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Fires are Among the Main Threats to Intact Forests in Russia

30 july 2019
According to WWF-Russia’s research, human caused fires are among the main threats to intact forests landscapes (IFL) inhabited by rare species of animals and plants.

Research data confirm where logging and construction of roads and other infrastructure neighbour to intact forests, fires occur in IFLs more often. Every year Russia loses more than 1.6 million hectares of intact forests due to logging, road construction and mining and anthropogenic fires, and the pace is growing rapidly. Human caused fires are one of the main reasons of IFLs loss in Russia (60% of IFL loss area), when logging and mining are causes of 23% and 17% of IFL area loss relatively.  

“Russia has been experiencing serious problems with forest fires for several years. Most of them are caused by human activities: fires occur near settlements, agricultural lands, roads, logging sites, places of exploration and mining, etc. As a result, fires cause significant damage to economically valuable industrial forests, including those that are planned to be used for logging. This leads to the need to significantly reduce the volume of logging in the regions most affected by large-scale fires,” says Konstantin Kobyakov, HCVF coordinator of WWF-Russia Forest Program.

The objective data of space survey over the past 20 years confirm the average fire spread over 10 million hectares of forests each year in our country. On average, at least 3 million hectares of forests are completely destroyed by fires in Russia every year. This area is 3 times larger than the area of forests used for logging. In addition to direct economic losses, fires cause huge damage to biodiversity, habitats of valuable and rare species of animals and plants, and smoke causes significant harm to public health. Forest fires also affect climate change as instead of offsetting greenhouse gas emissions, forests contribute to increasing their atmospheric content during fires.

Start of forest fire (с) Konstantin Kobyakov / WWF-Russia
Forest fire (с) Michel Gunther / WWF
“Lack of fire brigades and funding complicate the fight against fires in the regions. WWF-Russia has repeatedly drawn attention to the need for full disclosure of the reliable information about forests, which will help realistically assess the scope of the existing problems, including those with forest fires, and take appropriate measures at both the federal and regional levels. In addition, it is necessary to significantly increase the financing and equipment of fire-fighting units, as well as to take measures to preserve IFLs as infrastructure development in IFL zones leads to fires,” says Andrey Shchegolev, Head of WWF-Russia Forest Program.

Russia is one of the main forest countries in the world, with more than 45% of its area being forest. Most of the remaining forests in Russia have long been developed, and only a fifth of them (247 million hectares) remain in their intact form. Russia is one of the three world leaders in terms of speed and area of IFL loss. Within 40 years Russia may lose half of IFL area, and within 80 years all of them. WWF-Russia has been conserving Russian intact forests for 25 years.

You can learn more about WWF-Russia Forest Program activities here: https://wwf.ru/en/what-we-do/forests/

Preview photo: (c) Konstantin Kobyakon / WWF-Russia. Headline photo: (c) Michel Gunther / WWF.

For additional information please contact
Forest Program communication coordinator
Head of Forest Program Office