CREBR – conservation area: what does the Reserve live today?
CREBR – conservation area: what does the Reserve live today?

The Chernobyl Radiation-Ecological Biosphere Reserve (CREBR) is a unique environmental protection, research and development institution of international importance, created with the aim of preserving the most typical natural complexes of the biosphere in a state of nature, conducting background environmental monitoring, studying the environment, its changes under the influence of anthropogenic factors.

In fact, 227 thousand hectares of land are open for research and study. The signing of agreements, memorandums and agreements on cooperation today allows everyone who is interested in the topic of the ecology of the future to comprehensively familiarize themselves with the issues of radiation exposure and its consequences, both for nature and man.

Scientists at the Schmalhausen Institute of Zoology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and the Kiev Zoological Park of national importance have already carried out a number of studies under the agreement on the study of the flora and fauna of the Chernobyl radiation-ecological biosphere reserve with the involvement of leading scientific institutions and organizations.

The next step is to establish cooperation in the field of research on biological diversity and ecology of faunal complexes, conduct joint research, exchange of experience between scientists and the like.

The Agreement was signed on cooperation between the Chernobyl Radiation-Ecological Biosphere Reserve and the Polessky State Radiation-Ecological Reserve (Republic of Belarus) within the framework of international and national priorities for the protection of nature, as well as with the aim of creating additional opportunities for the conservation of natural complexes in the territory of a unique region, such as Polesie. The main objectives of cooperation between the two institutions of the nature reserve fund are:

  • improvement of the state of conservation in the natural state of the most typical natural complexes of the region,
  • conducting joint research and biological monitoring,
  • joint radiation and environmental monitoring of flora and fauna,
  • protection of forests from fires, pests and diseases.

It is worth noting that the reserve in the territory of Belarus was created back in 1988.

An appropriate Memorandum has been concluded between the Reserve and the UN Program to provide assistance in the implementation of the project “Conservation, Strengthening and Management of Carbon Stocks and Biodiversity in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone”.

In accordance with the terms of reference of the project, both parties agreed to achieve results regarding the creation and operation of a research and environmental center, joint research and a comprehensive assessment of the current state and trends of natural ecosystems.

Joint efforts will also be focused on assessing the status and potential of the Exclusion Zone in terms of providing eco-system services. In addition, practical recommendations will be developed on the rehabilitation of biotopes, carbon management and conservation of biodiversity in order to disseminate the results at the national and international levels.

The Chernobyl Radiation-Ecological Biosphere Reserve is open for scientific research and continues to establish contacts with both international and national research institutions.

Conservation, enhancement and management of carbon stocks and biodiversity in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

The development of the integrated organization of the Reserve’s territory is carried out as a part of a joint project funded by the Global Environment Facility through the United Nations Environment Program “Conservation, Consolidation and Management of Carbon and Biodiversity in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone”.

The first part of the initial stage of the project to organize the territory of the Reserve has already been completed, entitled “Assessing the status and development of landscapes, identifying challenges and setting priorities for the biosphere reserve”. What have the tasks of this stage been, what is their scientific and historical value?

A short release that provides answers to these and many other questions is below. It will be of interest not only to professional specialists, but also to ordinary readers, as it helps to better understand the importance and historical mission of this comprehensive program for the perspective development of CREBR.

  • Task 1. Analysis of the natural basis for the formation of modern natural landscapes within the Reserve.

The natural components were analyzed as part of the implementation of the task, on the basis of which the modern landscapes of the Reserve were formed. For this, an analysis of the geological basis of landscapes and lithological features was made, using the existing maps and scientific sources.

The register of geomorphological conditions for the formation of the modern landscape structure was carried out using remote sensing data with their refinement according to topographic maps in the field. The orographic composition of the territory was studied.

The hydrological features of the Reserve are analyzed with the basins of the Pripyat, Uzh and partially Grouse. Climatic features of the territory and variability of climatic conditions for the period 2005-2017 have been analyzed at the Chernobyl weather station using archived weather data of the RP5 Internet resource.

A trend has been identified for a change in climatic conditions towards warming, for a decrease in the average annual rainfall, a significant decrease in the average annual humidity and a decrease in the average annual wind speed. The soil cover of landscapes was analyzed in accordance with existing soil maps with refinement in the field.

  • Task 2. Determining the biogeographic context of landscape diversity.

The place of the Reserve’s landscapes in the system of physical-geographical and biogeographic zoning is determined as part of the implementation of the task. The biogeographic value and edaphic conditionality of the Reserve’s landscapes are determined, associated with the distribution of foci of natural pine, pine-oak and oak-hornbeam forests, floodplain meadows and swamps.

  • Task 3. Determination of landscape diversity of the territory.

The implementation of this task was to analyze modern maps of the distribution and boundaries of the natural landscapes of the Reserve, as well as clarifying the boundaries in the field. The main natural landscapes of the Reserve have been identified – Ivankovsky, Dimersko-Makarovsky, Korogodsky-Vilchansky, Uzhsky, Shepelitsky, Gdensky and Nizhnepripyatsky.

Their boundaries are clarified on the landscape map, their characteristics are given to the level of natural boundaries. Anthropogenic landscapes are analyzed from the point of view of the distribution of nature management types before the Chernobyl accident and their changes during the period after the accident with the termination of anthropogenic impact.

The fact of restoration of natural landscapes in places of their anthropogenic changes (settlements, arable land, near-shores, pastures, drainage zones, anthropogenic forests) is proved. According to the degree of anthropogenization growth, forest complexes are subdivided into indigenous, conditionally indigenous, serial, initial, and digressively demutational ones. Anthropogenic changes are analyzed within each of the natural landscapes.

  • Task 4. Analysis of historical, cultural and archaeological components of the landscape of the Reserve.

The existing registered archeological monuments and their condition in the Reserve were analyzed as part of the implementation of this task: Neolithic sites, Bronze Age settlements, settlements of Milograd and Zarubinets cultures, Early Slavic settlements.

  • Task 5. Determining the value of biodiversity and priorities for its conservation.

The value of the Biodiversity of the Reserve is related to its location within the framework of the Polesie Ecological Corridor, as one of the main migratory routes of birds and mammals in the north of Ukraine, as well as the spread of specific postglacial vegetation and flora.

Oak, oak-pine, oak-linden, oak-hornbeam and pine forests, meadows and a variety of swamps are valuable within the Reserve. A feature of the Reserve’s landscapes is their formation within the slope in the transitional zone of the Dnieper-Donets cavity. This distinguishes the landscapes of the Reserve among others.

It was revealed that among the landscape diversity of the Reserve’s territory, the most valuable are the sites with preserved oak-hornbeam-pine and pine and juniper forests. Some sections of oak forests are preserved in small massifs in each of the listed natural landscapes.

They are mainly represented by age (100-150, sometimes up to 200 years old) trees. Also, dune formations with plant groupings formed within them, air-water and water plant formations, swamps, coastal willows are valuable on the territory of the Reserve.

Value for research

The main priority of the implementation of research activities is the study of landscape changes in the face of the cessation of anthropogenic impact on them.

Radiation pollution of the Reserve’s territory led to an almost complete absence of active economic activity, thereby creating conditions for the restoration of both individual components of landscape complexes (vegetation cover, zoobiota), and natural landscapes as a whole.

So, meadow-bog complexes are gradually being restored due to siltation of channels of drainage systems. Valuable, from the landscape point of view, is the study of the features of restoration of the natural Polessye landscapes in the absence of significant anthropogenic impacts on them.

Conclusions

The Environmental Management Center has prepared a report on the first stage of the project of organizing the territory of the Chernobyl Radiation-Ecological Biosphere Reserve and protecting its natural complexes.

It reflects all the characteristics of the reserve, including general information about the reserve, as well as its geological characteristics, geomorphology, hydrology, climate, soil, forestry, as well as issues of history and archeology. Also, the problems and priorities of the future activities of the Reserve are identified.

Along with this, special attention is paid to the diversity of natural and man-made landscapes. This is due to many factors, but the main uniqueness of the reserve lies in its large area, which has been exposed to radiation due to the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. In addition, it should be borne in mind that it was forbidden to conduct business activities on the modern territory of the reserve in 1986.

The population was evacuated outside the Chernobyl exclusion zone, except for the 10-kilometer zone, where production facilities are located within the competence of the State Agency of Ukraine for the Management of the Exclusion Zone. That is, the flora and fauna of the territory on which the Reserve is located has not experienced anthropogenic stress for more than 30 years as a result of human activities.

Additionally

The results of the first stage of the project of organizing the territory of the Chernobyl radiation-ecological biosphere reserve and the protection of its natural complexes were made public for the scope of the audience, scientists and naturalists.

It is hoped that such a practice of cooperation is the vector of a successful long-term future aimed at the comprehensive revival and resuscitation of territories that have suffered complete or partial radiation damage due to the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The earth, which was forgotten due to negligent inaction of man 33 years ago, is gradually coming to life and takes on natural forms today. Nature knows how to forgive. For the present and future generations, the main thing is not to make it regret again.

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