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Nature conservation: econet and protected areas
Russian Protected Areas
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Some nature reserves securing strategically important natural resources (forest, fish, and game animals) were known in the Russian Empire as early as the early 18th Century. Since the beginning of the 20th Century, the establishment of PAs has been a widely recognized and highly effective tool in nature conservation.  The Barguzinsky (Buryatiya Province) and Kedrovaya Pad (Primorsky Province) zapovedniks (strict scietific nature reserves) were established in 1916.
The Russian Federation is blessed by great expanses of unaltered natural ecosystems covering a significant part (up to 60 percent) of its territory.  Essential life-supporting functions of natural ecosystems characterized by high levels of biodiversity are still perceived throughout Russia as “common property.”  At the same time there is an ever growing drive for privatization and quick exploitation of this property.  Large-scale resource extraction projects transforming terrain are not always subject to sufficient environmental assessment to determine their costs in terms of biodiversity, climate change, or altered hydrological cycles.  On the other hand even the 100 established strict nature reservs secure only a very small portion of the country’s biological diversity, and do not protect representative samples of all ecosystem types.
(See Map Intensity of Human Impact and Protected areas in Amur- Heilong. River Basin )

According to the Federal Law “On Specially Protected Nature Areas” (1995) there are several principal types of protected nature areas with different legal status, protection regimes, and functions.  These are: zapovedniks (strict scientific national NRs), National Parks, Nature Parks, Zakazniks (wildlife refuges, NRs), nature monuments, as well as botanical gardens, arboretums, and natural resorts (areas where nature possesses outstanding healing qualities).(See PA types glossary)
In Russia different PA types operate with different management systems and are managed by various federal and provincial agencies.  The oldest, best known, and most prominent PA type is the Zapovednik, a strict scientific nature reserve where all economic activity is prohibited. Any zapovednik holds title to its land and falls into IUCN category Ia or Ib in terms of management objectives prescribed by law. Law also requires the formation of a buffer zone around zapovedniks with restrictions imposed on land-use.  Twelve zapovedniks in the Amur-Heilong Basin form the core of a PA network of the region.
All other types of PAs are characterized by a mix of nature protection and "compatible" economic activities.  The Russian National Park system started in the 1970s as a part of the Forest Service and combined conservation and recreational objectives with limited forestry. Only one national park-Alkhanay NP-has been established in the Amur–Heilong Basin before 2005, two more “Call of the tiger” and “Udege legend” gazetted in 2007.(also see Table below)
Zapovedniks and National Parks are managed directly from Moscow by the Directorate of PA Management of the Service for Control in the Field of Natural Resources (SCFNR) which is under Ministry of Natural Resources.  This arrangement combines enforcement and land management under one federal agency.  Each zapovednik and national park has a management institution in the field (PA administration) that answers directly to the national agency in Moscow.  Typically each unit has administrative, enforcement, research, and environmental education departments staffed with professionally trained people.  Some of the better managed zapovedniks have brought nearby lower-level PAs under their jurisdiction or simply conduct law enforcement in those areas. 
Over the last two decades all other types of PAs have been in constant management flux with management and funding responsibility shifting between agencies and levels of government.
The most numerous types of PAs are zakazniks (refuges/NRs to protect zoological, botanical, or landscape features, or in some cases a combination of these features) and nature monuments.  These are the most flexible and diverse forms of PAs, and are established either by the federal government or by provincial authorities.  These PAs are established to protect natural features and prevent ecosystem fragmentation, restore rare species, and preserve attractive scenery, etc. Land titles are usually not withdrawn from landowners, tenants, or users (forestry enterprises or farms) in zakazniks, but conservation restrictions are imposed on land-use activities.  Most provincial zakazniks and nature monuments which have no management staff in the field and are controlled by periodic inspections of supervising conservation agencies. In the Amur-Heilong Basin, 66 provincial level zakazniks with a total area of 46,930 km2 are protected to some extent and are considered important PAs both by authorities and conservation NGOs.  In contrast, most nature monuments and “local PAs” are small (less than 1,000 ha).  Thus the 355 nature monuments of the Amur-Heilong Basin occupy only 102,500 hectares, for an average of 289 ha per nature monument. Most of these small PAs are neglected and forgotten soon after establishment and have no management oversight whatsoever. 
Nature parks were an early attempt by provincial authorities to establish efficient protected area management institutions solely under their own jurisdictions.  Usually, besides biodiversity value, nature parks have some scenic value for tourism.  Khansansky NP, the only nature park in the Amur-Heilong basin vicinity, was founded at the southern tip of Primorsky province to protect wetlands at the mouth of the Tumen River.  The park has never had effective management and for the last five years has been on the brink of liquidation due to conflicting interests between hunting and recreation.
As of 2003 in Russia, federally listed PAs covered 74.6 million ha or nearly 10 percent of the country's territory, of which approximately 50 million ha are actually owned by conservation agencies with on-site management personnel.


Table. Protected Areas (PA) in Russia and the Russian portion of the Amur-Heilong Basin 2003-5

Protected area category

Russia total number of PAs in 2003

Russia total area of PAs
(‘000 ha)

Area as
percent of Russian territory

Number of Russia's
Amur Basin
PAs in

Russia's Amur Basin
PA area
(‘000 ha)

Percent of Russia's
Amur Basin territory

Zapovednik (Strict Scientific National Nature Reserve)







Zapovednik buffer zones

No data






National Park







Zakaznik -Federal Wildlife Refuge







Zakaznik -Provincial refuges







National Nature Monument







Provincial  Nature Monument







Local Nature Monument







Nature Park







Botanical park/garden/ Arboretum







Nature Resort (healing landscape)







Total under PA law categories







Other special provincial PA categories














Encouraged by federal law, legislative bodies of different regions endorsed regional statutes for PAs to allow for the development of dozens of different new types of protected natural areas (e.g., traditional land-use zones, ethnological parks, critical species habitat, ecological corridors, resource reserves, and protected landscapes).  Due to varying definitions in provincial laws, the total area covered by these new PAs is unclear.  The estimated total area exceeds 50 million ha or approximately an additional three to four percent of Russia's territory, but as the 2005 RFE inventory shows, the real total might be two times greater.  It is difficult to determine what degree of protection, if any, is afforded by each of these new PAs.  In Amur-Heilong basin provinces, innovation is somewhat limited and only several PAs of three new types have been established to date.  On the other hand, some PAs like the regional wetland reserve in Amurskaya Province and tiger migration corridor in Khabarovsky Province are in priority locations.
In addition to the state-managed PAs, a small number of PAs has been established by private individuals and NGOs.  The best known and oldest of these experiments is Muravievka Park, which was established in the early 1990s by the Socio-Ecological Union for crane protection, research, and education. Most other private PAs were established for game management research and wildlife restoration by organizations and individuals leasing hunting estates.  Of course these quasi-PAs are protected not by conservation laws, but by good will and the efforts and investments of their founders. 


Protected areas of Eurasia

Protected areas of Amur-Heilong (all)

Major protected areas of Amur-Heilong

Vegetation map

Terrrestrial ecoregions

Global 200 Ecoregions

Freshwater ecoregions

Upper Ussury –Lake Khanka.

Khanka Lake international nature reserve

Small Hinggan transboundary area (Manchurian forests ecoregion)

Dauria Steppe Global 200 ecoregion

Detailed hydrography of Amur River basin

Wetlands of Amur

Human footprint and ecoregions of Amur

Threats to biodiversity in Southern Russian Far East



Protected areas in Russia

Protected areas in China

Protected areas in Mongolia

Three gorges of the dragon river

Introductory tour of Amur basin

Way to the Ocean.Okhotsk - Manchurian Taiga

Da Hinggan - Dzhagdy forest ecoregion in Russia

Stanovoi Range: taiga and tundra

Ussury forests

Small Hinggan


Daurian steppe

Song-Nen plain

Amur meadows and wetlands – Amur midflow

Khanka Lake and Upper Ussury Wetlands

Lower Amur Wetlands


GIS: Ecological network

Link to Russian protected areas web-sites(BCC)


Daursky Biosphere Reserve (zapovednik). New ranger station. (Photo by V.Kiriliuk)


Also look:

Protected areas in Amur-Heilong River basin:

Protected areas coverage in Amur River Basin

Protected areas types in Russia, Mongolia, China

Mongolian protected areas

China nature reserves

Protected areas planning

Cooperation between nature reserves


Econet-ecological networks:

WWF Vision for Amur-Heilong Conservation

Conservation along the border

Wetland conservation

Grassland conservation and migratory wildlife

Selected Amur-Heilong protected areass and proposed fields of cooperation (Table)

Major wetland regions of the Amur-Heilong River basin (Table)

Ecological Network for Amur: The Amur-Heilong Green Belt Concept


Model areas for transboundary conservation:

Dauria international Protected Area-DIPA

Middle Amur –Sanjiang wetlands

Khanka –Ussury wetlands and forests

Small Hinggan Mountains-Three Gorges of Dragon River

Land of the Leopard


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