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Conservation of Caucasus forests

Infographics 1. The role of mountain forests in the Caucasus
Infographics 2. The role of the Central Asian leopard in the mountain systems of the Caucasus

Forest ecosystems of the Russian Caucasus are known for their high level of biodiversity, which is the highest in our country and in Europe. Here grows more than 6,000 species of plants, mushrooms and lichens, a quarter of which are endemic. The Western Caucasus is the only place in Russia where unique Mediterranean ecosystems are represented (for example, juniper-pistachio sparse forests). Oak, beech, boxwood, fir, chestnut, and maple forests are still preserved here.

Forest ecosystems of the Caucasus are home to such species of animals as the Central Asian leopard, Caucasian red deer, European bison, roe deer, wild boar, wild goat, brown bear, etc. It is also a very important center for speciation of snakes and lizards. The forests of the Caucasus play a critical role in maintaining a favorable water regime for rivers (up to 80% of river runoff is formed in mountain forests) and containment of surface erosion.

Logging is actively conducted in the Krasnodar Region, Adygea and the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania. The illegal logging, the demand for valuable wood species such as taxus, chestnut, juniper, and products from them contribute to the reduction of biodiversity level and the integrity of forest ecosystems. The construction of linear objects leads to the fragmentation of forestland creates conditions favorable for the introduction of alien species. Uncontrollably developing tourism industry is another threat to the forests of the Caucasus.

© Alexander Plekhanov
© Roman Mnatsekanov
© Alexander Plekhanov
© Alexander Plekhanov
© Roman Mnatsekanov
© Roman Mnatsekanov
© Roman Mnatsekanov
© Roman Mnatsekanov

As part of the project with IKEA, the WWF Russia Forest Program is currently being implemented in the Caucasus Ecoregion. The aim of this project is to preserve the unique forests of the North Caucasus, which are habitats of rare and endangered species, including the Central Asian leopard. This is achieved by implementing the concept of sustainable forest management through FSC certification and the development of domestic market for FSC-certified products.

At the moment, with an active participation of the «Russian Caucasus» branch of WWF Russia:

  • The coordinating council for voluntary forest certification under the Forest Management of the Republic of Adygea has been established.
  • The process of preparation for FSC certification has been completed and the certificate of the supply chain has been received by the forestry company «Maykoplesproexport».
  • The largest forest tenant fund of the Republic of Adygea, ZAO «Forest», has begun the preparation process for the FSC certification.
  • Training is conducted of regional experts of voluntary forest certification.
  • Recommendations have been developed for biodiversity conservation during logging activities.
  • A methodology has been developed for identification of forests with high conservation value; work is underway to allocate such areas.
  • The problem of illegal logging is being addressed.
  • Work is under way to preserve an endangered relic boxwood species, Buxus colchica.
  • Tactics are being developed for the allocation of National Forest Heritage sites.