Russia: Tackling climate change one tree at a time
By protecting Russia’s old-growth forests, we can help combat climate change and protect our diverse eco-system.
Effects of forest devastation: clear-cutting logging in Washington State, United States of America.
Russian forests account for 22.0% of the world’s forests by area and 23.0% by volume. Moreover, more than 50% of coniferous wood is concentrated in Russian territories. These woods have also served another purpose: to absorb much of the carbon emissions that have been released during the past four decades. These facts emphasize the importance of protecting the last of the world’s untouched, frontier forests. With over 80% of these trees located in the Taiga zone (permafrost), the consequences of global warming could have disastrous effects on them. One of the major concerns with permafrost melting is the subsequent release of toxic gases such as methane which have been stored belowground. Healthy, existing forests are able to capture it.
Russia, with various international partners and neighboring countries, has taken steps to prevent the disappearance of the last of the old-growth forests. Through forest management, Russia is in the process of eliminating illegal logging and certifying responsibly produced wood products. By encouraging healthy and ethical trade within the various forestry companies based in Russia, they have created economic conditions that not only support the people in this trade, but the forests themselves. Russia began to change the way they logged by preserving deadwood as homes for wildlife and identifying certain swaths of forests that require special care.
While the Northwest regions and Siberia have seen incredible progress, Russia has turned her attention eastward to the mixed forests of the Amur-Heilong region: one of the world’s most bio-diverse areas in the world—the home of the Siberian tiger and the Amur leopard. These creatures face the threat of extinction. By addressing these concerns with China and Japan, Russia is making inroads in protecting eco-diversity while encouraging economic activity.
As a result, forest areas certified as sustainable have increased from 350,000 hectares in 2003 to 7.36 million hectares by the end of 2005 (with over 1.6 million hectares in Siberia alone). By the end of 2007, more than 25 million hectares of Russian forests were protected under the label of sustainability.
The Taiga Rescue Network has been supporting environmental groups located in Russia, eco-diversity and the indigenous population. With such active organizations and continued activism on the part of the Russian government, these regions may overcome large-scale illegal tree logging. Because of their sensitivity and size, they can protect the climate for generations to come.
For more information:
Rachel Manis (manis [at]vie.unu.edu)