Underlying Causes of
Deforestation and Forest Degradation


Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degradation
(Exemplified by Krasnoyarsk region)
By R.M.Babintseva, V.N.Gorbachev,
A.P.Laletin, V.N.Malkevich, S.D.Titov

Ecological miscalculations made by the mankind in the last decades had an especially notable impact on the state of the forest cover.

It would be enough to point out that according to the data by the World Resources Institute (1997) nearly half of the forests of the initial forest cover does not exist already, in doing so a considerable part of them was destroyed through the last three decades.

At present only one fifth of the initial forest cover of the Earth can be considered really primary. Half of the forests are situated in the boreal zone of Canada, Russia, and Alaska. It imposes a serious responsibility and corresponding commitments on us.

Therefore we should welcome the International Workshop devoted to such an urgent theme as Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the work in this direction by the World Conservation Union and the regional ecological movement "Friends of Siberian Forests".

Viewing underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation exemplified by Krasnoyarsk region, the natural-economic peculiarities of it should be mentioned, first of all.

Krasnoyarsk region occupies a central position in the Asian part of the Russian Federation. The area extends nearly three thousand kilometers from north to south, and 1200 km - from west to east.

There is a rich variety of natural conditions over the stretch. The variety is found in diverse characteristics of the forested area, including the natural composition, productivity, resource and ecological functions. The overall area of the forest fund occupies 76.4% of the region, the forest covered area makes up 63.8%, including forests of the first group – 37.6% (industrial use is possible in 11.4% of them). Forests of the 2d and 3d group makeup 0.6 (80.9)% and 58.1 (46.5)% respectively. Reserve foresters make up 23.8%.

Annual allowable cut for the region is 51.6m.m3, 8.7m. m3 of coniferous inclusive. However such annual allowable cut has never been fulfilled and at present harvest volume is steadily decreasing. For example, in 1996 it was 9m.m3, i.e. 17% of the allowable cut.

According to the data of the Forest Institute SB RAS (Sokolov et al 1998) the AAC for Krasnoyrask region is overstated, at least, twice. It resulted from a low quality inventory of the forest fund and the fact that there is no ecological-economic evaluation of forests. The real harvest considering the ecological and economic accessibility of forests must not exceed 26m. m3, 8.7m.m3 of coniferous inclusive.

According o the degree of industrial use the whole area of Krasnoyarsk region is subdivided into 4 zones. (Spiridonov et al 1985):

  • The zone of future industrial use. It is northern and middle taiga. The forests are of a high ecological importance. But they are exceedingly vulnerable because of slow rates of forest resources regeneration;
  • The zone of developing forest use includes subtaiga and southern taiga pine forests of the Angara region. High quality timber is mostly exported from here;
  • The zone of stabilized forest use. It includes Prichulymsky and southern forest economic districts. It is of no big perspective, as the resource base is close to depletion;
  • The zone of depleted forest resources – the Central and Kansk-Taseevsky part of the region. It is characterized by a sharp reduction in percentage of the forested area, by unfavourable ecological situation, and the area demands special attention.

There are very many causes of deforestation and forest degradation. They are interconnected and can not be always clearly traced. The major causes can be united into three large groups:

  • Geographic. Natural conditions of Krasnoyarsk region are favourable for forest vegetation, and therefore it has been considered abundant in forests for many years. There were practically no limitations for forest industry; i.e. clear concentrated cuts were widely introduced. It resulted in the fact that all of the central regional area is, at present, included in the zone of depleted resources. Industrial forest use started from the area.
  • Historic causes. The October revolution and the two long wars diverted the government and people from solution of forest problems;
  • Social-economic causes. The difficulties of the economy that focused upon the wars and after-war reconstruction of the national economy. Both the wars and after-war reconstruction required huge amounts of timber that was, mainly, supplied by Siberia.

The following industrial use of Siberia and a mass influx of population connected with it led to a new drastic increase of forest harvest volume. At the same time the demography situation was changing as well as living conditions of indigenous peoples. It caused the increase in fires and pests outbreaks.

The forest harvest increase in Siberia was intensified by the increase of timber deficit in European countries. According to the calculations the deficit will make up 175 m.m3 by the year 2000. Discharge of it is envisaged, mainly, through Siberian timber (Sokolov et al, 1998).

The social-economic causes should also include violations in the districts of indigenous people forest use. Reconnaissance and transport utilization of unstable forests on frozen soils have caused irreparable losses to the ecology of the northern areas. The main detriment is in the fact the indigenous people have lost the culture of traditional forest use, and there is little hope for its restoration.

Thus, Krasnoyarsk region has turned from forest-abundant region into forest-sufficient. In connection with it, the main objective of the forest management is not reforestation, as it is in the forest-deficient districts of the European part of the Russian Federation, but preservation of the present forest potential including many species of living organisms, natural communities and landscapes. Obviously, there is a need for a new forest use strategy.

The majority of forested countries have adopted the concept of sustainable forest management (SFM) as a new forest use strategy. The strategy envisages the ecosystem approach to forest management that provides sustainability of forest ecosystems and resources. The sustainability is connected with the ecologically and economically grounded limits of their removal.

However the idea of continuous forest use is not new. In the end of the 19th century the system called "Dauerwald" was developed in Germany. It is based on continuos forest use. Sustainable forest use (SFM) was a basic postulate of the Russian classical forestry as well. But due to a number of objective reasons it has not been implemented so far. Unlike the modern concepts both the German and Russian forestries considered the forest an entity with all its inhabitants. But, nevertheless, they did not aim at the preservation of forest ecosystems, but attempted to increase the forest productivity maintaining its continuous growth.

In accordance with the principles of the new strategy, organization of SMF has ecological, economic and social aspects. They are quite fully reflected in the Criteria and Indicators for the preservation and sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests, 1995 (the Montreal process), and also in the Criteria and Indicators for the preservation and sustainable management of forests in the Russian Federation, developed by the Federal Forest Service of Russia (Moscow, 1996).

However, at present these Criteria and Indicators are only declared, and not put into practice, independent of the form of forest ownership.

For example, in the region forests are wildly leased by former forest industry enterprises with the purpose of timber extraction. At present 95 forest areas are leased under these terms, the general area of them is 52 ths ha. According to the lease regulations the tenant is not only to harvest in the area, but also to perform all the necessary forest management activities, i.e. to regenerate the forest, to treat it, to protect against fires and pests. Until now the question, who is to finance the activities, remains unsolved – either it is the forestry enterprise that receives budgetary financing for them or the tenant himself.

An area is leased for 49 years. But the license is accompanied only by a logging plan, not a forest management plan. It is not clear, who is to compose such a plan and who is to finance its composition. When forests are taken on lease there is no inventory of forest resources leased independent of how long ago the previous inventory took place. Therefore neither of the parties has a true idea of the volume of wood and non-wood resources on the leased area.

Since there is no mechanism of implementation of the SFM Criteria and Indicators, its development is one of the most urgent targets for the forest science and management.

We propose one of the variants of the problem solution with respect to forests planned for leasing.

There was development of the management plan launched for the area leased by the Predivinsk forest industry enterprise in the Bolshaya Murta forestry enterprise. The US Federal Forest Service and the regional ecological movement "Friends of Siberian Forests" supported the development. The principles of SFM were considered in it.

The rational use of forests as well as other natural systems occupying large and heterogeneous areas presupposes, first of all, the division of them into comparatively homogeneous ecological systems of various ranks.

In the forestry of European countries, as well as in Canada the basin approach to forest management establishment and practice is gaining in popularity. There were analogous elaborations in this country in the Far East too, but they were not put into practice.

Drainage basins of individual rivers are taken as objects of planning in the drainage basin approach. Conventionally, they can be considered closed natural ecological systems.

From the ecological viewpoint the size of a basin is of no great significance. But from the economic point of view it is a very important index, as it determines the degree of the management sustainability, its stability. The minimally possible size of the basin for sustainable forest use depends on the relief, the species composition of forests, on their complex (including non-wood resources) productivity, and also on the technical level of the enterprise, i.e. to what extent it is provided with modern techniques and technology for the ecologically responsible harvest and complete processing of various forest resources. The market situation should also be considered.

The research by Canadian foresters has shown that (H.Hammond, 1992) the minimal drainage basin can be 50-100 ha for the establishment of a profitable management. According to the classification adopted in Russia it is considered to be the basin of a small river (Chebotarev, 1964).

However in the resource base of the Predivinsk forest industry enterprise large areas are occupied by birch and aspen forests (and it is characteristic of the southern taiga the Eastern Siberia). These forests formed here in fire and silk worm disturbed areas more than 100 years ago. Hardwood is valued so low in the domestic market that its harvest is unprofitable given high transport tariffs. The most productive and accessible forests in the southern taiga are already cut, and at present stands having the wood-supply of 180-200 m3 are logged. Therefore the minimal size of the drainage basin in Siberia should be much more than that in Canada.

We developed the ecological basis and database at the first stage of the project for the Predivinsk forest industry enterprise.

The plan of the area ecological zoning should form the ecological basis for multi-purpose complex sustainable forest use. We had compiled the following maps before such a responsible document was written:

-The soil map. The map is necessary to single out the categories of the soil sustainability. It, in its turn, is very important to plan the methods, season, technique and technology of main yields, and also the methods of soil preparation in artificial regeneration. Besides, it is possible to assign methods of natural regeneration assistance, to determine the main species in young forests, to select tree species according to their demand to soil conditions in artificial reforestation, to develop measures against possible swamping of logged areas, and also the measures to drain swamped forest lands, to perform planning of the area and select lands for agricultural utilization and many other management activities. Figuratively speaking, the map is responsible for the preservation of such an important ecological resource as soil.

- The map of forest types. The forest types should be taken into account when the main yield technologies are chosen, in the allocation of plantations, in the correction of the natural regeneration and in the determination of the main species in young forests. The map is responsible for the preservation of forest biodiversity.

-The map of the area ecological disturbance. The map is necessary for the rational, ecologically responsible allocation of forest use and, first of all, of main yields within drainage basins. The Instruction currently in effect in the Forest Legislation requires that the percentage of the drainage basins forested area be maintained at no less than 50% in this case drainage basins are more than 1500 ha in size. And for smaller drainage basins the necessary percentage of the forested area is maintained by specially protected parts of the forest, where logging is not assigned. Consequently, this map is responsible for the preservation of natural landscapes.

The following maps have formed the basis of the above maps:

  • Topographic maps of the scale 1:200 000. They were used in differentiation of the area into drainage basins, and also in delineation of ecologically unstable parts.
  • The map of the species distribution within the resource base (the plan of stands) with the scale of 1:50 000. It was prepared in inventory.
  • Space and aerosurvey images of various scales to more clearly define the limits of the singled out ecological zones.
  • The results of many years of research by the project participants in the region. (including the description of about 200 soil cuts and data of chemical analyses) and scientific literature.

The ecological zoning of the resource base area was performed based on the named documents, and the following zones were singled out:

1.Water protection forests.
The drainage basins of four rivers are singled out within the resource base. The general area of the base is 100 ha. The length of water courses ranges from 20 to 50 km. By the instruction effective in the Siberian forestry up to 1992 the protective forests were singled out only along 4 rivers in the territory of the Bolshaya Murta forestry enterprise. The general area of the enterprise is about 500 ths ha. The protective forests were called "forbidden forest strips protecting spawning grounds of valuable marketable fish species." Beginning from 1992 according to the Decree of the Federal Forest Service of the Russian Federation the general number of rivers having protective strips along their banks has increased up to 14. It is much less than required. The new Governmental Decree (1996) demands the delineation of protective strips with the width of 50m along the rivers less than 10km in length. As the length of rivers increases up to 500 km the width of protective strips should increase up to 500m.

However in the present inventory practice small rivers and sources of big rivers are not protected by water-protective strips despite existing instructions. Apart from it, if protective strips are singled out their width is the same along the courses.

In contrast to it, we singled out water-protective forests along all small rivers and their tributaries in the ecological zoning. Considering the fact that river valleys have various types of profiles: canyons, V-shaped, etc., and in some parts there are no marked valleys, we took into account the types of valleys and their width in order to preserve the drainage basins hydrological balance. We performed this responsible work with the use of the topographic maps and aerosurvey images of the scale 1: 15 000. As a result the water-protective forests singled out by us cover the area with a net, and they have a natural various configuration.

2. The forests on ecologically unstable soils (fine stony soils, steep parts of slopes, swamped areas and bogs) were singled out using the topographic maps, images, the soils map, the forest types map, and inventory materials).

3. Especially valuable forests. In Siberia cedar forests, that according to the Governmental Decree of 1990 are forbidden to log, represent them, mainly. In the area of the Predivinsk forest enterprise the most productive cedar forests had been cut before the Governmental Decree. Therefore, at present the zone of especially valuable forests is represented by small, fragmented, parts of cedar forests that occasionally survived.

4. The habitats of rare and valuable wildlife species and migration corridors from one river system into another. These land category was not singled out, as the main valuable wildlife species (sable and other) inhabit, predominantly, cedar forests. All of the left cedar forests are situated in the river valleys and are double protected – as water-protective and as especially valuable forests. Migration of animals within the given area occurs along river valleys, and presents no difficulties under the conditions of the plateau relief

5. The industrial forests. This part of the resource base is weakly subjected to water-erosion processes. It is connected with a high percentage of the forested area. They are present at a local level and for a short time only in recently logged and burnt areas. The dangerous development of erosion processes is avoided through a rapid overgrowing of open places by deciduous species and grass vegetation. In this respect, the industrial zone of the Predivinsk forest industry enterprise can be considered relatively safe.

The next step, that is a transition from the resource base ecological zoning to practice is development of a system of management activities for the different zones, depending on their ecological significance and the forests characteristics.

For the forests of the water-protection zone, the zone of ecologically unstable forests, especially valuable forests and wildlife habitats the optimal variant will be absence of any human management interference. It is recommended only to protect them against fires, pests and diseases. Extraction of non-wood resources (herbs, berries, mushrooms, and cedar nuts) should also be regulated in order to preserve the sustainability of these forest ecosystems. Depletion of these resources will entail not only disturbance of the ecosystem processes, but also the decline of wildlife habitats, including that of rare and valuable species.

The basic management activity of forest management and industrial enterprises should be concentrated in the industrial zone and incorporate the whole cycle of forest management activities – from logging to reforestation.

The contemporary approach to the SFM organization envisages the use of GIS that allows to elaborate the optimal activities for each inventory block, and to choose ecologically responsible technology of SFM.

Besides, GIS makes it possible to map the distribution of various activities over a concrete forest area, for instance, the map of main yield methods, the map of natural regeneration successfulness and other that facilitate planning and realization of the activities.

Thus, we prepared the ecological basis for the organization of SFM within the resource base of the Predivinsk forest industry enterprise.

The main perspective target is development of economic aspects of the management plan. In connection with it, the wood-supply of the Predivinsk enterprise is of a special interest. It should be noted that the resource base there is not an undivided tract. Therefore we subdivided it into 4 blocks for planning purposes. All the cartographic materials and other data were formed for each block individually.

In the A fragment mature coniferous forests occupy 2.5% of the area, and deciduous – 17.3%;

In the B fragment coniferous – 0.6%, deciduous – 8%;

In the C fragment coniferous occupy 7.3% of the area, and deciduous – 46.3%;

And in the D fragment coniferous cover 5.3%, and deciduous – 41.2%;

Mature coniferous forests cover 3.6% of the industrial zone in the average, mature deciduous – 26%, i.e. the areas of valuable coniferous forests in the resource base are inconsiderable, and there are, mainly, low value deciduous species in the resource base.

Such structure of the resource base does not allow the forest village to exist at the expense of forest logging activities. It is more so if logging will be done by selection methods. And nearly complete timber processing does no resolve the situation too, as marketing of timber products is hindered by high transport tariffs.

The enterprise administration pursued the establishment of a complex management with a varied economy. Unemployment of the population in summer time, when there is no logging, was decreased by the purchase of a cattle farm. The farm supplies the village population with inexpensive meat and dairy products. Besides, the enterprise purchased a license for gold mining in the area. It also provides part of the population with jobs in summer time. There is a big apiary in the enterprise. Employees and pensioners get the honey free of charge. There are hay-lands, transport, building materials for the purposes of individual farms.

On the whole, the development of economic aspects of SFM organization in the country with an increasing instability of economy, is an exceedingly difficult problem. And the task is made more difficult also by the fact that there are no data on the presence and volumes of non-wood resources within resource bases, as forest inventory enterprises have not been performing such work in the last years.

The second, but no less significant and complicated problem, is the search of ways to resolve the social problems of forest villages, in which forest industry enterprises serve as village forming enterprises.

The organization of sustainable forest management does not seem realistic if these two problems are not resolved.

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