Ukraine: More Forests under Protection in the Carpathians
Ukraine commits to safeguarding Europe’s natural heritage, enlarges three Carpathian National Parks and establishes a new one.
On 11 April 2019, Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko signed a decree to enlarge national parks in the Carpathian part of Ukraine by a total of 11,715.80 hectares. Uzhansky National Park bordering with the Bieszczady National Park in Poland and the Poloniny National Park in Slovakia will be increased by almost 7,000 hectares. The Zacharovany Kraj National Park will be enlarged by 4,300 hectares.
Both parks hold clusters of the UNESCO World Heritage Nomination “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe”. The UNESCO World Heritage cluster in Zacharovany Kraj now also receives formal protection through this presidential decree. The third park being enlarged is Synevir National Park with an additional 400 hectares. Half of the expansion sites hold valuable old-growth or even primary forest and therefore will add valuable new areas to the network of protected areas in the Carpathians.
“The large scale primeval and old-growth forests in the Ukrainian part of the Carpathians are unique in Europe and form large and intact tracts of natural forests on this continent. The chance to secure this heritage is historic and the window of opportunity is small,” says Michael Brombacher who heads the European Department of Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS).
FZS, together with its Ukrainian partner “Ukrainian Society for the Protection of Birds (USPB) – BirdLife in Ukraine” as well as the administrations of the three parks has prepared the required documents, maps and data for the expansion. They also supported the further negotiations with communities, the regional departments of the forest administrations as well as the relevant ministries and agencies.
“These mountainous landscapes are of outstanding beauty. They still are functioning natural ecosystems, inhabited by amazing wildlife. They offer irreplaceable services to us humans, by providing fresh water, clean air, and many other ecosystem services. Tourists enjoy their naturalness, local communities and the local economies benefit greatly. If we do not act now, we will lose these forests,” says Michael Brombacher.
In the near future, the pressure on timber resources will increase due to the growing international demand, and it is only a question of time as to when European companies will initiate large-scale forest clearing in Ukraine, just as they did in neighbouring Romania. “This natural heritage of global importance shall belong to all Ukrainians and not to foreign forest and timber companies!” states Oleg Dudkin, the director of USPB-BirdLife Ukraine. Research by FZS and USPB-BirdLife Ukraine as well as nine National Park administrations from the region shows that there is potential to protect an additional 100,000 hectares of valuable forests in the Ukrainian Carpathians.
With last week’s announcement by Ukraine’s president, an important step into the right direction has been undertaken. Previous Ukrainian governments had already put great effort into preserving the country’s natural heritage: a temporary ban has been imposed on the clearing of coniferous forests above 1,100 metres, accompanied by a general ban of round wood export. Furthermore, several new national parks have been established since 2010. Now a new one was added: the Boikivshyna National Park covering 12,000 hectare of valuable forests will be established as a result of the president’s decree.
Notes for Editors:
The FZS “Carpathian Primeval Forest Conservation”In 2014, the USPB and FZS started this new initiative in the Ukrainian Carpathians. This long-term project aims at the enlargement of nine existing National Parks in Ukraine by important primeval and old-growth forests and therefore ensuring better protection. The area currently covered by the eight parks is 200,000 hectares and the proposed enlargements would cover an additional 100,000 hectare. Better protection needs well equipped and functioning National Parks, therefore, alongside with the government of Ukraine as well as the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (delivered through the KfW Development Bank) direct support to the parks is provided (cars, uniforms, ranger posts etc.).
More than half of the Carpathian mountain range, about ten million hectares, is forested, making it one of the largest forest areas in Europe (outside Scandinavia and Russia). Illegal logging, however, mainly by clear cutting, leads to habitat loss. It is estimated that in Romania alone, more than 300,000 hectares of forest have been illegally logged over a period of about 20 years. Most of the Carpathians are in Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine. Smaller areas are in the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and Serbia. The Carpathians have a very species-rich flora. Of the approximately 12,500 European vascular plants, one third grows in the Carpathians. Many of these endemic plants can be found in the southeast of the mountain range. The populations of large predators are also impressive. There are an estimated 8,000 bears, 4,000 wolves and 3,000 lynxes in the entire Carpathian Mountains. Around 17 million people live in the Carpathians. The cultural diversity is striking, which is expressed in the languages as well as in the architectural styles. The almost 1.3 million inhabitants of the Ukrainian part alone have their roots in 30 countries and belong to 26 different religions.