ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FORESTS WWF CALLS FOR SAVING BUXUS СOLCHICA FORESTS IN RUSSIA
Listed in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation, evergreen Buxus Colchica is an ancient species which survived the Ice Age and remained unchanged for the last 20 million years. Today it grows in the Caucasus only, but even there it is under threat of total extinction because of invasion of a box tree moth species. The pest was introduced into Russia during preparation to the Sochi Olympic Games, when planting stock of another boxwood species infected with the moth was imported for urban landscaping in the run-up to the Olympics. Voracious larvae of the moth soon turned to the local Buxus Colchica and virtually exterminated it as a species.
According to expert report, it has destroyed about 99% of natural Buxus Colchica habitats, including the ones located within the Western Caucasus UNESCO World Heritage Site. A unique natural monument –Yew and Boxwood Grove in Sochi – is lost irreversibly. It is still possible to restore Buxus Colchica as a species in the Caucasus, but every year there are less and less germinative seeds of the plant left.
To conserve Buxus Colchica as a species, it is necessary to collect intact green cuttings and viable seeds and plant them in a monitored greenhouse. The greenhouse must offer complete protection of the saplings against being destructed by the moth, and suitable environment for the plant development. The Buxus Colchica from the greenhouse will be transferred into unprotected environment and restoration of Buxus Colchica groves will become possible if only the box tree moth starves to death due to complete depletion of the natural Buxus Colchica stands or an effective pest control technique is developed.
"The catastrophic situation with the Buxus Colchica forests in the Caucasus is a grievous example of real-life consequences of neglected problems in the forestry sector. Let's not overlook that this time we are talking not about loss of a specific environmentally valuable forest site alone, but about complete extinction of a whole species. Deficiencies that we see in the system for invasive species control may as well pose extinction threat to other vulnerable plant species. That's why it is important not only to conserve Buxus Colchica as a species, but start settling the problems which paved way for this situation to arise. What we need is a comprehensive approach and active involvement of all stakeholders, experts and authorities,"– noted Elena Cherkasova, Forest Project Coordinator at the Russian Caucasus Office of WWF-Russia.
On the International Day of Forests, WWF-Russia calls everyone to join efforts for saving Buxus Colchica. Learn more about how you can help the initiative and how the Buxus Colchica forests are going to be restored in the Caucasus.
Headline photo: (c) Sergei Trepet / WWF-Russia