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What we do
Премия рунета 2017

Preservation of forests in the Barents Region

Preservation of low-disturbed forests

One of the main assets of the Barents region is large stands of intact taiga forests, preserved in the Arkhangelsk Region and on the border with the Republic of Komi. These are the last wild forests of Europe, not affected by logging and other industrial human activities. Formation of natural forest ecosystems has been going on there for millennia and after logging it will not be possible to restore them. The largest of the remaining areas of untouched taiga is a stand located in the interfluve of Northern Dvina and Pinega. Its area is about 1 million hectares.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of these forests in ensuring the quality of the environment. They play a major role in climate regulation, purification of air and reduce concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, protect against floods and soil destruction, and protect sources of rivers and lakes.

These forests are characterized by high flora and fauna species diversity. From the usual inhabitants of taiga, you can find: brown bears, wolves, lynxes, wolverines, and elks. There are also a lot of rare and endangered species, among which wild reindeer occupies a special place. The Red Book includes many large birds of prey, such as: white-tailed eagle, golden eagle, eagle-owl, osprey, etc. Salmon spawns in pure taiga rivers.

Residents of forest villages actively use non-timber forest products. They are engaged in hunting, fishing, gathering mushrooms, berries, and medicinal plants.

At the same time, the forest industry is one of the key industries in the region’s economy. Kargest timber enterprises are situated here, annually harvesting millions of cubic meters of timber. Until recently, it was assumed that the forest resources of the Northern European part of Russia are inexhaustible and are developed only to an insignificant extent. However, a long-term extensive forest management model based on the development of newer and newer stands of naturally grown forests (and practically no forestry has been carried out on the already cleared territories) has led to the depletion of forest resources and forest degradation. Now most of the indigenous coniferous forests of the region have already been cut down, and the last parts of wild taiga continue to be destroyed.

Preservation of these forests in their natural state is one of our main tasks. Since 2003, WWF has been working to study and preserve the region’s undisturbed forests. We conduct expeditions to the last wild taiga stands, negotiate with authorities and lumbermen, raise issues of preserving untouched forests at events at various levels, promote the spread and support quality of voluntary forest certification within the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) system.

Paanajarvi National Park, Karelia © Andrey Karaban
Republic of Karelia © Yulia Kalinicheva
Republic of Komi © Alexander Ivanov

Expansion of a network of specially protected natural areas

A network of specially protected natural areas (PAs) is one of the main tools for preserving valuable forest areas. WWF is actively working in this direction, and here are just some of our achievements:

  • We have formulated a concept for the development of a network of PAs in the Arkhangelsk Region.
  • With the participation of WWF, the «Onega Pomorie» National Park has been established, with an area of 201 thousand hectares (2010 km²).
  • A project of a wildlife sanctuary «Uftyug-Ileshsky» prepared by the Fund has been approved, and a new protected area of 78 thousand hectares (780 km ²) has been established in 2015. As a result of the wildlife sanctuary creation, the key part of one of the intact forest territories, which is an important habitat for wild reindeer, has been preserved from logging.
  • The project for the establishment of the Dvinsko-Pinezhsky Reserve has been prepared by us and received a positive conclusion of the state ecological expertise in 2013. However, unfortunately, the protected area has not yet been established. We continue to negotiate the rescue of Europe’s largest massif of untouched spruce forests.
  • WWF prepared a project of the reserve «Korabelnaya Chascha», with an area of 12 thousand hectares (120 km²), to preserve the old-aged pine forests described in the works of the famous Russian writer Mikhail Prishvin. We expect the creation of a reserve in 2017.

We are participating in the implementation of the Barents Protected Areas Network (BPAN) initiative. For the first time, a detailed map of existing and planned PAs was drawn up for the entire Barents region and their conservation regimes have been analyzed. Currently, proposals are being prepared to optimize and increase the coherence and representativeness of the network of protected areas in the Barents Region.

Development of sustainable forest management

In order to preserve large areas of intact forests and exclude them from forestry industry development, it is necessary to offer an alternative to the forestry sector. Such an alternative is the transition to intensive forestry in secondary forests on productive lands, the creation of a so-called «forest garden». We cooperate with the largest timber industry companies in the region to introduce techniques and technologies for effective forest restoration and conducting felling activities to support young plantations. The idea is to grow and harvest more wood on a smaller area. This makes it possible to preserve the wild forest stands.

We understand that it is impossible to save all undisturbed forests and, in order to avoid socio-economic consequences, part of the intact forests will be developed by the forest industry (as the transition to «forest garden» takes time). But it is possible to preserve biological diversity even when harvesting wood in operational forests. To this end, we have developed specific recommendations that were taken as a basis for developing requirements for the conservation of biological diversity for forest users in the Arkhangelsk Region. Now, logging has become less destructive to nature, and the forest environment persists even when clear cuttings are carried out, as key habitats of plants and animals remain on the plots.