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Премия рунета 2017

Wildfires destroy young animals and drive bears from the forest

02 august 2012
Smoke caused by massive wildfires may lead to a decrease in the populations of animals, including endangered species, according to WWF and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Meanwhile, underreporting about fires (in some areas – by 70-150 times) does not allow to allocate adequate resources to help people and the nature.

Young animals and nests threatened by wildfires

According to Alexander Shishikin, deputy director of the V.N. Sukachev`s Institute of Forest, «mid-sized animals like squirrels, hares, and sable perish from fires more often than other animals”.

»Rodents can hide in burrows and wait for the fire to burn out, and big animals can run away from it. But of course, hatch and young ones die«, - says Alexander Shishikin.

According to Alexander Bryukhanov, WWF forest coordinator in the Altay-Sayan region, among the Siberian animals, baby forest reindeer and birds of prey, which live in the taiga forest, are in the primary hazard. Fires are also driving bears out of the taiga to settlements, which may lead to conflict with people.

»It is also important to understand how environmental conditions gradually change after the fires, - says Alexander Shishikin. - For example, the number of sable for the first 2-3 years after the fire remains low, until the grass is formed and the rodents are able to breed well again, and after that the sable population recovers«.

As for the squirrels, he says, proper conditions for their restoration will form only 20-30 after massive wildfires. However, freshly burned forest is a suitable habitat for ungulates, because there is a lot of quality fodder and few gnats.

Wilfires in nature reserves

The most difficult situation is in the Tsentralno-Sibirsky nature reserve (“central siberian”) in the Krasnoyarsk region and in the Verhne-Tazovsky reserve in the Yamalo-Nenetsk autonomous district, where large areas of taiga are burning. According to space monitoring, areas burned by fires in the spring and summer this year are estimated at tens of thousands of hectares. Lack of good roads and considerable distances from the reserves to the major facilities make anti-fire work extremely challenging.

According to the leaders of the Krasnoyarsk region, the area burned by fires does not exceed a quarter million hectares. However, only the burned forest in nature reserves and sanctuaries is close to this figure - and the protected areas take up only 7% of the Krasnoyarsk region.

According to weather forecasts for August, the weather will remain hot in the Krasnoyarsk region, so it seems that situation with forest fires will not improve.

Nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries have not received new firefighting equipment for several years. Inspectors` salary in Russian reserves is about 10-12 thousand rubles a month. To risk life and health to fight with fires and poachers, despite such a small salary is only for true patriots of the cause, but the number of such people is decreasing every year.

In some regions the official statistics of fires is underreported by 70-150 times

From the beginning of the year a huge area suffered from the wildfires and, according to the official data, it has already reached one million hectares. However, according to the Russian Academy of Sciences, only in the Siberian taiga burned-out area reached a few million hectares. WWF confirmed the Greenpeace estimation on July 31 that the official statistics of wildfires in are underestimated by at least 10 times.

The data from the satellites differs a lot from that received by air and ground forces. For example, in the Novosibirsk region the difference is 72 times (on July 24 satellites show 499,403 ha, and aviation / ground facts - about 6917 ha) in the Omsk region - 74 (407 710 ha and 5450 ha respectively), the Kemerov region - 159 times (145 136 ha and 911 ha).

However, it is the underreported facts that are brought to the citizens of the country as final figures, although these types of fire monitoring include less than half the area of Russia.

»The official facts about forest fires can provoke nothing except a bitter smile... People don`t live in isolation, somewhere on the moon, but in this very Siberian taiga, and they realize that the real area of fires is much bigger than those reported by Moscow ', - said Alexander Bryukhanov.

The underestimation of the wildfire area leads to inadequate funding of the firefighting and fire prevention. Anti-fire funding in Russia is approximately 10 times lower than in Canada and 30 times lower than in the United States.

Environmentalists urged the Russian government to publish full statistics of forest, steppe and peat fires, including satellite monitoring data. In addition, WWF considers it necessary to strengthen accountability of government officials at all levels for an intentional falsification of any information about the wildfires.

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Far-Eastern wild cat killed by wildfire smoke
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A lot of flights in siberian cities were cancelled because of the wildfires
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