A key source of the Amur River receives protection status
Verkhneamursky Wildlife Refuge will preserve the Shilka River, the major source of the Amur River.
The Governor of Zabaikalsky Province signed the decree to establish Verkhneamursky Wildlife Refuge in Mogochinsky district of Zabaikalsky Province on the area of 239,639 hectares. It took two years to prepare feasibility assessment and to get approval for its establishment.
“The creation of Verkhneamursky Wildlife Refuge will preserve floodplain territories and the Shilka River for the conservation of the whole ecosystem of the Amur River Basin. Pine forests in the river valley are the least protected biomes in the Amur Ecoregion. The research of the wildlife of Shilkinskaya floodplain began a long time ago, in the beginning of 19th century. In 21st century, the Shilka River again became the focus of attention during the evaluation of the potential impact of the planned dam construction on the river system. WWF Russia experts estimated the risks for the whole Amur River. The company EN+ carried out economic assessment. These assessments confirmed that the potential damage to the environment could be so dramatic that EuroSibEnergo Company gave up its plans to build a dam on the Shilka River, – comments Petr Osipov, deputy head of WWF Russia Amur Branch. – It is very important that scientific data became the background for the government’s decision to establish Verkhneamursky Wildlife Refuge. At present, the territory of protected areas in Zabaikalsky Province is practically doubled.”
Three years ago the plans for Trans-Siberian (Shilkinskaya) dam construction became a real threat to the Shilka River. Thanks to the great work of WWF-Russia Amur branch, government agencies, academic institutions, protected areas and non-governmental organizations of Zabaikalsky, Amurskaya and Evreiskaya, Khabarovsky and Primorsky Provinces, this risk was mitigated.
“The wildlife refuge should serve as one of the compensatory measures to reduce the negative environmental impact of economic activity on the territory of Mogochinsky district, allowing to save the biodiversity and valuable wildlife species, - says Oleg Korsun, PhD, professor of the Zabaikalsky Federal University, one of the authors of feasibility assessment. - Large areas of Mogochinsky district are leased by logging companies which are not ready to exclude from their leases areas necessary for ecosystems preservation. In the course of the wildlife refuge creation, the experts conducted a series of public discussions with local people and the administration of the district. As a result, the regime of the refuge prohibits the activities, which lead to the destruction or degradation of ecosystems, such as timber harvesting, mining, the use of harmful chemicals, land drainage and many others. At the same time, the land tenure regime allows hunting as one of the local people’s activity.”
The wildlife refuge is of a great importance for conservation of unique ecosystems in the upper reaches of the Amur River, as well as Red List wildlife species such as fish hawk, black stork, Bewick's swan, great Siberian sturgeon and Amur sturgeon. Along with forest ecosystems, other nature communities of Zabaikalye will be preserved, such as groves of Daurian birch and floodplain grasslands with great variety of Far Eastern-Manchurian flora.
“Verkhneamursky Wildlife Refuge is one more component of the Amur Green Belt, the network of protected areas, supporting conditions for stable and long term existence of the wild animals and plants. There are three large protected areas – Erguna, Wuma and Beijikong - on the adjacent area in China, along Sino-Russian border. Transboundary cooperation of these PAs and Verkhneamursky Wildlife Refuge will promote conservation of unique ecosystems of the upper reaches of the Amur River”, - comments Anna Barma, protected areas program coordinator at the WWF Russia Amur Branch.