Caucasus chestnut under threat of extinction
This is the only region in Russia where the sweet chestnut is native to the mountainous part of the Black Sea coast. Today these ecosystems are one of the most vulnerable high conservation value forests.
This plant is a relic of the Tertiary period, and performs important ecological and protective functions of mountain ecosystems. The nuts of the chestnut are an important food source for wildlife such as deer, bear, wild boar, etc.
In this regard, in 2017 in the framework of the WWF-IKEA Partnership on Forests in cooperation with Krasnodar and Maikop branches of Russian center of forest health, WWF-Russia has established chestnut forests inventory in the Russian Caucasus.
According to the latest data, the sweet chestnut covers an area of more than 80 thousand ha in Krasnodar region and about 5 thousand ha in the Republic of Adygea (about double size of Andorra in total). Since 1962, the sweet chestnut is affected by the chestnut blight caused by the invasive infectious fungus Cryphonectria (Endotia) parasitia Murril.
Cryphonectria parasitica is a bark pathogen, which only infects above-ground tree parts, i.e. stems, branches and, eventually, twigs. It can lead to tree mortality over a relatively short period. The chestnut blight has a high ecological and economic impact in those country affected.
In addition, in 2016, the Centre of Forest Health of Krasnodar region has discovered a new dangerous invasive pest – Oriental chestnut gall wasp (Dryocosmus kuriphilus Yas). By June 2017, the area of forests affected by this pest exceeded 1.8 thousand ha. It is considered the most serious pest of chestnut worldwide.
By attacking the vegetative buds and forming a gall, Oriental chestnut gall wasp disrupts twig growth and reduces fruiting. The mass infestation of the pest may result in the decline and death of chestnut trees.