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Hamor F., Dovhanych Ya., Pokynchereda V., Sukharyuk D., Bundzyak Yo., Berkela Yu., Voloshchuk M., Hodovanets В., Kabal M.

SWOT Analysis of the Transcarpathian Virgin Forests

Strong points analysis:

• In Europe, except for the Carpathians, Balkan and the European part of Russia, virgin forests have actually disappeared by now. Significant areas of virgin forests have remained in the Transcarpathia – out of 695.800 ha of forested area about 61.190 ha belong to the virgin forest sites (including expected virgin forests on the areas that have not been investigated). This constitutes about 9 % of the whole foretasted area of the region.

• Most part of the Transcarpathian virgin forests has already been referred to this or that category of protection and this makes their future conservation much easier.

• The virgin forests represent a shelter for unique fauna and flora complexes. So, they are gene pools for the biodiversity that maintain the ecological balance on the adjacent disturbed areas.

• Availability of significant virgin forest sites benefit the survival of rare carnivals (lynx, bear, wild cat) and birds (golden eagle, Ural owl, eagle-owl) that need vast undisturbed areas of forest ecosystems for living.

• Occurrence of great number of hollow trees make it possible to survive for a number of animals whose life cycle depends upon tree hollows (birds dwelling in hollow trees, Chieroptera, squirrels, dormice, martens etc).

• Grate amount of deadwood, which is characteristic for the virgin forests, secure survival of a wide range of the xylobionts, conditions for which area much worse in the managed forests.

• All the virgin forests belong to the National Forest Fund, which makes it easier to exclude them out of exploitation.

• A special category ‘Virgin forests” is singled out in the Forest Code and it greatly benefits their legal protection.

• Intensive tendency for the highland animal husbandry reduction lessens grazing pressure upon the alpine virgin forests and benefits the upper forest line restoration.

• Grate number of the virgin forests specialists, who works at the higher educational establishments and research institutions of the region and secure sufficient scientific basis for their continuous conservation.

Weak points analysis:

• Some part of the virgin forests still belongs to the managed forests.

• State policy for the forest roads improvement makes it easier to get to some virgin forest sites, which used to be inaccessible in the past.

• State policy for the profitability and self-financing of the state forest enterprises makes their administrations look for some reserves, and the virgin forests might become the ones. That is why the forest enterprises might oppose virgin forests withdrawal from their management.

• Great fragmentation of the virgin forests makes them more fragile and irresistible for the anthropic pressure.

• As the virgin forests are not singled out into a separate protection category, neither special actions nor methods of management are envisaged for them.

• Absence of any monitoring system makes it difficult to work out efficient measures for their conservation.

• Most part of the virgin forest sites stretch in narrow stripes along highland pastures, and absence of any buffer zone makes them fragile.

• Virgin forests and mountain pine and alder located in the subalpine zone are not included to the National Forest Fund and are practically deprived of any kind of protection.

Opportunities analysis:

• Designation of a special virgin forests category in the Forest Code opens up possibilities for the new legal conservation mechanisms introduction.

• Great opportunities for the virgin forests research and conservation are granted because of a great interest paid by the West-European forest scientists to the virgin forests of Transcarpathia (cooperation of CBR with the Swiss research institute WSL, Hainich NP, M. Plank Research Institute of Germany, Swiss-Ukrainian project FORZA, Ukrainian-Dutch project BBI-Matra etc).

• The fact that the Transcarpathian virgin forests are listed to the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List as a component of the Ukrainian-Slovak serial property draws great international attention to these sites. This lets us hope to improve financing of the institutions, which execute direst management of the virgin forests.

• Virgin forests inventory results make up a good basis for the National Ecological Network designation, key zones of which would be made up wild nature areas.

• A network of the virgin forests sites would become a good basis for forestry specialists training and scientific research of undisturbed ecosystems.

Threats analysis:

• Due to their high productivity and economic value, the virgin forests might be exploited, which would lead to the loss of their scientific and nature protection value.

• Wide-scale campaign of the forest roads construction makes the virgin forests more accessible, thus making them more attractive for management and tourism.

• Low life rate of the local residents poses a threat for the virgin forests because of firewood needs, wild fruit and mushrooms collection, poaching etc.

• Designation of the tourism infrastructure dose to the virgin forests threatens their long-term conservation.

Based upon the SWOT analysis and taking into consideration the national strategies for forestry and biodiversity conservation, the following strategic objectives are set up:

1. To include the virgin forests to the National Ecological Network.

2. To secure legal protection of the virgin forests by granting them a special nature protection status.

3. To elaborate a system of conservation and management measures for the virgin forests.

4. Awareness raising among wide public and forestry specialists sector on the virgin forests’ importance and new approaches and methods elaboration for the ecologically-based management.

5. To work out and implement a system of monitoring over the state of the virgin forests.

Source: Hamor F., Dovhanych Ya., Pokynchereda V., Sukharyuk D., Bundzyak Yo., Berkela Yu., Voloshchuk M., Hodovanets В., Kabal M. Virgin forests of Transcarpathia. Inventory and management. – Rakhiv, 2008. – 86 p.

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