Project ‘Strategy for the Conservation of Plants in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion (based on the example of Kemerovo region)’
The project is represented by: the representation of IUCN to Russia and CIS countries and the Siberian Environmental Center.
Duration: November 2006-September 2008.
Methodological and organizational support: provided by the international organization Plantlife International.
Financial support: provided by Dutch governmental fund BBI-MATRA.
Main target of the project: promote the conservation of plant life in the Russian part of the Altai-Sayan ecoregion.
Territories where activities are carried out: Kemerovsk region, Altai region, Republic of Altai, Tyva and Khakasiya.
The Altai-Sayan ecoregion is one of the 200 ecoregions in the world , designated for their especially valuable biological and landscape diversity. In its Russian part (includes partly or in full overall 8 federal territories, of which 5 are included in the project) grow around 3000 species of vascular plants, forming hundreds of different types of plant communities. Among them there are more than 300 endemic species that are not met anywhere else than in the ecoregion, and more than 600 sub-endemic species, whose ranges exceed the boundaries of the region to some extent. 76 plant species of the region are listed in the Russian Red List, and no less than 625 species have the status of being protected on the level of the federal subjects. There are many unique or especially valuable plant communities. The diversity of the landscapes is striking even in the Russian part of the region only: mountainous tundra, vast rocky deserts, alpine grass meadows, sub-alpine hay meadows, steppes of the Central Asian and Kazakhstan types, different types of coniferous taiga forests, special ‘black’ forests that resemble the taiga and the broad-leaved forests at the same time, birch forests, larch and Siberian pine forests, mountainous shrubs mixed with rhododendrons, steppe shrubs, salt-marshes, bogs in different altitudes, and the most diverse rocky and slide rock habitats, mountainous lakes and rivers.
Why do the ecoregions of the world need protection? Threats affecting them are numerous. In Altai-Sayan there are strictly endemic species that literally occur only on 1-2 different locations. It only takes the construction of e.g. one reservoir on the site to destroy the whole species forever. Nevertheless, during the past years in Altai, Tuva and Khakasiya, the number of construction developments has increased and plans to build dams and pipes are being discussed all the time. Even the more widely occurring species can face extinction, if hundreds of thousands of people pick them as mementos, or continuously walk on sites essential for these species. And indeed, the tourism in Altai and Sayan increases from year to year, being supported on all levels of government.
The Altai-Sayan region is one of the few locations in Russia where herbs with medicinal qualities are being gathered for economic utilization (including plants that are used as raw material for biologically active additives). The collection of plants is done in a rapacious manner, by far not always legally. To the most popular and vulnerable plants this practice poses a serious threat. Several common plants have become victims of commercial activity and are now in considerable economic demand. Not only individual plants, but also whole plant communities can disappear of become greatly altered as a result of such commercial management. Several types of steppe have almost completely disappeared due to ploughing, including e.g. the steppe in the mountain hollows and foothills in the Altai-Sayan ecoregion. The ‘black’ forests of Altai and Salair, growing aspen and fir, lose their special characteristics, and the unique pine forests are replaced by birch and aspen. This happens because coniferous forests are being logged excessively. The logging is altogether illegal but done in the guise of legal practice; a real scourge of the Siberian forests, and of the Altai-Sayan ecoregion.
It must be remembered that we are dealing with a region in which Russian shares borderlines with three other states, including China, and the problems of trans-border protection of plants really become pronounced.
Within the frame of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the tasks related to the conservation of plant life are decided upon with the help of the Strategy for the conservation of plants. There are both Global and European strategies for plant conservation, and individual states prepare and implement national strategies. Unfortunately, in Russia such a strategy does not exist, and it does not seem realistic to expect one in the near future. The existing legislation on nature conservation (both federal and regional) and the network of nature reserves and strictly protected areas do not secure sustained diversity of plant life in the country.
Our Programme exists so that the current situation would change, even if only a little.
Key results of the Programme should be:
1. Identification of the key botanical areas of international importance, definition of the threats posed to the plant life in these areas and finding a way to overcome these threats
2. Identification of threats posed to plants as a consequence of their commercial use, and finding of ways to improve the situation; for this end a study of the regional markets for wildflowers and their derivatives is being carried out
3. Preparation of a Strategy for plant conservation in the Kemerovo region, taking into account the requirements of both the Global and European Strategies and the special, local conditions, the idea being that the Kemerovo Strategy could function as an example of the preparation of such strategies in the Russian conditions.
Interim results of the project, May 2008.