The term biodiversity is defined as “diversity of wildlife at the genetic, species, ecosystem and landscape levels”. Scientists and politicians raised the issue of necessity to preserve biodiversity as the most important condition for survival of the Earth’s biosphere and the mankind itself relatively recently – at the end of the XX century. This was determined by alarmingly rapid and more and more accelerating extinction of plant and animal species, certain ecosystems, and even landscapes caused by human activities.
Every species in the ecosystem is responsible for various connections and processes and its extinction results in the breaking of these connections. Together with extinction of species “strength” or stability of the ecosystem to the external influence gradually and steadily goes down. It becomes similar to an old moth-eaten blanket which can be torn into separate pieces during the next “shaking” and these pieces can never be put together again. Currently scientists can only guess how complicated and multi-faceted these connections are, but extinction of ecosystems and entire landscapes has already become reality (the Aral Sea).
Species diversity of taiga forests is estimated as 25 000 species while according to some scientists today we know only about 30% of species of living organisms inhabiting these ecosystems. We don’t even know by sight 70% of species of invertebrate, weed, fungus, lichen, insect, and other groups of plants and animals not to mention their role in the forest ecosystems. Meanwhile, transformation of taiga forest by people is going on so fast that, for example, in Scandinavia 8000 species listed in the “Red book” are already threatened with extinction. In the Komi Republic the “Red book” includes about 1000 “forest” species because the period of “intensive forest use” here is shorter by 150 years.
Specifically in Komi – at the north-east edge of Europe – large massifs of natural forests which have never been cut and changed due to human activities, and now commonly referred to as PRISTINE or LOW-DISTURBED forest, have been preserved. They have a global ecological value. It is no mere chance that the first object in Russia granted the World Natural Heritage Status by UNESCO called “Komi Pristine forests” became undisturbed forest massifs of Pechora-Ilych Reserve and Yugyd-Va National park with the total area of 3 mln. ha. They preserve unique biodiversity of Priuralye taiga in the contact zone of European and Siberian flora and fauna.
But pristine forests in Komi have been preserved not only at the foothills of Ural. They make up about 30% of the forested area of the republic. The largest massifs are located on its borders with the neighbor regions – Arkhangelsk, Kirov, and Perm regions. These massifs remained “undeveloped” due to the fact that they are situated on the border of economic affordability. There are neither roads nor industrial plants there and residents of few adjacent villages live a traditional lifestyle. Today these pristine forests are the last “warehouses” of ripe wood in the European north of Russia. Their major part remains in the category of “commercial forest” and therefore it can be harvested according to the Russian legislation. But once the pristine forest is cut down it can never be restored!
Every landscape is unique in its own way same as history, language, and culture of every nation. Pristine forest covering this landscape like a blanket is its integral part. After thousands of years of joint evolution they adapted to each other so much that now can successfully stand up to any natural disaster, for example, global climate change. Therefore, by means of pristine forests conservation we preserve biodiversity of the taiga biota from genes to landscapes, we preserve the possibility of understanding the laws of sustainability of these nature systems for our ancestors, we preserve the potential for restoration of the “disturbed biodiversity” on the developed areas.