Structure of threats to steppe biome in Russia | Conservation of steppes in Russia

site-map8

mapa7


CONSERVATION OF STEPPES IN RUSSIA
Project UNDP/GEF Improving the Coverage and Management Efficiency of Protected Areas in the Steppe Biome of Russia
ПРООН ГЭФ Минприроды России
This website was created and is supported by the UNDP / GEF / Ministry of Russia project "Improving the coverage and management efficiency of protected areas in the steppe biome of Russia"

Яндекс.Метрика
Искать
Steppe Bulletin
Hot topic
Photogallery

Structure of threats to steppe biome in Russia

A groupe of experts analysed actual and potential threats to steppe ecosystems at the preparatory stage of the UNDP/GEF Project “Improving the Coverage and Management Efficiency of Protected Areas in the Steppe Biome of Russia”. As a result there were determined 17 main threats ranged by importance rate (danger and urgency).

Earlier attempts to summarize main threats to steppe ecosystems of Russia you can see in Strategy.., 2006 (2008) (in Russian).

Range of importance: 1 – highest, 5 – lowest.

Priority Threat Barriers Country Activities
1 Direct destruction of native and semi-natural steppes by plowing Cultural: traditional perception of steppes as “empty space”, land to cultivate; people’s negative attitudes to transformation of arable land to semi-natural grassland.

Legal: (including taxation) preferred status of arable land to negate all other agricultural land use types.

Political: regional leaders declare zero tolerance to abandonment of arable land and support maximum plowing irrespective of economic reasons

Administrative: unlawful opposition of federal government agencies and local governments to transfer of arable land other agricultural land use types.

 

Take inventory of large steppe areas at the cross-country scale

Prepare and lobby draft laws that would eliminate legal barrier (for RF land Code, etc)

Interventions to shape public opinion (publications, mass-scale campaigns etc.)

Develop certification systems for biodiversity friendly products (eco-labeling), promote idea of agricultural land’s biodiversity value

Set up dialogue with agricultural companies, farmer unions and RF Ministry of Agriculture

 

2 Direct and indirect destruction of steppe ecosystem by mining, oil and gas industries Legal: Ecological expert review of mineral extraction projects and other projects has not existed in this field since 2006, formal procedures of government expert review and use of EIA (preparation of EIA is still mandatory) are not thorough enough; during review and EIA steppe is considered to be of low value.

Economic & Legal: loss of steppe ecosystem is not adequately accounted for in calculation of damages

Company activities and government policies in mineral extraction lack transparency

Develop and promote methods aimed at minimizing harm to steppe ecosystems during mining, oil and gas industries operations, consolidate and replicate best practices

 

3 Degradation and transformation of more mesophytic steppe types due to impact of insufficient grazing and grass cutting

 

Degradation of steppes PAs with a strict protection regime (first of all in Zapovedniks)

 

Deterioration of endangered steppe species habitats directly due to reduction of livestock grazing

Economic:
1) Livestock farming is not economically effective under current conditions.2) remote grazing lands are not used because of infrastructure loss and high level of livestock theft.Legal: within some PAS or their parts (zones) grazing is strictly prohibited, although ecologically requiredMethodology: reliable impact methods do not exist that would guarantee their safety for steppe ecosystem, respective indicators and rates not developed.Institutional: high risk of corrupt practice exists, with allowed management interventions in PAs being used as a cover for destructive economic use.
Support distant-pasture grazing option for livestock farming (under condition of ecological optimization) in Zapovednik buffer zones, biosphere reserve cooperation zones, respective national park zones.

Monitoring of species depending on grazing use of steppes

Take inventory of steppe sites to prove lack of grazing (as well as overgrazing impact on land)

Methodology and legal support to reintroduction of wild herd ungulates (saiga, Mongolian antelope, Przhevalski horse, snow ram) or horses running wild, as well as large digging rodents in steppe PAs.

Resolve issue of regime based grazing in steppe PAs (remove legal barrier; technique arrangements, monitoring of results).

Develop steppe ecosystem management method for PAs (including indicators and rates ).

Amend legislation to remove legal barrier.

Detailed public consultations to justify need for intervention in each specific case.

Render material and equipment aid to PAs to facilitate steppe ecosystem management

Train PA personnel

 

3 Deterioration of endangered steppe species habitats directly due to reduction of livestock grazing Economic:

1) Livestock farming is not economically effective under current conditions.

2) remote grazing lands are not used because of infrastructure loss and high level of livestock theft.

Legal: within some PAS or their parts (zones) grazing is strictly prohibited, although ecologically required

Support distant-pasture grazing based livestock farming (under condition of its ecological optimization) in buffer zones of Zapovedniks, cooperation zones of biosphere reserve, respective zones of national parks

Monitoring of species depending on grazing use of steppes

Take inventory of steppe sites to prove lack of grazing (as well as overgrazing impact on land)

Support reintroduction of wild herd ungulates or horses running wild, as well as large digging rodents in steppe PAs.

3 Degradation of steppe ecosystems and deterioration of habitats for endangered steppe species due to overgrazing Currently barriers refer to locally concentrated grazing only: remote grazing lands are not used because of infrastructure loss and high level of livestock theft.

 

Develop and validate methodology guidelines aimed at optimization grazing impact on land in steppe areas

Help local communities undertake spatial planning of grazing and/or grass cutting, prepare and implement grazing land management in compliance with environmental protection law

 

3 Direct and indirect destruction of steppe ecosystems by afforestation Cultural: traditional perception of steppes as “empty space” of zero value for wildlife; people’s positive attitude to substitution of steppes with any trees planted.

Administrative and legal: afforestation projects are not subject to environmental expert review; no adequate account is taken of steppe value s in such reviews

Legal: forest planting is the only knowingly unproductive use of agricultural lands directly stipulated by land law

Political and legal: afforestation of agricultural lands is included in federal programs

Scientific tradition: assumption of the “normal” share of forest in any region shaped on the basis of European Russia’s middle latitude area, although extrapolated to originally sparsely wooded regions; scientific tradition lacks convincing alternative approaches to protection of agricultural lands

 

Prepare and lobby draft laws that eliminate legal incentives to afforestation (amendments to RF Land Code, alteration of federal dedicated programs)

Interventions to shape public opinion (publications, mass-scale campaigns etc.)

Clear declaration that natural or recovering ecosystems may not be destroyed in the framework ofKyotoprocess

Legally binding priority of recovery of natural ecosystem when selected for each specific site

Legally binding requirement of environmental expert review for afforestation projects outside of the Forest Fund area; act to ensure that it takes into account value of steppes.

 

4 Deterioration of habitats and direct destruction of some steppe species by fire Administrative and legal: law strictly bans any grassland fires, which is impracticable, and therefore noncompliance universally takes place; however these bans effectively prevent the design and application of controlled grassland fires.

Cultural: a contradictory tradition exists: grassland fires are clearly considered as evil, however most farmers individually tend to use them (secretly, since they are banned by law and condemned by moral). Under such conditions a legal system of controlled grassland fires becomes impossible.

Formally accepted approach is described as “fight fires” – i.e. a trend to prevent fires altogether. It is an impossible task, and this approach leads to fires becoming much more destructive (as flammable stuff tends to accumulate, and ban on controlled grassland fires results in fires at the wrong time).

Support amending legislation from a complete ban on controlled grassland fires to reasonable restriction.

Study controlled grassland fire effects on steppe ecosystems, seek optimum regimes and times for preventive controlled grassland fires (to prevent more destructive fires).

Prepare methodology guidelines for steppe PAs on prevention and extinguishing fires with an account for steppe specifics (no use of intertillage and aerial fire control, controlled grassland fires etc.).

Develop and promote fire prevention and extinguishing spatial schemes based on these recommendations.

Support PA firefighting equipment and train personnel.

4 Direct hounding of selected endangered species (unlawful trapping, hunting, gathering with different purposes) Poor capacity of environmental protection services.

Lack of PAs.

Legal nihilism.

Wide occurrence of traditional unlawful vehicle ride hunting and (exclusively) by using helicopter, as an element of outdoor activity.

Lack of game husbandry (predominance of unlicensed hunting grounds).

Authorities lack understanding importance of conservation of entire biodiversity; lack of funds allocated to implementation of dedicated species recovery programs.

 

Identify most important areas for such species.

Include key habitats of rare species in PA longer term development plan and establish new PAs.

Render methodology aid and material support to Hunting Supervision Service.

Undertake model population census of game species to verify and adjust existing counting methods.

 

Render methodology aid to and information support of hunters’ societies, improve hunters’ certification procedure.

 

Strengthen material and equipment base of new PAs.

 

Take measures to reintroduce locally disappearing species.

 

Campaign to promote conservation of rare and disappearing beast and bird species.

 

Strengthen international collaboration in conservation of migratory species.

 

4 Deterioration of existence conditions for steppe species and ecosystems due to climate change (cyclic, non-cyclic) Too large a climate change swing.

High degree of region’s development does not provide for sufficient flexibility.

Resource use plans within natural water catchments are too complicated, since they include different administrative and legal units.

The generic weakness ofRussia’s spatial planning – seemingly a very detailed planning – is in the fact that it is not supported by either legal or planning solutions, and cannot be adequately used for resolution of long-term problems.

Lack of understanding of cyclic or other dynamics of steppe landscapes does not provide for sufficiently correct and precise prediction of future change.

 

 
4 Destruction of steppes due to expansion of human settlements Economic: High land price in cities

Administrative and legal: general lack of effective mechanisms to block urban development or any other destruction of nature areas within city limits

Economic and legal: losses of steppe ecosystems are not adequately accounted for in calculation of development costs

Cultural: traditional perception of steppes as “empty space” of zero value in itself, and zero value for man; people’s positive attitude to substitution of steppes with any trees planted.

 
4 Population fragmentation and disruption of migration trails for individual steppe species Transboundary migration type of a number of species

High degree of steppe economic development in regions

No ecological expert review of line facility projects (canals, roads, perimeter fences) outside of Pas, and no account for respective animal needs in the framework of state expert review

Incomplete data on locations of key migration points for many species

International and legal:Russiais not a signatory to the Bonn Convention (CMS) and does not take part in most agreements under the convention.

SupportRussia’s joining the Bonn Convention and taking part in some MoUs (on saiga, slender-billed curlew, great bustard, birds of prey) under the convention.

Ensure protection of migratory species in framework of bilateral environmental protection agreements withMongolia,Kazakhstan,China

Develop and implement action plans on individual migratory species (including saiga, argali, great bustard, little bustard, sociable lapwing, steppe pratincole etc.)

Support reinstatement of legislative mandatory ecological expert review of all construction projects

4 Degradation and transformation of steppes as a result of irrigation and hydraulic engineering projects Economic: 1) under arid conditions agricultural operations require improved water supply

2) Irrigation of agricultural land areas dramatically improves productivity

3) inadequate payment system for consumed water resources, and inadequate cost accounting system used in agricultural production

Institutional: active lobbying is still underway (by companies and government agencies) in favor of large-scale hydraulic engineering projects

Administrative: poor oversight of execution of water and land legislation.

Legal: No ecological expert review of hydraulic engineering projects.

Support development of dip irrigation

Support reinstatement of legislative mandatory ecological expert review of all construction projects

Stress importance of taking into account interests of steppes and steppe species in the framework of expert review

4 Destruction and degradation of steppe-associated natural forest and shrub ecosystems (do not confuse with tree plantations) Institutional: it is not clear who has what rights to steppe forest areas; there is no definite economic entity entitled to operations in them.

Administrative: 1) there is no forest surveying, no estimation completed; 2) forest management agencies have no capacity, nor desire to control compliance with forest legislation in such forest areas; 3) management of this forest does not generate any revenue, since liquidity of their produce is negligible, although management (protection, caretaking) is very expensive because forest sites are small and widely dispersed.

 

Support steppe forest surveying (estimation or any other similar type of land designation).

Promote such solutions for implementation of dedicated state programs aimed at increasing wooded areas in steppe regions that would mostly (or exclusively) rely on recovery of eliminated forest, rather than planting trees in former steppes.

Help arrange forest protection for such forest areas.

Establish protection sites for forest, and small PAs for protection of most important blocks of steppe forest.

5 Invasion of alien introduced species into steppe ecosystems Scale unclear; is the problem urgent?

It is not clear what agency and how must handle and control such species

National legislation does not regulate the issue

Russiadid not sign the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

To the best of public knowledge, Invasion of alien species does not pose an ecological threat

Study the problem, take inventory of alien species in steppe ecosystems and assess extent of invasion.

Develop legislation that would regulate the issue of controlling alien species

Support signing of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

 

5 Direct unintentional destruction of birds at power lines and other power facilities The problem is virtually unknown to power line owners

High costs involved in power line upgrade

Lack of data on where dangerous facilities (power lines, etc.) may be located across the country

Support development (through Rosprirodnadzor) of methodology guidelines for environmental protection agencies of RF Subjects on definition of power lines that pose a threat to birds, and methodology guidelines for power line owners on installation of bird protection devices
5 Destruction and degradation of steppe-associated wetland ecosystems Large percentage of small lakes and waterways is already strongly affected

Fish farming at drain-ponds is highly profitable

Natural shortage of water resources in steppe regions

 

Support introduction of ecological expert review of hydraulic engineering projects at small streams and fish farming ponds
to top