Steppe under threat
Let’s preserve the identity of Belgorod province!
Alexander V. Gusev (Club of Young Naturalists in Novy Oskol District, Belgorod Province)
Belgorod Province is predominantly a forest-steppe region with 70% of its area being under cropland. Beginning with a short summary of regional environmental history, the author addresses the Green Capital provincial project, protesting against one of its major components, namely the total afforestation of chalk slopes (see the related article in No.33). Plowing up and planting invasive tree species on slopes cannot prevent erosion, but on the contrary will increase it a great deal. At the same time, endangered plant species are being destroyed.
The author quotes the provincial governor who talks about the necessity to consult with experts. A relevant group of experts, however, was only put together at the beginning of 2012, after two years of continuous tree-planting on the chalk slopes.
The inventorying of steppe ecosystems and locations of protected species has to be done first. Areas with high biodiversity and high numbers of rare species must receive a protected status of regional and municipal importance. These areas will, in the future, form the core of ecological networks of regional and municipal level.
The author questions the official position of the Green Capital project as being a ‘brand’ of Belgorod Province and reminds us that it is the chalk slopes that have always been the genuine feature of the region. The very name Belgorod means ‘white hills’ and this phrase features in the names of several settlements, localities, nature reserves, etc. If the chalk hills are lost, the very toponymic meaning of the region will also be lost.
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