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The forest is our wealth. History of northern forests of Russia

Forest is our treasure. The history of Northern Russian woods

For many centuries mankind has been using forest ecosystems to meet its primary needs: food, shelter construction, heating. Centuries ago people hunted and established households in the woods to barter the results of their work with urban dwellers. Forests provided men with fine wood, furs, rare plants, berries, mushrooms, remedies. The riches of woods are described in many Russian proverbs: “When living near the forest, you won’t get hungry”, ”The forest gives drink, food, clothing, shelter, warmth”.

What is more, trees have always been necessary for spiritual life. Some peoples worshipped the forest; it was a place for pagan rites. Now it is believed that forests relax and invigorate. It is good to have a rest in the forest, it’s easier to breathe and charming landscapes are opening to your eyes in any season. It was repeatedly confirmed that people can reinforce and recover their health by spending leisure time in forest areas ― under the green shroud in the heart of ancient serenity and health-improving microclimate.

Ancient Greeks and people of Babylon considered forests to be genuine natural treasure. They protected forests and acknowledged the immense benefit they bestowed not only on humans, but on the nature in general. Forests are essential for climate control, for keeping water, ground and air pure, for maintaining normal environmental situation. The Northern Russian woods are of primary importance for securing the integrity of nature. They are rightfully dubbed as lungs of the planet.

Northern Russian woods are called ”lungs of the planet” Northern Russian woods are called ”lungs of the planet”, photo WEB

The most important functions of forest areas:

The spread of modern Northern woods is attributed to geological history of the continent. Due to sea level fluctuations, a part of modern land remained underwater, while the Lower Cretaceous climate was warm and moist. Woods were comprised of thermophilic trees: swamp cypress, ginkgo, sycamore, and liquidambar.

In the early Quaternary Period mixed and broadleaf forests appeared. Beech, chestnut, walnut, maple, ash, sequoia and other trees grew there. It was when mountain systems and rivers of the Russian North were formed.
The climate was gradually cooling; part of the territory got covered with ice. High in the mountains, dark coniferous forests appeared as an independent belt. On plains and plateaus, the broadleaf species grew smaller in size and were gradually replaced by coniferous trees.

The climate became dry and continental, which led to drastic decrease in forest-forming species.

The majority of Russian woodlands (78% of total territory) consist of coniferous forests, photo WEBThe majority of Russian woodlands (78% of total territory) consist of coniferous forests, photo WEB

The Russian Federation encompasses several climatic zones. On its territory you can find mixed forests of moderate latitudes, broadleaf or seasonal forests, coniferous forests of Northern latitudes and small patches of subtropical forest areas.  

The majority of Russian woodlands (78% of total area) consist of coniferous forests. Their main forest-forming species are larch, pine and various firs. Broadleaf forests are divided into hardwood (oak, hornbeam, ash) and softwood (birch, aspen, linden). The most prevalent bushes are Siberian dwarf-pine, euonymus, hawthorn, hazel, and juniper.

Greenpeace urges to conserve wild woodlandsGreenpeace urges to conserve wild woodlands, photo WEB

Man-induced destruction of the Northern woods led to simplification of natural structure of their growing stock. Fires, tree felling, industrial and road construction and cattle droves caused considerable reduction in primary forest areas of the Northern Russian regions. At present time, the share of virgin taiga forests is less than 25% of total Northern woodlands.

Ecological organizations and specifically Greenpeace urges the society to conserve virgin (wild) woodlands and protect them from natural fires and other natural disasters.

Maya Barsukova, Moscow, Russia