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Премия рунета 2017

TOP-5: Who Cannot Survive Without Intact Forests?

22 may 2018
For the International Day of Biological Diversity, WWF-Russia drafted a shortlist of the fauna species, whose life is closely connected with rapidly disappearing intact forests.

Intact forests are large untouched forest lands with no settlements, roads, or any signs of economic activity. Such forests play a key role in conserving planet's biodiversity and ecological links at the landscape level, ensuring the stability of the hydrological regime and are huge carbon stocks, constraining global climate change. In Russia, such forests account for 15% of the total area of the country (255 million hectares), but every year they are rapidly disappearing. According to the WWF-Russia study, every day in Russia about 4.4 thousand hectares of intact forests, which are home to rare plants and animals, are destroyed, which jeopardizes the future of these species.

White-tailed eagle

A majestic feathered predator, whose wingspan reaches 2.5 meters, is familiar to the inhabitants of many regions of our country. The white-tailed eagle soaring in the sky can be seen throughout Eurasia. Despite rather wide natural habitat, its existence is closely connected with intact forests. These birds live near fish-rich reservoirs and nest only in remote, wild areas of the forest, rarely visited by man. The home and refuge for the eagle are tall, pristine trees. In their powerful spreading crowns, on thick branches they build large nests, of up to 2 meters in diameter, to which they return many years in turn. There are cases of nesting in the same place for 40 years! The eagle inhabits intact woods and nests a major part of the year, from April until spring, until nestlings leave the nest. Privacy is very important for this predator as when people disturb it, the eagle throws its layings. Because of logging in intact forests, the eagle is expelled from the original nesting sites, and pollution of water bodies and the reduction of fish leads to the death of its layings and nestlings.

White-tailed eagle
(c) Boris Bobchinevsky / WWF-Russia

Wild forest reindeer

Once a widespread object of commercial hunting, now the forest reindeer in most of the Russian North is close to extinction. For example, in Arkhangelsk Region over the past 30 years, the deer population has decreased 11 times: from 17 to 1.5 thousand. One of the main reasons, along with poaching, is the reduction of suitable habitats due to commercial logging in intact forests. The existence of the wild forest reindeer is tied to such types of land as coniferous white-moss forests, old spruce forests, forest bog areas, and for this large animal sufficiently large undisturbed forest areas are needed. One of the last shelters for the deer are intact forests in the area between the Northern Dvina and the Pinega rivers, where a landscape reserve is being created.

Female with babies
Wild forest reindeer
(с) Victor Mamontov / WWF-Russia

Atlantic salmon (salmon)

Despite the fact that most of the salmon live in the sea, an important stage of its life cycle is associated with rivers flowing through intact forests. It is in the clean forest ponds that the salmon comes to spawning grounds where the young fish spends the first 2-3 years. Spawning conditions, survival of eggs and fry are very strict, they need clean rivers with clear undisturbed water. Deforestation leads to river shallowing, water turbidity and endangers the population of the salmon, which in recent years has been greatly reduced. The salmon is one of the main natural resources of Arkhangelsk Region and the forests of the Dvina-Pinega interfluve area play an important role in its conservation. It is the place, where 18 salmon spawning rivers flow or originate.

Salmon going through waterfall to spawning
(с) Konstantin Kobyakov / WWF-Russia

Musk deer

For more than a decade, the main threat to the future of the musk deer in the Russian Far East, in the Altai-Sayans, and other regions of Russia and Mongolia is poaching, due to the demand for musk deer squirt (musk) from China and other countries of East Asia, where it is used in traditional medicine. Because of the scale of the threat, it is extremely important not only to fight poaching, but also to maintain the existing population of the species in the country by conserving intact forests, where woody and ground lichens grow, which is the main food for the musk deer, which is small in size. After all, slowly growing lichens are most often found in very old, intact forests as there they have time to grow and create a sufficient amount of food to maintain the species even in winter.

(с) Grigory Mazmanyants / WWF-Russia
(с) Valerii Maleev / WWF-Russia

Osprey

This cosmopolitan bird is found on all continents except South America and Antarctica. In autumn, the osprey leaves the territory of Russia and flies to Africa, often over more than 10 thousand km. The osprey differs from other feathered bird raptors with almost white color of the lower part of the body and special requirements for nesting sites. Its favorite places are high trees near clean and rich fish ponds with shallow waters. The osprey dives for fish on the fly to a depth of 2 meters. They set up large nests of up to one and a half meters in diameter only at mushroom-like tree tops and they are used by birds for many years in a row, if they are not driven from the place away by people. The osprey loves wild, intact areas of the forest, and if people appear near the nest, then the nestlings hide, and adult predators silently fly away. The average distance of birds scaring is 150 meters, so active industrial development of forest in neighboring areas threatens the reproduction of the predators. When logging, it is essential to conserve osprey nests and to leave high trees suitable for nesting.

Osprey - nestling in the nest
(c) Ivan Vdovin
WWF-Russia reminds that conservation of biological diversity and prevention of degradation of the planet's natural environment is one of the key challenges facing humanity. The conservation of flora and fauna diversity is impossible without the conservation of the intact forests, home to many rare, threatened, and endangered species. The main threats to the future of those forests and their inhabitants are industrial logging and construction of forest infrastructure, fires, exploration, extraction and transportation of minerals. Therefore, WWF-Russia pays special attention not only to the development of recommendations for the biodiversity conservation during logging, but also to the conservation of intact forests, for example by assigning them the official protected status of the National Forest Heritage Sites.

Headline photo: (c) Alexander Plekhanov
For additional information please contact
High Conservation Value Forest Projects Coordinator