Eng. Jan Teodor Hausbrandt
the first Director of the Institute in 1930-1939

The history of the Forest Research Institute (FRI) starts in times when Poland regained its independence after the World War I. In the middle of the 1920s, foresters made an effort to create scientific unit, which would engage in experimental forestry activities. In 1930, the Experimental Department of the State Forests was organized as a special unit with the rights of the state forest district. In 1934 it was transformed into the Research Institute of the State Forests under the Directorate General of the State Forests with the office in Warsaw. After the World War II, the institute received its current name.

The Institute headquarters until 1939 and in 1946-1955 in Warsaw at M. Reja street

During the first period of Institute’s existence, its activities concentrated on questions of enhancement of forest economy in the state forests having the goal to increase their productive capacities, protection of standing timber resources and also their sustainable use. Such direction of studies was linked to low volumes of timber stock due to relatively low forest cover in Poland, destruction of forests during the World War I and constantly growing demand for timber. In such conditions, it was important to concentrate the research on selection of seeds and seedlings used for regeneration from chosen populations of forest trees and also to reduce damaging impact of insect pests and fungal diseases on growth of forest resources. At that time, the institute also played a pioneering role in the area of nature protection and especially in protection of endangered species of plants and animals.

The Institute headquarters in Warsaw at Wery Kostrzewy street
(currently Bitwy Warszawskiej 1920 r. str.) in 1965

During the interwar period, the Institute developed contacts and cooperation with national and international forest science organizations and also became a member of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).
The World War II and occupation of Poland were tragic for the institute and its staff. Seventeen of Institute employees were killed, Institute’s director Jan Teodor Hausbrandt was murdered in Katyn. Property of the Institute was ruined, collections were stolen or destroyed.
After the war when forest administration was formed, the Institute revived its work. In November 1944 the newly elected director formed scientific core of the Institute, secured a property and research areas, set up the Seed Evaluation Station in the Drewnica Forest District headed by Stanisław Tyszkiewicz, established a branch of the Institute in Białowieża, which was headed by Jan Jerzy Karpiński. From January 1946, as it had been before the war, the office of the institute was located in Warsaw.
After the World War II, the primary activities of the State Forests were directed on restoration of forest economy and also on afforestation of abandoned agricultural lands on vast Polish terrains within its new borders. The works done by the Institute concerning scientific and practical bases of forest resource management at that time were very innovative. The research implemented by the Institute allowed to conduct site examination on soils of various agricultural categories. They helped to find methods which enhanced conditions needed for better tree growth, defined proper ways of soil preparation and melioration activities as well as selection of appropriate tree species, and also proposed new methods of forest protection and use. Other topics being developed included forest economics, organization of forest management, management of mountain forest, forest microbiology and ecology. New classification system of forest sites has been prepared. Methods of afforestation and reinforcement of areas unused in agriculture has been introduced. Principles of seed stands selection, seed and cone classification has been defined. Annual reports on seed yield of the most valuable tree and shrub species has been prepared. Comprehensive research on water resources in forests has been implemented.
In 1960s, the State Forests viewed poplar plantations as innovative and attractive source of material for paper and cellulose industries. The research on silvicultural techniques and vigor of poplar cultivars allowed proper inventory of poplar plantations, development of principles for plantation planting, as well as production, treatment and protection of poplar trees in more than 60 plantations established at that time. Poplar varieties unsuitable for planting in Poland were identified.
In 1950-1970, the monographic study of biology and ecology of almost all economically significant species of insect pests was conducted, which included forecasting methods of their occurrence. The system linking science with practice was developed and annual autumn pest inventory and warning maps were initiated, which allowed to prepare estimates and forecasts of possible outbreaks. Efficiency of chemical methods used for pest control was tested, while new agents and forest protection techniques were introduced, which also included biological control. Comprehensive fire methodology developed in the IBL presents an example of holistic understanding of forest as an ecosystem and also of application of forest’s natural mechanisms in limiting number of insects which have a damaging effect on forest economy.
The projects implemented in the Institute in the 1970s and 1980s, were linked to the goals of forest management which were set at that time by the State Forests such as a necessity to provide dynamic timber supplies for industries and at the same time taking care of forest stands vitality. The research conducted by the Institute focused on scientific bases of stand resistance improvement using various regeneration techniques, silvicultural methods, mycorrhizal and bacterial associations with trees, treatment of seedlings with mycorrhizal preparation, fertilization of seedlings in tree nurseries and weakened tree stands, as well as selection of pathogen resistant varieties of poplars and willows. Many of the previously developed methods were further improved based on the results of more recent studies. Contemporary evaluation system of fire danger, new protection methods of plantations from wildlife damage, more natural means of monitoring and protection from insect pests, or „PgIBL” chemical agent used for protection from root rot are some of the examples of such innovations. The Institute also implemented research projects studying forest productivity, which had a special importance for the State Forests.

The Institute headquarters in Warsaw at Wery Kostrzewy street (currently Bitwy Warszawskiej 1920 r. str.) in 2004

Many new theories, methods and programs covering various disciplines have been elaborated by Institute researchers, such as basics of forest pathology, theory of industry affected climate, basics of nature-oriented silvicultural methods, application of phytosociology principles in forest planning, main components of the “National programme for expanding of forest cover”, woods expansion programme, concepts of the biological tree protection from root rot using Phlebiopsis gigantea fungi, methods of repellent application for protection of plantations from wildlife damage, principles of pheromones and kairomones use for protection of trees from insect pests. Institute researchers studied the conditions of timber price formation and optimization of timber production, established values of land and stands within forest districts of the State Forests. The Institute actively participated in the development of principles of national forest policy, criteria of sustainable multifunctional forest management, questions of forest protection in Europe, as well as formulation of the National Forest Program. IBL researchers implemented studies and analysis related to causes of forest die-off in the Sudety mountains and proposed strategy for further activities, causes of oak stand die-off in the 1980s, developed preservation program of forest genetic resources, programs related to forest riparian areas. Institute researchers were the authors and coordinators of the technical monitoring program, biological monitoring of forests, inventory methods of volume, structure and productivity of forest resources and also forecasting of their development, environmental research in the Białowieża Primeval Forest and other similar areas in the north-eastern part of the country. The Institute conducted research programs in forests damaged by ecological disasters, including forests destroyed by Lymantria monacha outbreak in the 1970-80s, by forest fires in 1992, by flood in the Odra river valley in 1997, by snow and winter storms in the mountains, by extensive insect outbreaks of various species, and also by hurricane winds in the lowland in the “Szast” protected forest located within the Piska Forest in 2002.
From the start of its 85-year long activity, the Institute has participated in various international scientific programs, some of which had started before the World War II. After the war, the cooperation involved exchange of experiences and knowledge between different institutions (such as IUFRO and FAO) which were implemented as a part of multilateral agreements between Western and Eastern Europe. The Institute’s policy of broad international cooperation is systematically sustained becoming more extensive with the development in the 1990s of the Fourth Framework Program of the European Union and passing on to present projects. IBL is the only scientific organization in Europe which was granted a status of PROFOREST Centre of Excellence in the area of protection of forest ecosystems. During 2006-2014, researchers of the Institute participated in the work of 5 panels of experts and 1 working group of the ICP-Forests program, which conducts forest monitoring in Europe using harmonized monitoring methods. During the last 10 years, IBL researchers have been taking an active part in more than 50 international research programs and projects, such as:
● European Cooperation in the Field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST),
● Biological control manufacturers in Europe develop novel biological control products to support the implementation of Integrated Pest Management in agriculture and forestry (BIOCOMES),
● Tools for Sustainability Impact Assessment of the Forestry-Wood Chain (EFORWOOD),
● EVOLution of TREEs as drivers of terrestrial biodiversity (EVOLTREE), Laboratory for Wildland Fires Sciences and Technologies in the Euro-Mediterranea Region (EUFIRELAB),
● European Forest Genetic Resources Programme (EURORGEN),
● An Innovative Approach of Integrated Wildland Fire Management Regulating the Wildfire Problem by the Wise Use of Fire: Solving the FIRE PARADOX,
● Flexible Wood Supply Chain (FlexWood),
● Monitoring of forests and environmental interactions in the European Union (FOREST FOCUS),
● Increasing Sustainability of European Forests: Modelling for Security Against Invasive Pests and Pathogens under Climate Change (ISEFOR),
● The network on tree improvement for multifunctional European forestry (TREEBREEDEX),
● Designing Trees for the Future (TREES4FUTURE),
● Teaching and Learning in Virtual Learning Environments for Water Management (WALTER).

From 2002, the Institute implements Extramural Doctoral Studies (NSD). During four NSD editions, in total 70 students participated in this program, including 46 employees of the State Forests and two international students. Until now, the PhD degree in forestry was awarded to 25 graduates.
From 2006, the Institute has been located in Sękocin Stary.

Main building of the Institute in Sękocin Stary

Starting from 2009, IBL organizes annual Winter Forest School, which during 7-year period of activity attracted about 1600 participants. The Winter School has been gaining more and more popularity, which is reflected in the record number of participants (more than 300) during the last 7th Session dedicated to game management.
In 2014, the IBL in cooperation with the Main School of Fire Service initiated a extramural graduate studies in the area of forest fire protection.
Scientific staff of the Institute, certified laboratories and modern equipment serve social needs and scientific research through implementation of research and applied studies. Researchers of the Institute publish their research results in Polish as well as international scientific journals covering forest and environmental topics. They include two quarterly journals published by IBL: "Leśne Prace Badawcze" ("Forest Research Papers") and "Folia Forestalia Polonica – Series A – Forestry", prepared in cooperation with Polish Academy of Sciences.
Forestry extension program of the Institute aims to extend the research accomplished at the Institute to various citizen groups. Every year IBL representatives participate in the Earth Day events and also share their knowledge during subsequent editions of the Warsaw Festival of Science as well as conducting educational programs in the Chamber of Forest Education.

Prepared by:
Maria Gozdalik
Zbigniew Sierota

Additional information by:
Magda Stasiak
Joanna Szewczykiewicz