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Protected areas and high conservation value forests in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region – Sweden, Finland and Russia
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Reports of the Finnish Environment Institute 33/2017
Anna Kuhmonen, Jyri Mikkola, Bo Storrank and Tapio Lindholm
The project Barents Protected Area Network (BPAN) produced an overview of the characteristics and representativeness of the protected area network in the Barents Region in 2011-2014. A second phase was launched in 2015, and included studies on high conservation value forests (HCVFs) and coastal areas. The main aim of the project on forests was to produce new information on the distribution and protection status of HCVFs in a study area including the Barents Euro-Arctic regions of northwest Russia, Finland and Sweden. Furthermore, the aim of the project was to deliver updates on the protected area coverage in the study area, and to relate the progress of establishing protected areas to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and especially Target 11. In this study, a project-specific concept of high conservation value forests was applied in order to identify, describe and visualize the distribution of forests that are especially important for biodiversity. In Sweden and Finland, HCVFs were identified on the basis of existing data gained in field inventories. Remote sensing data, data from national forest inventories as well as studies of aerial photographs provided additional information. In northwest Russia, due to the vast areas covered by forests, mainly remote sensing was used. Data on land cover, and in particular regarding HCVFs and protected areas, was analyzed and displayed on maps using geographical information systems. A total of close to 325 000 km² were identified as verified or potential HCVFs. In Sweden, HCVFs covered about one fourth of the forested area of the study area, whereas the share was a bit higher in Finland (29%) and considerably higher in Russia (37%). The biggest share of HCVFs was detected in spruce-dominated coniferous forests; about 60% of these forests were classified as HCVFs. By the end of 2015, the protected areas covered almost 200 000 km² or 12,7% of the study area. The protected area coverage as compared to the situation two years earlier has improved, but in this rather short period of time the progress has naturally been rather modest. The biggest change has occurred in Russia. In most of the administrative regions of the Barents Euro-Arctic Region the objective of protecting 17% of terrestrial areas and inland waters by 2020 - according to the Aichi Target 11 - has not yet been reached. A more thorough analysis of the protection level of the main types of forests of the Barents Region was carried out. The forests were divided into coniferous forests (pine-dominated coniferous forests on mineral land, pine-dominated coniferous forests on peatland, spruce-dominated forests), mixed forests and deciduous forests. Comprehensive maps and overviews of these forests were produced, presenting the distribution, total area, the proportional share of these types of forests as well as the level of protection. Statistics were produced for the whole study area, by country and region. In the whole Barents Region (excluding Norway) 11,7% of the forests were protected by the end of 2015. The project results and especially the data on high conservation value forests could be used in the development of the protected area systems of the region. The project has also highlighted the need to enhance the ecological connectivity between protected areas, and the data compiled by the project could provide a starting point for further development of connectivity analyses on different geographical scales. Furthermore, the project results could be used in order to facilitate an increased stakeholder dialogue regarding sustainable management of forest resources in the Barents Region.