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WWF: Russia loses half a million hectares of intact forests per year due to logging

25 july 2018
According to the results of a new study by WWF-Russia, the rate of loss of intact forests due to logging and the creation of forest infrastructure in Russia in 2016-17 exceeded 500,000 hectares per year.
If in 2001-02, about 100 000 hectares of the most ecologically valuable, intact forests were lost annually from logging activity in our country, in the recent years the rate of their loss has increased fivefold. The recent data of WWF-Russia1 say that in the past year, the leaders of losing intact forests were Krasnoyarsk, Arkhangelsk and Irkutsk Regions. In these regions, 184,000, 145,000 and 88,000 hectares of intact forest were lost in 2017, respectively.

In the framework of the Earth Overshoot Day campaign, WWF-Russia notes that the total area of forest cover of Russia is growing every year, in particular due to the overgrowing of abandoned fields and other factors, BUT there are less ecologically valuable intact forests in our country. Scientists call these virgin forests intact forest landscapes (IFL). They are large natural areas of ecosystems in the forest area, which have not been significantly affected by economic activity. Their allocation and conservation is an internationally recognized priority in environmental management and protection, as well as one of the main goals of WWF-Russia.

Intact forest landscapes are the most ecological valuable forest areas, home to threatened, endangered and rare species of plants and animals, the loss of which cannot be compensated by new plantations. “Their conservation is needed to prevent further climate change. The forest grown on the felling site can never be compared to the irretrievably lost ecosystems of intact forests in terms of their ecological value. This is the case when the amount of planted or self-grown forests on abandoned farmlands in the foreseeable future will not transform into quality. It is therefore impossible to compensate for the loss of intact forests of the Earth, so it is crucial to prevent their complete degradation,” says Nikolay Shmatkov, WWF-Russia Forest Program Director.

Intact forest landscapes are the most ecological valuable forest areas, home to threatened, endangered and rare species of plants and animals // (c) Alexandr Plekhanov / WWF-Russia
Their conservation is needed to prevent further climate change // (c) Alexandr Plekhanov / WWF-Russia

Russia is not just a one of the countries with largest forest area, but also one of the few countries in the world with large areas of intact forest landscapes. Intact forests make up 20% of the entire forest area of our planet and they account for 1.16 billion hectares. According to a WWF-Russia study, Russia has 255 million hectares of intact forests, which is 1/5 of the world's IFLs or 15.2% of the territory of our country. It would seem an impressive figure. However, the most valuable of these forests may be lost in the coming decades!

As in the whole world, the area of intact forests in Russia is rapidly declining. On average, 8.7 million hectares of IFL per year disappear irretrievably on the Earth, the share of our country accounting for almost 20%, i.e. 1.6 million hectares. Russia, Brazil and Canada are among the three leading countries, which lose intact forests. Moreover, a recent international study has put Russia in the first place among the countries where the rate of IFL loss is growing fastest. In our country, compared with 2010-13, the rate of IFL loss increased by 90%. We are followed in this global rating by Indonesia (62%) and Brazil (16%).

It is impossible to compensate for the loss of intact forests of the Earth, so it is crucial to prevent their complete degradation // (c) Julia Kalinicheva / WWF-Russia

Why is Russia losing its virgin forests? According to WWF-Russia, it is due to forest fires caused by humans (60%), logging and building of forest infrastructure (23%), as well as exploration, mining and transportation of minerals (17%). A new WWF-Russia study has revealed a five-fold increase in the loss of IFL due to logging activities and this threat requires immediate, competent and concerted action on part of the authorities, timber industry, and environmental NGOs.

WWF-Russia is carrying out large-scale operations to conserve the most valuable parts of intact forest landscapes leased by logging companies through the conclusion of voluntary moratoria agreements of indefinite duration for logging in such areas, as well as through unconditional compliance with the requirements of the most common in our country system of voluntary forest certification – FSC (Forest Stewardship Council®), which helps prevent forest degradation and depletion of forest resources of our planet.

WWF-Russia calls on the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation and the responsible forest business to fulfill the requirement of "Foundations of State Policy on the use, protection, conservation and reproduction of forests in the Russian Federation for the period to 2030" and to assign the most threatened intact forest landscapes the official status of the National Forest Heritage sites, thus protecting them from logging.


Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when people completely exhaust the world's reserve of resources for current year. The date is determined annually by a research organization Global Footprint Network (GFN), based on the statistics of the UN agencies on the consumption of biological resources and greenhouse gas emissions.

General partner of the Earth Overshoot Day campaign this year in Russia is JSC Arkhangelsk Pulp and Paper Mill – one of the leading forest companies in Russia and East Europe. Arkhangelsk PPM is the first Russian company that got FSC certificate for the whole supply chain. Among other partners of the campaign are KASTAMONU and Diageo companies. Auchan hypermarket chain and Signify company participate in campaign. MacDonald’s and Rambler.ru are media partners. RIA Novosti, Metro Newspaper, Relax FM, Maxima Telecom and Echo of Moscow support the campaign as well. 

[1] Intact forest landscapes in Russia: losses due to logging // K.N.Kobyakov, WWF-Russia; S.V.Titova, Institute of Geography of RAS / M.: WWF-Russia, in-print

Preview and headline photo: (c) Alexey Karasov / WWF-Russia

For additional information please contact
Project coordinator of High Conservation Value Forests