Inventory of steppes
Steppe ecosystems within state forest land in Lugansk Province (the second phase of creating a steppe inventory in Ukraine)
Alexei V. Vasilyuk, G. Kolomytsev (Institute of Zoology and National Environmental Center of Ukraine, Kiev)
In order to assess the dangers of afforestation in steppe ecosystems in Ukraine, a study of steppe tracts within state forest land in Lugansk Province was conducted. This province was selected as a pilot area for three reasons: a large number of steppe tracts remain intact, a considerable amount of information on the occurrence of rare species is available and afforestation is planned to be conducted over large areas (over 100,000 ha).
During the first phase of creating a GIS, a vector layer of forest compartments was compiled. The exact geographical location of state forest land is still confidential, so this layer had to be put together by positioning the shapes of forest blocks (from the publicly-available forest management data) into the system of geographical coordinates. Forest windbreaks alongside roads and field boundaries were excluded from this study.
The resulting shapes were grouped into four categories: 1) lands covered by forest; 2) tracts of steppe showing no signs of afforestation; 3) degraded forest plantations where steppe is recovering; and 4) recent tree plantations which have not become forest as yet. A breakdown of the total areas of land belonging to these categories is presented in a table. The distribution of degraded forest plantations, as well as the reasons for their degradation, is discussed and th recovery of steppe communities in these areas predicted.
The location and size of steppe tracts within protected areas located on state forest land cannot be measured exactly because there is no GIS-based inventory of protected areas in Ukraine. However, some instances in which trees were planted within steppe tracts inside a protected area (eg. within 50 hectares of Lugansk Nature Reserve) are known. The occurrence of rare steppe plant species on state forest land was analysed and presented in a table. Some tracts are noted to feature more than 30 such species. Recommendations on what needs to be done for the conservation of steppe communities and their biodiversity in Lugansk Province are formulated.
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