy". This inscription provokes mixed emotions. First, realizing the current logging trends in Latvia and their devastating impact on the environment, this advertisement seems really silly. If such a small country as Latvia builds its economy on the extraction of natural resources, it cannot stably exist in the long term. Secondly, thinking a bit more about the relevance of environmental issues in Latvian society, the existence of such an advertisement is a bit also pleasing.

For example, Latvian State Forests have been creating increasingly new and loud public campaigns and informational materials for years, appearing on social networks and addressing people at public events, trying to convince both adults and very small children that the greatest value of the forest is measurable in cubic meters. But even those people who do not deal with environmental issues on a daily basis see what happens over time with their berry-picking and mushroom-picking places. They see that once cut down blueberry places do not regenerate even after many years, because, unlike lingonberry places, it takes a very long time for blueberries to regenerate, and with the current logging trends, it will happen when the forest will be cut down again. Therefore, if nothing changes, in a few decades blueberry picking will remain only in our childhood memories. There is a lack of understanding of environmental issues in Latvian society, but people are not blind. More and more photos of clear-cuts appear on social networks, people simply express their dissatisfaction. Of course, Latvian State Forests sees this and creates their greenwashing campaigns with even greater power, and also these posters along the roads, although they belong to another company, are just part of the extensive greenwashing campaign that is deliberately maintained.

Calling things by their real names, Latvian State Forests has its own green propaganda information machine, which is made up of real people and whose task is to maintain in society the idea that the value of the forest is measurable in cubic meters. No, Latvian State Forests are not lying. The information they very actively provide to society is most often not made up. The only and main problem is that they present this information unilaterally, telling people only the part of the fact that is convenient for them and that not only justifies but also glorifies the company's activities. Such actions can legitimately be considered as deliberate misleading of society. For example, to the objection that forests are being cut too intensively in Latvia, LVM's answer is always ready: "But, look, the forest area in Latvia is increasing!" However, it is always omitted that forest area statistics include clear-cuts as well. Or such a statement: "Forest logging can help reduce climate change because a lot of carbon is stored in wood."

The role of old forests in the context of climate change is one of the most current issues in both the logging and nature conservation sectors. The logging industry claims that a growing forest absorbs much more carbon than an old forest and that by not allowing the forest to age, we can store a lot of carbon in wood. This fact is a short-term thinking-based half-truth. If we talk specifically about the growth process, it is. A tree really actively absorbs CO2 during the growth process to form biomass. However, in the context of global climate change, long-term carbon storage is absolutely more important, which, as has been proven, is much greater in old forests. Huge amounts of carbon are stored in their soil and dead wood. Discussing this issue, the huge carbon emissions that enter the atmosphere from disturbed soil during clear-cutting are also ignored. And currently, 90% of Latvian forests use clear-cutting as the main logging method.

Of course, forests must be cut. In Latvia, wood will always be and is a very important resource. However, Latvian State Forests, which manages 1.62 million hectares of Latvian land, is a company without any long-term development strategy, not to mention the preservation of natural values, which in the Latvian forestry sector is considered only as an obstacle. Why? Here are some of the main reasons.

One of the most current topics in the logging sector is the damage caused by bark beetles in spruce stands. Ironically, a few millimeters long insect can attract so much attention and stir up the entire logging industry. However, it must be reminded that the most suitable forests for the spread of this pest are precisely spruce monocultures, because just like in agriculture, the law of nature applies in forestry that monoculture is a place with low biodiversity, and any pest is just a tool of nature to increase species diversity in a specific territory.

Damage to the forest can also be caused by fungi, for example, the root rot fungus Armillaria spp., which is one of the most current problems in commercial forests, however, it is never mentioned that in forest biotopes with high biodiversity, this fungus almost never causes any problems and cannot destroy entire stands, as it does in commercial forests with one tree species. Why? Because all the free niches in the forest are already occupied by other species, and it cannot inhabit more than a few trees. This fungus, just like the bark beetle, creates deadwood, which, figuratively speaking, opens the door to biodiversity entering the commercial forest. These processes and laws well characterize the basic task of biodiversity in nature – to maintain stability in the environment. That is why a diverse forest is much more resistant.

It should be emphasized that geographically Latvia is located in the mixed forest zone, and spruce monocultures in our latitudes are created by humans, not by nature. Yes, in the future there will be summers with weather conditions unfavorable for bark beetles, but there is still a plethora of other pests, both of spruce and pine, that can completely destroy stands and whose damage will only intensify in the future due to climate change. That is why the restoration of clear-cuts with monocultures (tree pile consisting of a single tree species), not to mention natural values, cannot and should not be sustainable forest management.

But why is mixed forest so rarely planted if, in the end, even foresters themselves will suffer? Mixed tree stand or mixed cultivation, after all, means not only greater stand resistance to pests and thus also financial risk leveling, but also much greater biodiversity and preservation of natural values, which in the case of selective logging would be the definition of sustainable forestry. The answer is quite simple, and it was mentioned at the very beginning – Latvian State Forests is a company without a long-term strategy focusing on immediate profit. Ironically, it turns out that LVM does not even think about their own future profit. Only those research topics that are relevant are considered to be about how to prepare the soil after clear-cutting to grow the next pine faster, not to mention the inclusion of biodiversity preservation issues in the company's development plan. As ornithologist Viesturs Ķerus has said, "the main problem in Latvian forest management is that both the forestry sector and the responsible Ministry of Agriculture look at the forest as an agricultural crop with a longer cycle".

 
Conventional Agriculture
Cereals are the main production grown by farmers. It is the raw material for other agricultural product manufacturers. Here too, everything is subordinated to the interests of food processors and, of course, maximizing profits. Pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and their harmfulness – a topic often heard and tiresome to many, right? But there are topics about which less is heard. For example, the nitrogen percentage in grains. The higher the percentage, the more grain processors are willing to pay for the grains. Therefore, specific varieties with an increased amount of nitrogen are selectively bred so that bread makers can more easily give the desired shape to their products. Gluten is gluten – a water-insoluble large molecular protein, which, when used intensively, accumulates on the intestinal walls and disrupts metabolic processes. Food manufacturers use gluten very widely in a variety of products, for example, as a thickener. As a result, consumer health suffers.

Even greater danger is posed by glyphosate-containing herbicides, which decompose in the soil much longer than advertised. To ensure that grains ripen more uniformly and can be handed over as "higher quality grains", some grain producers manage to spray their fields, for example, with roundup a couple of weeks before harvest, as a result, glyphosate accumulates in the grain husk. Eating bread from such grains results in a glyphosate shock dose. The consequences are serious – DNA molecule damage in cells, especially epithelial cells. By damaging cell DNA, the next cell copy will be different and perform its function differently. The consequences are difficult to predict.

Intensively produced raw materials, including those obtained from GMO plants, are used in meat, egg, and milk production. Indicating the product composition, unfortunately, consumers are not informed about their presence.

To ensure that animals, being in large density and stress, do not get sick, a huge amount of medications is used. To gain weight faster - hormonal preparations. All this, unfortunately, ends up in the meat. By the way, meat produced with intensive technologies contains 10 times more pesticide residues than fruits and vegetables, about which we often worry.

Along with manure and litter collected from barns and spread over fields, also the drugs used in livestock and poultry farming, without which conventional agriculture cannot last long, because nature tries not to allow a large concentration of any one animal or plant in one place. Even if pesticides or drugs are used according to all instructions, they inevitably end up in the soil and then in plants, and further in the ecosystem. Antibiotic-resistant microorganisms form from antibiotics, and antibiotics used in medicine may prove ineffective. Simple soil analyses cannot detect all drug residues in the soil. Expensive and time-consuming investigations are needed. Likewise, the long-term effects of residue impact on the human body are unknown.

Soy, often used in animal feed, which is grown using a lot of pesticides, 90% of soy is genetically modified. It is used to produce various food additives, which are then used in a wide variety of products, such as candies, ice cream, chocolate, etc. It all undermines our

 reproductive, endocrine, and central nervous systems and not only. For these reasons, there are countries where soy is almost not used, although it is essentially a valuable food product, the best source of plant-based proteins. Soy in animal feed is not irreplaceable, it is possible to grow legumes in Latvia, and the price difference is not significant.

Why should the taxpayer subsidize such food producers? It is a road to nowhere. There are economically more advantageous options, they are fully proven by economic calculations and confirmed in practice.

 

Pesticides
When Latvia had just joined the EU, we prided ourselves on biodiversity and the fact that the soil was not so degraded compared to the rich European countries. Now that we have joined this family, thanks to the activity of conventional farmers, which is supported by subsidies, we have reached or even surpassed these countries in soil and environmental degradation with pesticides and environmentally unfriendly farming. As shown by in-depth analyses of soil and obtained products in German and Italian laboratories, pesticide residues are found everywhere, even when their use in that place has been stopped for several years. Unfortunately, pesticides also end up in neighboring territories with the wind, including neighboring home gardens and wells. It must be honestly said that beekeeping products are no exception because if they are collected in such an environment, they also contain contamination of these chemical substances.

The number of accumulated and incoming pesticides in the environment is huge. To avoid abstract talk, here are some of the most popular ones. Herbicides: glyphosate, metolachlor, chloramphenicol. Insecticides: cypermethrin (especially often and in large quantities found), imidacloprid, thiacloprid, deltamethrin, chlorpyrifos. Fungicides: azoxystrobin, boscalid, fluopyram, fenhexamid, propiconazole, fenpropidin, pyraclostrobin.

In Latvia, approximately 600 tons of pesticides are used annually in agriculture, or from 1 to 2.5 kg per hectare. Worldwide, about 2 million tons of pesticides are used, giving their manufacturers about 45 billion dollars in annual profit. Possibly, the pharmaceutical industry gains an even greater indirect profit, because the impact of pesticides does not go unnoticed. One of the indicators pointing to this - the recent rapid increase in oncology, autism, and many other diseases. Unfortunately, pesticide residues are found not only in industrially produced food but also in groundwater, which ends up in wells. Especially this applies to regions where winter wheat, rapeseed, and barley are grown, because they use the most poisons (2-2.5 kg per hectare).

Roundup, Clinics, Ouragan, Taifun B, and others, whose active ingredient is glyphosate, are widely used herbicides today, with which fields are sprayed against weeds, as well as grains before harvest so that they ripen more evenly and farmers can sell them as "higher quality grains". Yes, the external appearance of the grain improves, but it turns out that glyphosate negatively affects enzyme activity in mammals, especially enzymes vital for the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. Enzymes perform various functions. There are enzymes that participate in DNA formation, there are those that break down large molecules, there are those that remove toxins, etc. And as soon as some function is performed incompletely, problems begin.

Most of the sprayed glyphosate preparations end up in the soil, then in groundwater. Decomposition in the soil can take several years. These preparations can enter the human body both with products and with water from a well, as well as directly through the skin or by inhalation (for farmers working) and can cause serious health problems – mutations (genetic damage), promoting infertility and premature births, hormonal disorders in children, etc. Glyphosate damages epithelial cells (a dense layer of cells at the boundary with the external environment) and can cause kidney and skin cancer. Also, one of the fastest-growing types of cancer in the world is non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (an increase of 5% per year). Coincidence or chance, but these percentages are similar to the percentage increase in herbicide usage. Weeds become resistant, and doses increase. Unfortunately, people do not become more immune to these substances.

Farmers will object that without pesticides, yields will significantly decrease. However, as experience shows, yields in organic farms are indeed slightly lower. They are about 10 – 30%. It is not several times the difference. But, considering that human cell assimilates only 5% of what we eat, the rest is excreted as waste and toxins. Does this number not prompt to make a logical conclusion – less, but higher quality. This figure of approximately 5% applies to today's industrially produced food. That, which is offered in supermarkets, where most of our food purchases take place. Supermarkets nowadays have become a mirror of society. What is bought, is offered.

The question arises – is it wise? Is it rational to produce waste and toxins, subsidize farmers with taxpayers' money, poison the taxpayers themselves?

 

Alternative
To obtain health-friendly products, everything must be in balance in nature, that which has evolved over millions of years. You cannot cut down and plow everything in a row. There must be biological diversity both in the birch grove, the swamp, and the forest with old trees. Destroying one insect or plant species endangers the rest. Instead of clear-cuts, not only spruces, pines, and birches should be planted based on shortsighted commercial calculations. It would be reasonable to renovate fields devastated by conventional agriculture by planting trees that used to grow here before the glaciation, that is, 12 thousand years ago, for example, the relict metasequoia (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), the two-lobed ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), the American coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus), the green Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), catalpas (Catalpa spp.). In this way, a complex self-regenerating ecosystem with a unique natural harmony and strong energy could be regenerated. This would be the best legacy that can be left for future generations. People would feel incomparably better in such an environment. Unfortunately, the person trapped in concrete cages in the city and exposed to various radiations cannot understand this yet.

If the balance is not disturbed in nature, it copes with pests and plant diseases by itself. Also, the application of mineral fertilizers is not necessary, nature is arranged so that, for example, legumes can take nitrogen from the air (for example, alfalfa, clover), there are plants that form long roots and can absorb minerals that are located very deep in the soil. Rotting, these plants feed other plants. Therefore, working with environmentally friendly methods requires a lot of knowledge, not mineral fertilizers and pesticides, which ultimately also pollute the sea. Although working with environmentally friendly methods, the yield size and prices will be slightly different, but the produced products will be more nutritious, richer in minerals and therefore also smaller quantities will suffice. Using such products, a person feels much more vigorous, there is no need to use legal drugs - coffee or energy drinks. And if you also include the economy of treatment costs in perspective, the figures are convincing. Then what prevents us from economizing when we constantly hear that there is a lack of money in the budget in all areas. We do not fully realize what wealth we have in Latvia, unarranged fields, wild nature, which, unfortunately, has been catastrophically destroyed lately. Compared to other European countries, we have fewer "arranged" rural territories with geometrically precise apart fields with perfectly straight furrows, where there is not a single weed, no bushes, no also frogs and lizards. But in nature-arranged territories, there is much greater order. Everything is in mutual balance and is programmed for long existence.

 
Greed and Misunderstanding Destroy Latvian Land
In the world, there is a catastrophic decrease in the amount of land minimally affected by humans. So far, there is still something left of biological diversity in Latvia. Due to shortsighted thinking and misunderstanding, most people believe that the land is arranged when it is plowed and sown with monocultures, not understanding that the main indicator of land value is the biological diversity in it. Forest loggers and large farmers see forests and fields only through the prism of euros and dollars - immediately and right now. If our ancestors cut forests mainly in winter and selectively, obtaining higher quality wood, then now they cut all year round and most often everything in a row. Cutting in warm weather quickly spreads, for example, fungal diseases, but sick trees like insects. The result – forests become increasingly sick. If previously ashes from firewood were usually scattered nearby, then now everything is taken away. The greatest wealth is taken away, macro and microelements, which no animal or plant can synthesize. They are in the soil, or they are not. If forest land is not yet devastated, then the situation with agricultural lands is increasingly catastrophic. As shown by worldwide long-term soil analysis summaries over many years, the amount of macroelements and microelements in the soil, which do not increase the yield mass, decreases convincingly every year.

There are only two causes of disease – mineral deficiency and organism pollution. The same applies to plants. If this is not taken into account – both plants and people will perish. With medications and pesticides, nature cannot be deceived in the long term. There are no incurable diseases in nature, there is only human ignorance. Otherwise, we would not exist. There is nothing superfluous in nature, if only people who do not understand it, but nature deals with them according to its laws, and it is only a matter of time.

 
With your Purchase Choice in the Store, you Influence the Surrounding Environment
If we want to take care of our health, then we will carefully consider which doctor to go to and which not, what medicines to buy or not to buy in the pharmacy, even more carefully we should consider – from which farmer to buy products and from which not. By purchasing products grown in soil devastated by conventional agriculture, you not only undermine your health but also, with your wallet, promote further degradation of this agricultural land, leaving an unpleasant legacy for future generations.
                                                                                                                biteend