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).
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.