WWF Russia and «Transparent World» conclude a joint ecological expedition in Khabarovsky Province.
RFP Group is one of the largest forest companies in the Russian Far East. Its leased territories are located both in Khabarovsky and Primorsky Provinces. In 2010 RFP Group began the process of FSC certification. Protection of “high conservation value forests” (HCVF), including old-growth massifs, is one of the key conditions for obtaining certification. To delineate HCVF WWF Russia organized a complex ecological expedition in August-September 2011.
“The goal of our field work was to determine the condition of old-growth forest massifs, characterize their level of biodiversity and, in the end, produce recommendations for their protection”, - noted remote sensing specialist Igor Glushkov from the non-profit partnership Transparent World. “The preliminary delineation of massifs was done on the basis of satellite images and forest inventory materials. This was possible due to the assistance of our partner, the firm Scanex, which supplied the necessary images.”
In the expedition took part botanists and specialists in the identification of lichens, mosses and mushrooms from the V.L. Komarov Botanical Institute (Saint-Petersburg), the Botanical Garden Institute (Vladivostok) and Institute of Water and Ecological Problems (Khabarovsk) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the University of Helsinki Botanical Gardens. Specialists from WWF Russia and Transparent World coordinated the expedition.
In the first stage of the expedition in Khabarovsky Province the field group studied valuable old-growth forest massifs on the territory of 8 timber leases. Unique vegetative communities of river valleys, old-growth mountain forests and alpine ecosystems were identified in the lower reaches of the Amur River and in the mountain watersheds of the rivers Gorin, Boktor and Amgun.
During the expedition specialists mapped the habitat of rare tree, shrub, herb, moss, lichen and mushroom species that are included in the Red Books of Russia and Khabarovsky Province. A number of important finds were made during the expedition, include the first points for several endangered lichens and mushrooms in the Russian Far East. Specialists even identified what might be two new species for science (one fungus and one lichen), which highlights the critical importance of assessing the ecological value of forest massifs before the initiation of timber harvesting. It is entirely possible that the forest tracts where these species were identified comprise the greater part of their total habitat.
“WWF Russia takes active part in the process of forest certification as a stakeholder, representing the interests of nature. After the presentation of recommendations for protection of high conservation value forests the process of negotiations with RFP Group begins. Together we will seek a balance between biodiversity conservation and the economic interests of the company. Namely this balance is the key principle of forest certification and sustainable forest management” noted Brian Milakovsky, a specialist of the forest program at the Amur branch of WWF Russia and one of the expedition’s coordinators.
The field work in Khabarovsky Province having been completed, the expedition now continues on RFP Group’s timber leases in the central Sikhote-Aline Mountains of Primorsky Province. The final result of the expedition will be the presentation to the company of recommendations for the protection of key ecosystems.