2012 / 09 / 10

NGO SPOK Director Says Unique Intact Forests Preserve Taiga’s Biodiversity and Need Immediate Government Protection.

On September 10, Alexander Markovsky, director of the Karelia Regional Nature Conservancy SPOK, announced that 10% of the Karelian taiga is more than 400 years old.  Markovsky was commenting on the statement from the republic’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology that “there cannot be any 400-year-old intact pine forests in Karelia” (quote from the Official Portal of Government Agencies of the Republic of Karelia:

(http://gov.karelia.ru/gov/News/2012/07/0702_12.html). According to Markovsky, unique intact forests preserve the taiga’s biodiversity and need immediate government protection.

SPOK’s director pointed out that the ministry’s statement was in reaction to a protest campaign launched by Swedish nature conservationists against the logging of intact forests by Swedwood Karelia, the Karelia subsidiary of Swedwood. The Swedish ecologists substantiated their claims of logging with photographs of logs harvested from 400- and even 600-year-old pines grown on timberlands leased by OOO Swedwood Karelia.

Markovsky noted that the existence of intact forests (taiga that has never been subject to active commercial development or clearcutting) in the republic has been confirmed by numerous studies by Karelian scientists. “A. D. Volkov, in an article dealing with the role of Northwest Russia’s old-growth forests and secondary forests, has indicated that there are 500- to 600-year-old old-growth forests in the republic that have not been subject to logging (“Comparative Evaluation of the Ecological Role and Biological Specificity of Old-growth Forests and Secondary Forests of the Northwest Russian Taiga / Old-growth Forests of the European Taiga: Current Condition and Conservation Challenges [international training conference materials],” Petrozavodsk, 1999). A. N. Gromtsev’s data has revealed the existence of a woodland in the northern part of the Karelian White Sea coast that is “not less than 400 to 500 years old” with spruce up to 300 years old and old-growth forests in the area of Vodlozero Lake that are approximately 350–400 years old (“Old-growth Forests of Karelia: Natural Features, Current Condition and Outlook for Preservation / Old-growth Forests of the European Taiga: Current Condition and Conservation Challenges [international training conference materials],” Petrozavodsk, 1999). Gromtsev describes how the forests came to exist and for how long they can continue in his monograph “Fundamentals of the Landscape Ecology of the Forests of European Russia’s Taiga” (Karelia Research Center RAS, 2008). “Stands of even-aged spruce arise in the ashes of burned-out areas of the forest (usually during the stages of a deciduous forest). This generation gradually begins to decay after 200 years. In the glades that are formed, a regrowth of spruce trees arises and gradually penetrates the primary canopy. The attrition of old trees and the appearance of new ones is a continual process. The creation of entirely uneven-aged spruce forests (climax forests) stops 400–500 years after a fire. At this point, the process of decay and regrowth is equalized. Spruce forests can remain in such dynamic equilibrium indefinitely,” NGO SPOK’s director explained.

Markovsky believes that the possible misconception on the part of the republic’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology regarding the age of a forest comes from confusing the age of an individual tree with the age of the entire forest ecosystem. “Actually, as acknowledged in the ministry’s statement, an individual tree in Karelia can reach a very old age (approximately 300 years for spruce and approximately 500–600 years for pine), and in our time, this is already a very rare occurrence.  However, an intact forest itself is older than the trees that at any given moment make up its main body, and the age of the forest itself (the forest community) can reach 500–600 years or more if its natural development is not interrupted by the interference of humans. It is exactly this type of intact forests that still exists in Karelia, and they cover approximately 1.7 million hectares (approximately 10% of the area of the republic). They preserve the taiga’s biodiversity and need immediate government protection,” ROO SPOK’s director emphasized.

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