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WWF PLANTED A FOREST BELT IN ADYGEA

19 november 2020
WWF has planted a half-kilometre protective forest belt. A pilot project aimed at restoring forest belt areas was launched in the Republic of Adygea with the support of the Administration of Koshekhablskiy district and the Forest Protection Center. The project aims to draw attention to a problem that directly affects both the ecology and the socio-economic component of the region.

What is the problem?

With the development of agriculture, a significant part of the forests in the foothills of the Caucasus was ploughed. The negative changes that followed - dust storms, wind and water erosion - forced the Soviet Union government to develop measures to adapt to changing environmental conditions. In this set of measures, an important role was assigned to the restoration of forests between fields, which were assigned a stabilizing ecological function.

Today, in the southern agricultural regions of Russia, protective forest stands performing a number of important ecological and even social functions have been lost or hugely degraded.

Such between-fields forest areas in regions with predominant farmland are one of the few opportunities to maintain the ecosystem functions of agroforest landscapes, and at the same time to smooth climate change. However, due to natural ageing, as well as due to the fact that the tree species were selected incorrectly at the time, today, according to experts, only 2.74 million hectares remain out of 5.2 million hectares of protective plantings in Russia created during the Soviet period.

Why did it happen?

WWF research has shown that the most common reason for the complete loss of forest belts in Adygea is the construction and reconstruction of highways, after the construction of which the forest belts (along the roads) were not replanted.

Another reason is the natural ageing of plantings, agricultural work (ploughing, burning of plant residues, etc.) and open-pit mining.

Where is the data from?

"We started working on forest belts in Adygea in 2018 when the first inventory of forest belts was carried out using satellite images," - explains Elena Cherkasova, Senior Coordinator of Russian Caucasus Ecoregional Office WWF-Russia. – Then we managed to find out how many forest belts were lost in the Republic. This is a big work that will be useful not only for scientists but also for authorities, since all the forest belts are mapped and marked with different colours, depending on their condition."

Analysis of forest belts of the Republic of Adygea showed that:

> do not require restoration measures – 636 units (917 ha)

> require restoration measures - 3029 units (4429 ha)

> completely lost - 392 units (548 ha)

The solution of the problem

To solve the problem, it is necessary to create new forest belts on the site of lost forest areas, which in their composition would be close to the natural forest communities inherent in this natural zone. This will increase the resistance of forest belts to adverse factors and increase their life without special care measures.
(с) Mikhail Klimenko / WWF-Russia

What does WWF in charge of?

A pilot project for planting forest belts was launched in the Republic of Adygea, in Koshekhablskiy district, as one of the most developed and affected territories. The half-kilometre-long forest belt was planted along the highway and includes 4 rows of Caucasian Linden and maple. These are endemic species. So far, there are 600 trees, but in the spring of 2021, wild fruit trees such as apple and pear trees will be planted in the forest belt.

One of the goals of the pilot project is to draw the public, business and authorities attention to the existing problem of lost forests and show by example that the reconstruction of protective forest systems in the agricultural zone is possible and quite real.

Planting of a forest protective strip in the Koshekhablsky district
(с) Mikhail Klimenko / WWF-Russia

What is it for?

Considered all, the project will produce the following results:

1. Adaptation to local climate changes.

Simply put, trees will conserve the balance of underground water, protect the soil from erosion, and prevent desertification of the area. In addition, forest belts will prevent dust storms that are typical of low-forest areas in the South of Russia.

2. Absorption of greenhouse gases.

Forest belts help minimize the amount of carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming and climate change on the planet. The source of these gases is a human being and their activities.

3. Maintaining migration corridors and animal habitats.

Simply stated, many animals, birds, insects, and various micro-organisms or plants live, move, and feed there. For example, there are cases when such plantings were used by leopard and elk for crossing and hunting. Rare bird species (such as the lesser spotted eagle) also nest in woodlands.

4. Support local communities and create an economic alternative to the nature-destroying type of uses.

The presence of berry, nut and honey species will create additional sources of income for the locals, which will also provide an incentive to continue maintaining these sites, instead of logging trees of old-growth forests and poaching.

It is also worth noting that the Republic of Adygea is an important region for implementing WWF-Russia's environmental strategy. It implements projects for the conservation of old-growth forests, the development of sustainable forest management and FSC certification, the Colchis boxwood population conservation and restoration, the Persian leopard reintroduction, etc.

The head of the Koshehablskiy district and the Director of the Regional Office of WWF-Russia plant a forest belt area
(с) Mikhail Klimenko / WWF-Russia

What are trends for the future?

The problem of restoration and planting of forest belt areas is relevant not only for the Republic of Adygea but also for the Krasnodar, Rostov and Stavropol regions.

WWF-Russia hopes that the initiative will be supported by the authorities and ministries of regions in charge, individual districts, businesses and local residents.

Watering of planted trees before the winter period
(с) Mikhail Klimenko / WWF-Russia
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