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IYF 2011: Komi Republic Strengthen Protected Areas to Conserve Virgin Forest Biodiversity


Strengthening Protected Area System of the Komi Republic to Conserve Virgin Forest Biodiversity in the Pechora River Headwaters Region





Russia’s forest estate harbors more than a quarter of the Earth’s remaining primeval Palearctic forests, including ten boreal forests/taiga ecoregions, three temperate coniferous and six broadleaf forest ecoregions. Some 15 million hectares of pristine boreal forest ecosystems are found in Republic of Komi, representing almost 35 percent of the total pristine forests in European Russia. The Komi Republic forests are designated as a WWF Global 200 Ecoregion and a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. The forests of the Republic constitute a major carbon pool, storing 71.5 million tons of carbon. As is the case with most mature coniferous stands in Russia, these forests are being degraded as a consequence of runaway wildfires and illicit logging.

In 2008, the Government of Komi requested GEF assistance through UNDP to strengthen the forest protected area system – as a vehicle for sustainable forest management, thus protecting forests and sustaining multiple ecosystem services.

The Russian government and UNDP initiated three GEF projects during GEF IV, as part of a programme to catalyze the sustainability of the national Protected Area Systems by addressing gaps in Protected Area (PA) representation; as one of those three, this project addresses the gaps in the coverage of the Urals montane forest tundra and taiga and Scandinavian and Russian taiga in the Komi Republic.

When the project commenced implementation in 2008, 14.6 percent of the Republic was already protected, double the Russian average. Yet, the PA system remained highly fragmented, composed of a large number of small PAs. PA management objectives, governance and operations were furthermore, inadequate—not geared towards the protection of biodiversity and carbon stocks. About 1.63 million ha of carbon-rich forests did not have effective protection at that time. According to assessments undertaken by local experts, fires alone emitted 135,000 tons of carbon annually, while with proper protection these areas could have sequestered 2.8 million tons of carbon.

The project aims to strengthen subsystems of PAs at the ecoregional level, which is necessary in Russia given the size of the territory, the country’s governance structure, its immense diversity, and the heterogeneity of land use models and development challenges.

Photo courtesy of Svetlana ZagirovaThe project is also supporting government efforts to put in place systemic and institutional capacities to manage the redesigned System, and to diversify income streams to ensure the Protected Area System is more financially sustainable. In the long run these efforts will generate valuable global environmental benefits by improving the conservation status of millions of hectares of pristine boreal ecosystems, including forest, taiga and tundra. This will improve the status of species, and the resilience of boreal forest ecosystems, as well as ensure a reduction in the pressure on forest carbon pools and enhance forest carbon sequestration capacities.

“The key ecosystems in our region which sequester carbon, are forests and wetlands. Conservation of boreal forests and wetlands under the changing climate will define the future of our nation. Successful implementation of projects such as the one funded by GEF in Komi will enable to conserve biodiversity on the one hand, while enhancing natural carbon pools on the other” remarks Mr. S.N. Koushev, Head of Kortkeross district committee on environmental protection of Ministry of Natural Resources of Komi Republic.

The project has undertaken a PA gap analysis identifying critical areas for inclusion into the PA system; the results have laid the ground work for restructuring of the PA system: a new PA Systems Plan is expected to be approved in the course of 2011. The expansion plan contains actions for improving PA management and preventing forest fires in new and existing PAs via Sustainable Forest Management, which will yield carbon benefits and biodiversity conservation dividends. In redesigning the Protected Area System to better capture important biodiversity, the project is developing draft regulations governing the use of natural resources in PAs and adjacent territories; these regulations cover the local communities’ traditional uses of natural resources, such as firewood harvesting, mushroom and berry gathering, haymaking and cattle grazing, while also catering for tourism. Additionally, the project is developing a comprehensive PA monitoring system to better monitor threats.

Photo courtesy of Svetlana ZagirovaTo increase the institutional capacity for PA management, the project is developing a public-private partnership that will contribute at least US$140,000 to the Protected Area System annually. The project is also embedding PA management in sound business planning principles—which amongst other things aim at diversifying PA income streams. Business plans for two federal PAs—Yugyd va National Park and Pechoro-Ilychsky Nature Reserve—have already been elaborated. The non-commercial public-private partnership for PAs will oversee the implementation of the priority measures identified under these business plans, thus facilitating revenue generation activities.

Overall, it is expected that as a result of these measures the revenues of the two federal PAs will rise by 10-25 percent by 2013. These efforts are now being expanded to cover other protected areas. In late 2009 the project secured new funding from Germany's International Climate Initiative for monitoring and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions associated with illicit logging and fires in boreal forests of Komi Republic.

The project is in the process of testing a forest carbon accounting and reporting system, documenting carbon pools and fluxes both within and outside protected areas to provide evidence for the efficacy of protected areas as a carbon sequestration vehicle. Further, the project will strengthen the law enforcement and fire prevention capacities of local protected area units. The resulting decline in the frequency of illicit logging and fires is expected to bring a substantial reduction in carbon emissions (1.745 million tCO2 in a ten-year perspective).

On top, International Climate Initiative co-financing will study in detail the effects of climate change on the boreal forests (e.g. the shift of the tree line) and propose silvicultural measures to adapt to it.



Duration: 5 years (April 2008 – July 2013); GEF Grant; US$4.5 million;
Co-financing: US$15.903 million (committed); US$4.689 million (leveraged resources);
Contact Person: Maxim Vergeichik, UNDP Regional Technical Advisor, ECIS, email:;
Summary and Documents: GEF PMIS #2496


As part of GEF's support to the International Year of Forest, every month we are publishing a story about a successful GEF project that is promoting sustainable forest management, and having positive impacts on forests, climate, biodiversity and local livelihoods.