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Премия рунета 2017

Russia is Number One in the World in Losing Intact Forests

20 june 2018
In recent decades, humanity has been losing an average of 20.5 thousand hectares of intact, most environmentally valuable, forests per day, and the rate of their loss is growing rapidly. The biggest losses are observed in Russia, Brazil and Canada.

The last expert studies revealed that the fastest increase in the rate of reduction of intact forests compared to the previous study period 2010-13 occurred in Russia. In our country, according to the latest estimates, it grew by 90%, in Indonesia – by 62%, and in Brazil – by 16%.

In total, during 16 years (from 2000 to 2016), the humanity lost 9.3% of all the pristine forests of the Earth. The total rate of loss for the planet is growing every year, and 2.3% of the total area was lost in the last three years of the period. Now the average rate of intact forest loss is 8.7 million hectares per year. This means that today intact forests are disappearing 20% faster than in 2000-2013. Without undertaking urgent and effective measures, these indicators, according to environmentalists, will only grow, and therefore the future of the intact forests of the planet is already vague even in the XXI century.

Intact forests are of special ecological and social value.
(c) Alexander Plekhanov

The updated intact forest world map, and the new results of research of intact forests change by countries and regions were presented by international environmental organizations and scientists at the international conference Intact Forests in the 21st Century that ended on June 20. One of the key world-level events dedicated to the conservation of the planet's intact forests and their biological diversity was held with the support of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Environmentalists, scientists and researchers, WWF-Russia and other environmental organizations experts from all over the world gathered at the University of Oxford to discuss the current status, value, major threats and the most efficient methods and tools to conserve the rapidly shrinking intact forests of the planet that are not affected by human activities. The first part of the conference was devoted to the importance of IFA, methods of their allocation and mapping, as well as modern threats. The development of management decisions and regulatory projects at the international, national and regional levels that could significantly improve the quality of protection of these forests were discussed by the experts during the second part of the conference. The final document of the meeting was the Declaration signed by WWF-Russia and other members of the meeting on June 20. 

"The key problem in the conservation of intact forests is the lack of understanding and recognition of their importance at the state level. Meanwhile, the intact forests are, among other things, the largest carbon stocks, which is emitted into the atmosphere at logging and leads to the escalation of the climate change. At the same time, it is quite simple to conserve such forests. Due to their large size, they are very stable, and in order to protect them from extinction, no expensive protection measures are needed, cessation of their development will suffice. Of course, it is necessary to improve the efficiency of forestry in already developed forest areas, engage in competent reforestation, develop sustainable intensive forestry," noted Nikolay Shmatkov, WWF-Russia Forest Program Director, who took part in the conference and signed the final Declaration.

WWF-Russia experts, who have been working for many years to conserve the High Conservation Value Forests in Russia and their biological diversity shared their experience and research results with the international community. Within the framework of the working discussions, WWF-Russia presented hcvf.ru project – a universal database and tool for working with high environmental value forests, developed by WWF-Russia with the participation of some  Russian NGOs and with the support of WWF–IKEA Partnership on Forests and private donors. The experience of WWF-Russia and the unique at the country level project were highly appreciated by the foreign experts. Canada, Nepal and Suriname have already expressed interest in launching a similar project.

WWF-Russia reminds that intact forests are of special ecological and social value. They help regulate the climate regime on the planet, keep soil and water resources from degradation and are home to many rare, threatened, and endangered species of flora and fauna. These forests, which are not significantly affected by human activities, play a key role in maintaining the proper functioning of the entire earth ecosystem and conserving its biological value. Some experts estimate that intact forests already account for less than 20% of all remaining forests on the planet, and this figure is rapidly declining. The main threats to intact forests are logging, forest infrastructure construction and fires, as well as exploration, mining and transportation of minerals.

Only the joint efforts of environmental organizations, authorities, responsible business and consumers can help stop their degradation and disappearance. Therefore, WWF-Russia is actively engaged in a dialogue with all stakeholders and is working to conserve intact forests and their biological diversity, for instance, by giving them the official status of the National Forest Heritage Sites and strengthening the requirements of the voluntary forest certification under FSC scheme.

Preview photo: (c) Anna Porokhova / WWF-Russia; Headline photo: (c) Alexander Plekhanov