Magazine article Geographical

Logging Has Destroyed Forests. (Russia)

Magazine article Geographical

Logging Has Destroyed Forests. (Russia)

Article excerpt

The ancient forests of northwestern Russia -- Europe's last true remaining wilderness -- are disappearing at an `astonishing' rate, according to the first-ever detailed maps of the remote region.

Over the past five years, a team of Russian experts has pieced together the precise size of Europe's last surviving large-scale forest habitat using satellite images and old-fashioned fieldwork. Instead of an endless sea of unbroken forest, they found that few areas of European Russia's boreal landscape remain untouched, and those that survive are depleting rapidly. The maps show that only the most remote segments of this huge 228-million-hectare wilderness have escaped Russia's relentless logging policies.

The extraordinary mapping project by the World Resources Institute (WRI), with help from Greenpeace Russia, is the first of its kind, and reveals that just 14 per cent -- or 32 million hectares -- of the northern forests of European Russia remain in relatively undisturbed blocks of at least 50,000 hectares each.

Even many of the remnants that survive have been heavily degraded by commercial logging, with the best pine and spruce trees having been removed, leaving just thin cover.

Experts from the WRI describe its disappearance as the devastating `legacy' of Western Europe's demand for wood, and a tragedy akin to the erosion of the Amazon rainforest.

Lars Laestadius, spokesman on forestry for the WRI, said, "Even the Russians believe this vast wilderness remains, but it's not like that when you go and visit it. The biodiversity of the forest has gone in areas that had remained unchanged for thousands of years."

And what remains is at risk -- unprotected by law and facing intensifying pressure of fragmentation from logging roads, massive forest-cutting policies and fires linked to human activities such as fishing and hunting.

The demand for timber products and pulp from more developed countries in Europe -- primarily the UK, Germany and the Netherlands -- has fuelled the forest's depletion, with Laestadius warning that the view persists that "everything west of the Ural mountains is seen as a giant wood market."

However, retailer IKEA is among the first companies which are now refusing to use wood from the region after being shown evidence of the destruction.

The Archangelsk region, 1.5 times the size of Germany, is one of the few areas that still includes large, intact, ancient forests. Yet satellite images clearly reveal the vanishing forest cover over the last century, with even the 1. …

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