4750 Hectares of Old-Growth Ukrainian Forest Receive the Highest Level of Protection

4750 Hectares of Old-Growth Ukrainian Forest Receive the Highest Level of Protection
Primeval forest in the Northeastern slopes of the Red Range
Only natural monument status can guarantee all-encompassing protection for old-growth forests in Ukraine.

In 2018-2019, WWF-Ukraine initiated the establishment of 37 forest natural monuments with the total area of 4750.8 ha within the Trans-Carpathian and Ivano-Frankivsk Regions to ensure the protection of the oldest Ukrainian Carpathian forests. After two years of intense lobbying and research, WWF-Ukraine announces that their efforts have been successful and the area of protected old-growth forest in Ukraine has increased 50-fold. To date, more than 25,000 hectares of virgin, quasi-virgin and natural forests within the Carpathians have received confirmation of their status from the local forestry enterprises.

Only natural monument status can guarantee all-encompassing protection for old-growth forests in Ukraine. The designation means that all types of logging, construction of roads, grazing, transportation and any other human activity that could harm the forest ecosystem is prohibited. The special old-growth forest natural monuments category of protected areas was introduced to Ukrainian legislation in 2017. The regime of protection within old-growth forest natural monuments equals those in nature reserves and in strictly protected zones in national parks.

Why is the establishment of forest natural monuments important for Ukraine?
Old-growth forests are some of the oldest terrestrial ecosystems in Europe. They evolved without significant human influence. While there are several such remaining areas in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), their scale in Ukraine makes them unique. In fact, less than 320,000 ha of old-growth forests are now thought to remain in CEE, with 100,000 of those located in Ukraine.

The preservation of functioning ecosystems and the maintenance of their natural processes are crucial for the survival of species and biomes in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) that cannot persevere in areas heavily impacted by human activity. In many cases, such protected areas represent the last hope for critically endangered or endemic species otherwise threatened by extinction. Protected areas provide important space for ecological adaptation and evolutionary processes, thus playing a critical role in the face of climate change. Moreover, they generate direct human benefits in the form of ecosystem services. Forests, particularly old-growth and high conservation value forests (HCVF) are critical to life on Earth. Old-growth forests are home to 9 out of 10 land flora and fauna species. The old trees shelter more than 10,000 species of animals under their crowns, from unicellular organisms, fungi, plants, insects to familiar but threatened species creatures such as wolf, lynx, eagle owl, and brown bear. Almost 500 vascular plants are endemic to the Carpathians; meaning that they cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Moreover, forests lock up vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, generate oxygen, and filter freshwater, thus representing a crucial element in Earth’s resilience to climate change.

Long journey towards highest protection status
WWF-Ukraine has been identifying old-growth forest that must be protected throughout the entire Ukrainian Carpathians since the 2010s. This process included the study of maps and field studies for over 100,000 hectares.

In 2017, WWF-Ukraine nature conservation specialists together with other scientists and NGOs developed the methodologies for the identification and conservation of old-growth forests. The methodology was adopted by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources in 2018. Apart from practical identification guidelines, the methodology includes classification criteria. It also contains step-by-step instructions on the conservation of the areas as newly designated forest natural monuments.

With this achievement, 4750,8 ha out of 25,000 ha of the most valuable Ukrainian Carpathian forests have received natural forest monument status. WWF-Ukraine strives to provide the remaining forests with the highest conservation status in the nearest future.

Biodiversity, forests and freshwater habitats must be protected in order to protect our own health as well as the planet’s. Future pandemics will only be avoided if people learn to live in harmony with nature.

For more information:
Tetiana Kuras,
Forest Communications Officer,
[email protected]
Tel: +380 98 576 28 44