AMUR-HEILONG RIVER BASIN

 

All chapters:

Introduction

Climate

Waters and water management

Ecosystems and ecoregions

Species diversity and use of biological resources

Nature conservation: econet and protected areas

Countries & cultures

Economy

Land use

International policy

Land use
Timber harvest in the Russian Far East
Related maps, pictures, links

In South RFE due to proximity to Asian markets logging pressure recently is growing at fastest rate in the basin. Understanding of basin-wide situation might be facilitated by observing two maps. The first map presents general trends in Change in Forest Cover. It shows that outright loss of forest cover so far occurred mostly on the plains and thus is mostly result of land-conversion to agriculture and other uses, with timber harvest likely having only facilitating role in the process. However share of still remaining “intact forests” with high share of old growth is surprisingly little and confined to remote areas, and this indicates leading role of logging in degradation of most valuable forest ecosystems. The second map illustrates this trend, using most valuable Korean pine-broadleaf mixed forest cover as example. Available data do not cover southern extent of this forest formation in Jilin province, where history of logging is longer than in northern areas. However, in the north of Korean pine forests range just in 60 years logging resulted in more than 50% reduction in the area occupied by this most productive ecosystem on which Amur tiger and other charismatic wildlife heavily depends.

The main threats to biodiversity from current forestry practices are fragmentation of intact forests, unsustainable logging (legal and illegal), and forest fires. Illegal logging has become an acute problem in the post-Soviet period as a result of privatization of the forest industry, liberalization of forest trade, and the fact that the government no longer has a monopoly on forest exports. According to estimates in a WWF study, 1.5 million cubic meters of timber are cut illegally in Primorsky Province alone. Forest management in general is inefficient as it mostly implies exploitation of mature forests while management of already logged areas is often neglected. Harvesting techniques rarely support natural regeneration. Planting and artificial regeneration measures are carried out on less than 0.3 percent of the logged lands and have no effect whatsoever on quality and quantity of RFE forests. Even “selective” cutting damages forest ecosystems when roads are built and heavy machinery is used. Due to the energy crisis and a socio-economic depression, much of the rural population of the RFE depends on firewood for heating fuel and, less frequently, for cooking.

Unsanctioned logging and illegal export of valuable tree species threaten the integrity of forest ecosystems. With intensive logging, the biodiversity of forest ecosystems is decreasing. Tiger, leopard, bear, wild boar, roe deer, and Siberian spruce grouse are a just a few of the animals that depend on healthy forest ecosystems. Impacts of forestry on biodiversity and ecosystem health include:

•  transformation of old-growth and secondary forests from all types of logging practices (including selective), decreasing overall biodiversity and increasing the frequency of forest fires;

•  increased erosion and degradation of forest soils;

•  disruption of hydrologic and microclimatic regimes through logging and construction of logging roads and related construction;

•  increased turbidity of waterways and changes in water temperatures, especially in small streams, which often leads to devastation of fish populations; and

•  high levels of chemical and organic pollution of waterways from outlets of wood-processing and cellulose plants.

 

Massive destruction of forest landscapes continues in southern Russian Far East, eliminating habitats not only for wildlife but also humans. Forage resources for ungulates is being destroyed as well due to the loss of productive oak and cedar-pine forests, etc. Declines in numbers of ungulates reduces the carnivore prey base / game animals.

Forests are known to be regulators and accumulators of moisture. The destruction of forests causes swift changes in the hydrological regime of soils and water bodies. These changes lead to floods, erosion of soils from slopes, water-logging of low-lying areas, and prolonged droughts. Accelerated sedimentation of river beds during spawning periods will lead to further substantial declines in the RFE populations of salmon (see Salmon vs forestry). The totality of these adverse processes is bound to yield disastrous economic and social consequences for rural communities. It has given rise to mass unemployment that has impoverished the populace.

Logging in RFE (Photo by V.Filonov)

Map collection: Transportation

Maps:

Also look:

Land-use trends:

General trends in land-use

Recent changes in land-use in three countries

 

Agriculture:

Amur Agriculture

Agricultural development in Northeast China

Agricultural development in Eastern Mongolia

Russian agriculture

Russian agricultural land and production in RFE-tables

Northeast Asia cooperation in agriculture

Environmental impacts of argiculture

Land degradation and desertification

Conversion of wildlands to farmland

 

Forestry:

Salmon vs forestry

Major human-induced impacts on forest ecosystems of RFE (table)

Timber trade

 

Other land-use issues:

Fire

Nature tourism in the Amur/Heilong River Basin

Transport infrastructure impacts

Oil & gas Basin

Oil & gas impacts

Russian mining

Mongolian mining

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