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Progressing sustainable forestry in Russia


Intact forest landscapes


What are Intact Forest Landscapes (IFL)?
Russia is one of the few countries with vast areas of wild nature. In Russia, as elsewhere in the world, a large part of such areas is located in the forest zone. In 1999-2001, Global Forest Watch as a partnership of organizations (World Resources Institute, Greenpeace, “Transparent world”, WWF, etc.) involved in global forest monitoring developed a common methodological basis for mapping intact forest landscapes (IFL), large natural landscapes within a forest zone minimally disturbed by the human agency. As a result of the application of this methodology as early as in 2002 Russian IFL maps were published, in 2003 the Canadian ones, and in 2006 of the whole world. World IFL mapping data were updated in 2014.
In accordance with the adopted criteria, IFL refers to the integral territories within a single forest zone with an area of over 50 000 hectares, that do not have any permanent settlements and existing transport communications inside them and that are not affected by intensive economic activities. IFL may be formed by absolutely various types of landscapes, including non-forest ones, as well as wetlands and mountain ecosystems. IFL are the models of wild nature. Their ecosystem components develop and succeed each other according to the natural laws, thus creating the conditions for the existence of flora and fauna species in their natural habitats (even of such demanding as large predators). Due to their large size and complex internal structure, IFL are able to exist for indefinitely long time provided that there are no catastrophic disturbances. They make an invaluable contribution to ensuring the sustainability of the climate at global and regional levels, and provide other important ecosystem services (in particular, a continental water cycle in Eurasia).

IFL significance
IFL play a key role in conserving and maintaining natural biological diversity and ecological relationships at the landscape level; ensure the stability of the hydrological regime, protecting from floods, landslides and avalanches and preventing soil erosion. Over the centuries intact forest landscapes served as sources of resources necessary for survival and well-being of residents of nearby villages and settlements. Reduction of their size will negatively impact the environmental sustainability of the forest territory.
Preservation of such areas is the most important contribution of the Russian Federation in the implementation of the UN Convention on biological diversity. Throughout the history of nature conservation in Russia, special attention was paid to the preservation of large areas of wild nature, where were created specially protected natural areas (SPNA), i.e. nature reserves, national parks and wildlife reserves. Priority of IFL protection is stipulated in Article 4 of the Federal law of the Russian Federation “About environmental protection”: “As a matter of priority natural ecological systems, natural landscapes, and natural complexes should be protected that have not been subject to anthropogenic impact”.
IFL and voluntary forest certification under the FSC scheme

The most promoted system in Russia lately has been the system of voluntary certification of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The IFL area in the FMUs, certified by the FSC as of December 2014 amounted to 3.3 million hectares, or 1.3% of the total IFL area. Approximately 0.6 million hectares of IFL (0.2 per cent) are in the process of certification. More than a quarter of the certified IFL sites are located in Arkhangelsk Oblast. Large areas of certified IFL parts (10 to 20%) can be noted in four subjects of the Russian Federation.
In accordance with the current Russian national standard of voluntary forest certification according to the Forest Stewardship Council scheme IFL refer to high conservation value forests (HCVF). The HCVF classification adopted by the FSC classification refers IFL to large forest landscapes, significant at global and national levels (HCVF2). According to the recommendations of the National FSC standard, a significant part of the IFL should be completely removed from forest use, while in the remaining parts it is allowed to use only the best methods and techniques of forest management from the point of view of conservation of biological diversity and forest environment.

The main threats for IFL
During the XX century in the Russian Federation dominated the extensive model of forest resources development based on pioneering development of the territories previously not involved in the economic turnover. This led to significant depletion of forest resources, the reduction of ecological potential of forests and social problems for the inhabitants of many forest settlements. Currently, the viciousness of the extensive forest management practice and the need to intensify forest management is recognized at the state level, as reflected in the Fundamentals of state policy in the field of use, protection, and reproduction of forests in the Russian Federation for the period until 2030 adopted in 2013.
Catastrophic forest fires threat IFL not less than deforestation, the overwhelming majority of the fires are caused by human factors, including the economic development of remote territories, where there is no effective system of forest fire protection. Also the IFL area can be reduced due to the construction of roads, prospecting and mining operations, building infrastructure for their transportation and other factors.
Due to this, in the near future we risk losing a significant part of the IFL located outside protected areas (SPNA), making urgent the task of conducting regular assessments of the IFL status, as well as analysis of rates and causes of reduction in their areas.
The method for the IFL identification.

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