Ukraine has considerable potential for biodiversity. Four terrestrial ecosystem types are represented on a comparatively small territory. Moreover, Ukraine is situated at the crossroads of migration paths of many animal species. Plant and animal diversity accounts for more than 70 thousand species (according to experts, another third of species is still not described, particularly of fungus and insects). Currently on the Ukraine territory, there are 377 objects of the Emerald network identified and described. As of 2018, 94 thousand primary forests and old-growth forests were identified in the Carpathian region and about 3000 ha of old forests in the Polisia region.
Unfortunately, a significant part of biodiversity in the country suffers from anthropogenic activity. One of the main threats is the destruction and transformation of animal and plant habitats. The percentage of plowed land in Ukraine is one of the world’s most significant and amounts to 57% of the country territory and 78% of agricultural land, which grows over the years. Forest area amounts to only about 15% of the country’s territory, which is considerably below the European average. In the steppe zone, which covers about 40% of the country area, only 3-4% of natural steppe ecosystems were preserved compared to the steppe’s original full ecosystem cover. A substantial threat is also posed by poaching and an increase in numbers of invasive species.
Climate change effects also impact biodiversity. According to the observations in Polisia natural reserve, the average yearly temperature rise of 1.2 *C caused a problem of drying of pine plantations. Under new conditions, trees grow to be weaker and more prone to pests. Whereas pine plantations occupy the main part of Ukraine’s northern forests, such mass drying is observed throughout all Polisia. Moreover, high temperatures and lowering of water levels result in a rapid spread of fires in ecosystems. April of 2020 was marked not only by the COVID-19 breakout but also by the largest and the longest-lasting fires in the north of Ukraine, including the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
Biodiversity conservation policy in Ukraine is carried out according to the Concept of a national program of biodiversity preservation for 2005 – 2025. The Concept declares such objectives as minimization of anthropogenic impacts on biodiversity, preservation and restoration of natural ecosystems, research and environmental education. Moreover, Ukraine is a signatory of several conventions for environmental protection, including the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention), Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES, Washington Convention), Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Berne Convention), the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea against pollution (Bucharest Convention), the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians (Carpathian Convention).
In reality, the main protectors of biodiversity are protected areas. Around 7% of the country area is included in the nature reserve fund. Ukraine also started to form the Emerald Network as a part of Ukrainian adaptation to European Union legislation. In protected areas of different classes (national parks, reserves), economic activity is regulated or entirely prohibited, recreation is regulated, measures for environmental education are implemented, and research is conducted, including a detailed study of ecosystems. Furthermore, the public plays an essential role in the creation of protected areas and protection from unauthorized activity. Conservation policy declarations are written by activists. Volunteers help with biodiversity accounting efforts, conducting work with information, and building infrastructure.
An increase in the amount of protected areas has slowed recently due to the low priority given to these efforts in comparison with other government programs. There also has been increased resistance from territory holders such as forestries and hunting farms. Administration of existing territories encounter a problem of not sufficient financing and staffing. Some areas of regional subordination (regional landscape park) do not have any management. Moreover, there is no systematic approach towards biodiversity monitoring in Ukraine, which complicates the creation of management plans for supporting the structure and functioning of biotopes.
Questions concerning biodiversity preservation in the context of greening of anthropogenic activity are somewhat harder to answer. The need to account for biodiversity is declared in numerous documents which regulate water use, resource extraction, agriculture, and forestry, although preference is usually given to economic development priorities. Often, biodiversity Environmental Impact Assessments are conducted without proper preliminary research.
Effects of climate change and the loss of biodiversity put a focus on the need for industry adaptation to climate change. In 2019 the project of the Strategy for climate change mitigation and adaptation for agriculture, forestry, hunting and fisheries industries was developed through 2030. That may become the first document on the industry adaptation.
Activity Rating: ** Standing Still
Dear Prime Minister Shmyhal Denys,
Considering the current threats to biodiversity conservation, we encourage the Government of Ukraine to give a priority to conservation of biodiversity and provide sufficient support for the following measures:
- Development and implementation of a universal system of biodiversity monitoring.
- Withdrawal of 15% of cultivated arable land (the degraded land).
- Forest area should be increased to 20% of the country area.
- Extraction of peat should be cut by 90%.
- Initiation of new protected areas. Preservation of old and natural forests, peatland.
- Restoration of forest, steppe, and peat ecosystems.
- Ensuring effective management of all protected areas, identification of clear goals and measures for protection.
- Finishing development and ensuring implementation of the “Strategy for climate change mitigation and adaptation for agriculture, forestry, hunting and fisheries industries to 2030”, which would necessarily include nature-based solutions.
Shmyhal Denys, Prime Minister of Ukraine
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Ukraine Country Manager Yevheniia Zasiadko