Pilot Project in Russia (Peatland)
Conservation and sustainable management of peatlands in Russia to minimize carbon emissions and help ecosystems to adapt to climate change
The objective of this pilot project is to demonstrate a model for adaptation to climate change and mitigating emissions of GHG emissions from degrading peatlands in the southern part of Russia by incorporation of peatland issues into territorial planning, and implementing peatland restoration and protection in pilot regions.
The project will first develop database module for the whole steppe peatland belt in Russia (Activity Rus1), which will be integrated in the existing database of the Institute of Forest Science maintained since 1994 and is regularly providing information to decision makers at all levels. This activity will benefit from a variety of existing sectoral information available from different sources, which will be synthesized and unified by the project, and then implement pilot projects in three target regions, as described in detail in the following sections. The areas foreseen for activities under this component represent three main bio-geographic contexts of steppe peatlands.
General description of background information
Russian peatlands comprise the largest national store of peatland carbon globally, and are major sources and sinks of the GHGs like carbon dioxide and methane. The territory of Russia supports a great diversity of peatland types. In the European part of Russia, broad-leave forest, forest-steppe and steppe zone peatlands are located close to the southern limit for peatlands, and are thus especially vulnerable to modern climate change in combination with human impacts. Being relatively small in size, the steppe peatlands retain very significant natural functions, but are insufficiently spotlighted by nature conservation and scientific studies. They are listed among most vulnerable wetland types at the global (e.g. CBD COP9, 2008 “Assessment on Peatlands Biodiversity and Climate Change”) and national level under pending climate change risks. The area, number and diversity of peatlands in forest-steppe and steppe zone of European Russia had significantly decreased during second half of the 20th century because of drainage for agriculture purposes, , peat extraction, flooding by dam construction and other human activities.
Being lost their mire vegetation remained peat is intensively decomposed under high summer temperatures, and removed by wind and soil erosion. This leads to direct high emissions of CO2. The last patches of wilderness presented by peatlands among arable lands and settlements play significant role as habitats, shelters, source of water and food for most of hunting, rare and endangered species. The remaining peatlands are located primarily in floodplains, oxbows, and fed by ground water discharge and alluvial water supply. Peatlands in Russia, and these regions in particular, traditionally belong to different land categories. And there is no integrated inventory of peatlands showing their natural origin, modern status, land use, ecological functions and ecosystem services, which can be used for wise use management, protection and restoration. Territorial planning became mandatory in Russia with amendments of the Town Planning Code of 27.12.2009, providing a means for land-use planning at the local level to accommodate social, and economic, and environmental management objectives. It provides a platform for changing the production practices that are leading to the degradation of peatlands with a view towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting biodiversity and vital ecological functions.
However, administrative regions have no far integrated modern peatland protection and management into territorial plans. The tradeoff between ecological values vis-à-vis traditional consumptive use of peatlands has never been evaluated. This presents continued risk to southern region peatlands. There is lack of guidelines on management measures that need to be taken for different land uses, to reduce and mitigate the impacts of different production activities as well restore abandoned peatlands and other degraded areas. Many valuable peatlands in Southern Russia could degrade completely in next decades unless formally protected.
In the steppe and forest steppe zone, only about several thousand ha of peatlands are currently protected. Numerous unique spring fens, karst mires, lacustrine floating mires and other peatlands remain completely out of protection. Many disturbed peatlands in southern Russia require restoration. A number of peatland restoration projects have been undertaken in Russia, with regional, national and international support. But all these activities are aimed mainly on restoring of boreal peatlands with a significant moisture surplus. Restoration of degrading broadleaved, forest-steppe and steppe zones peatlands, which have specific moisture and soil conditions, has not been really tested. There is a need to develop methods, recommendations, norms and safeguards for restoration, and to implement restoration on a pilot basis with attention to abandoned drained peatlands under specific conditions in forest-steppe and steppe regions.
The pilot project is funded by the European Union (€800 000).
More information and publications
- Midterm Evaluation of the project (April 2015) (in English)
- Interim Report (in English)
- Description of peatlands selected for PA establishment and restoration (in English)
Project Manager: Mr Evgueny Kuznetsov