Forest conservation in wartime: Preserving primeval beech forests in the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains
The IKI has expanded the project "Conservation of primary and old-growth forests" in Ukraine to respond to the challenges posed by the war in the country.
The Ukrainian Carpathians are one of the few places in Europe where very old-growth forests and even primeval forests can still be found: The region holds some of the largest remnants of primeval beech forests, which were once widespread across the continent, but are now classified as an endangered habitat.
The International Climate Initiative (IKI) launched the project implemented by the Frankfurt Zoological Society in the middle of 2019, pursuing the aim of supporting selected Ukrainian national parks in preserving these remarkable forests.
The concept of the project comprises the following six pillars:
- Expansion of protected areas
- Improved monitoring of biodiversity
- Community development
- Support for “nature conservation companies”
- Equipment and training of the personnel in the protected areas
- Environmental communication
Impact of the Russian war on nature conservation work
The escalation of the Russian war against Ukraine also affects nature conservation work in the country - including the work of the IKI project.
One consequence was that state funds for national parks suffered a drastic cut at very short notice as the government reallocated all available resources to national defence.
At the same time, there was an influx of internally displaced persons seeking shelter in the relative safety of the Carpathians; because: the mountains offer a certain degree of natural protection and the region is relatively far away from the combat. Furthermore, many of the refugees turned to the national parks as public institutions, seeking support in the situation.
In addition, a glance back at history shows that massive deforestation frequently takes place in times of war or immediately afterwards, because the affected countries need building materials and fast sources of financial income.
IKI expands support
For this reason, the IKI expanded the project at the beginning of April 2023 to enable the response to the new threats to the primeval forests and the needs of the local people.
The targets of the original project are being extended to also include
- Coverage of the operating costs of protected areas in emergencies to enable them to maintain their function even in the absence of state funding.
- Conception of alternative sustainable funding methods for protected areas to ensure that no long-term dependencies arise.
- Extension of successful approaches such as biodiversity monitoring, management planning and community involvement to eight more protected areas in the Ukrainian Carpathians.
- Environmental education and facilities for visitors to better enable the parks to provide a safe haven and place of recreation in the midst of nature for internally displaced persons, veterans and other Ukrainians affected by the war, as well as to provide information regarding the importance of nature and biodiversity for human welfare.
- To raise awareness of the worth of the Carpathians and the threat to which they are exposed through deforestation, and to become involved in its prevention.
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Zukunft – Umwelt – Gesellschaft (ZUG) gGmbH