Chalk Flora Nature Reserve threatened by wildfires
Sergey V. Limansky (Ukrainian Steppe Nature Reserve, Donetsk Province)
Chalk Flora Nature Reserve is the largest and most hilly of five areas making up the Ukrainian Steppe Nature Reserve. Almost one quarter of its area is covered by chalk pine forests and oak woods in ravines. Compared to other parts of the Ukrainian Steppe Nature Reserve, the Chalk Flora is at higher risk to wildfires due to a number of reasons. These include the high human population density in adjacent areas, the absence of a buffer zone, the complex and irregular boundary and the rapid spread of fire along resinous pine-tree roots in the subsurface soil. During dry years, the most dangerous fires occur. These are persistent combined crown and ground fires, the most favourable conditions for which come about every 4 to 6 years.
From extensive past experience of extinguishing both forest and steppe fires in the protected area, it is believed that the most effective way of putting out steppe fires is to use a combination of water and fire beaters, while for forest fires the best method is to use water and to brush leaf and pine needle litter towards burned areas.
From 2007, the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences allocated some funds to pay for a Ministry of Emergencies fire engine to be based at the reserve. This money, however, is only enough to cover the cost of four days watch. Consequently, the chief responsibility for fire prevention and fire-watch in chalk pine forest still falls on the shoulders of reserve staff. Considering they have a very little of worn-out and outdated firefighting equipment, it is strongly recommended that the National Academy of Sciences makes a decision on the urgent and priority provision of fire-fighting equipment for the Chalk Flora Nature Reserve.
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