Poplars are suitable for producing furniture. They are also well-adapted to the climactic conditions in Slovakia. They grow quickly despite the dry and warmer summers in our region. This means they can be harvested before they reach maturity. They also do not spread into the surrounding area and do not produce tufts that irritate allergy sufferers.
How do poplars affect the place where they are grown?
Poplar plantations improve the quality of the soil in which they are grown.
The leaves that fall off in the autumn remain in place through the last year of growth, after which the trees are harvested in winter. This differentiates poplars from many other crops, which are removed from the soil during harvesting and which require that the soil be tilled again, thereby removing important nutrients and carbon.
Roots are another source of nutrients and they sequester carbon over the entire 20-year cycle. After the end of this period, the stumps are ground into the soil, ensuring that poplars do not start sprouting again. The root strands that remain deep in the soil gradually decompose, thereby enriching the soil with nutrients and oxygen, helping create a deeper humus layer. Poplars create a new habitat important for wildlife that is free of fertilisers and pesticides. The impact of plantations on different animal and plant species is investigated by an independent organisation: the Daphne Institute of Applied Ecology, which regularly monitors plantations.
JÁN ŠEFFER, vegetation ecologist, director of the Daphne Institute of Applied Ecology
“Poplar plantations are planted in low lying areas of Slovakia, typically in landscapes that are heavily used for agricultural purposes. They have a revitalising effect. Fast-growing trees create a very attractive nesting habitat for birds which they otherwise do not find in agricultural landscapes. They also represent a refuge for many insects and multiple species of amphibians, which are primarily attracted to wet parts of plantations. With respect to plants, we’ve had some interesting findings with respect to ancient weeds, which are very rare in our fields. These are weeds dating back to medieval times and plantation management practices have enabled them to re-establish themselves.”
Every plantation has thousands of trees. When taken together, they have a cooling effect and can help improve air quality in the surrounding area.
Poplars are dependent on water and mediate the transpiration flow of water from the soil to the air very well. Their cooling effect on the surrounding area is much more effective compared to some other tree species. The air is cleaner thanks to carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration, and at a rate of up to five times faster than in the pine stands typical of the Záhorie region. Finally, there is the benefit that fewer trees need to be cut in natural forests thanks to fast-growing tree species. These are all reasons why the project has also received the support of the European Union.
ĽUBOŠ MOLITORIS, IKEA Industry land developer
“I’ve always been interested in applied ecology as someone with a background in environmental education. I am convinced that we can use our project from the industrial sector to have a positive environmental impact. I would simply describe our plantations as small islands of biodiversity, which are particularly important for insects and soil edaphons.”