The Sturdy and Brave Stone Pine

Last month we posted on our Facebook page a riddle: a seedling of an “unknown” species.

As expected, it didn’t take long before a friend of Tomorrow’s Forest found the answer: it was a stone pine seedling (Pinus Cembra), a type of pine native to the Alps and the Carpathians, a great lover of heights, very resistant to high winds and diseases.

The riddle was just a teaser for the project we are developing in the Harghita-Madaras mountains, between 1,500-1,800 meters, together with old and new friends alike – forestry students from local high-schools and universities. In this project we plant stone pine seedlings coming from the Austrian Alps and Calimani Mountains. They will help local spruce forests to withstand storms.

Because the stone pine is not only sturdy and brave, it is also highly altruistic!

As it happens with artificially created forest ecosystems, spruce forests in the Harghita mountains are vulnerable to stormy weather and climate change. Strong winds, hoar-frost, frozen snow, combined with the spruce’s shallow roots means that forests take significant losses, year after year, in the form of windfall.

The result is that the ecosystem isn’t regenerating as well as it should. In the end, the mountains become barren.

How is the stone pine helping?

Tibor Kádár from the Zetea Forest Management Unit explains: “The stone pine is native to the Carpathians. It plays a role in mitigating extreme climate and boosts the resistance of spruce against windfall. The aim of the project is to create a structure with the help of stone pine, to test the effects these seedlings will produce in the spruce forests.

The pine has taproots which bury deep in the soil, among the rocks, which helps it stand better strong winds. Planted here and there among the spruce, the pines will break the air currents. Thus, the spruce will not be uprooted or broken as easily.

The newly created plantations, with spruce and stone pine, stand on difficult landscapes. There are lots of rocks, with a thin layer of soil covered in moss and bilberries. In the high mountains, the slopes are exposed to fast winds and the vegetation period (the season when it’s warm enough and the trees can grow) is short.

In this short time span, spruce cannot build enough biomass – and store carbon – while the pine is much more efficient.

It produces denser wood with great value for the furniture industry. The stone pine has a longer lifespan, frequently reaching 500-1,000 years, while the spruce lives shorter, about 200-300 years.

We put the stone pines on a map!

After we plant the stone pine, the project will continue with several years monitoring.

Students from two forestry high schools in Harghita County will be our helpers. They will do their practice with us over the summer and will help us create an interactive map. On the map, each seedling will be recorded with accurate GPS coordinates.

The map will be ready in September – we can’t wait to share it with you!

Until then, we’re leaving you with images from the stone pine planting. We help, we plant!

Do you want to help us support more such initiatives of reforestation and education? Consider making a small donation, safely, online – for each 5 lei you donate, we plant a seedling in your name!