Throughout the COP19/CMP9 Climate Change Conference in the corridors leading to the the plenary rooms you can enjoy a photo exhibition of John Walencik "ARBORES VITAE - The last European primeval forest." It consists of unique pictures of the last temperate zone lowland primeval forest in the world - the Bialowieza Primeval Forest.

Straddling the Polish and Belarusian border and covering an area of fifteen hundred square kilometres, extends an extraordinary territory – the Bialowieza Primeval Forest, the last temperate zone lowland primeval forest in the world. It is here among the venerable oaks and towering, fifty-metre high spruces that for millennia nature has patiently developed a sanctuary, a wealth of knowledge about ages past. The Bialowieza Primeval Forest is a unique place not only in Europe but the whole world. It constitutes an extremely valuable point on the new map of the European Union, one worth special protection. In 1979, the forest was the third Polish feature to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site; in 1992 the Belarusian section of the Primeval Forest was likewise listed. Protected by the Polish king Wladyslaw Jagiello, it has survived at least partially intact, providing shelter to an unprecedented number of animal and plant species (more than 14 thousand), many of which no longer exist anywhere else in the world, making this one of our planet’s most exceptional wildlife sites. The Primeval Forest is rightly associated with the European bison, the largest land animal of the Old Continent. This king of the Primeval Forest shares his ancient home with some magnificent predators: wolves, pine martens and lynx, but also with an amazing number of other species - insects, birds and small mammals, as well as vascular plants, mosses, lichens and fungi. Today, as a result of irresponsible human activity, the forest faces a serious threat. To draw attention to this problem, the acclaimed photographer and documentary filmmaker Jan Walencik and his wife Bożena have immortalized Bialowieza’s natural wonders in amazing photographs and films, using which the organizers of the present exhibition have composed a story in words and images of a fairytale land not to be found anywhere else in the world.

While admiring these beautiful photographs of the Primeval Forest, it is worth remembering the words of that great nature lover Pope John Paul II, who ten years ago sent the exhibition’s organizers the following message, so meaningful today: “The beauty of this land urges me to appeal for its preservation for future generations. If you love your native land, don’t let this cry go unheeded.”

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