Forests and the forestry sector
The Russian Federation has by far the largest land area in the world and more than half of it is forest and other wooded land. Russia accounts for more than one-fifth of the world¿s total area of forest(851 million hectares). A large part consists of northern boreal forest, with mixed and broad-leaved forest to the south (birch, aspen, alder, oaks and hornbeam). Coniferous species make up 80 percent of the volume of growing stock, with larch the predominant species over much of Siberia; other important species are Norway spruce and Scots pine to the west, and other spruces, pines and firs in Siberia. The country has more than 17 million hectares of planted forests. The area of forest is approximately stable. The State owns all forest and other wooded land.
Russia¿s protected areas include 35 national parks on forest lands (6.9 million hectares), a large number of natural monuments, 65 federal nature reserves (12.8 million hectares) and 45 regional nature reserves (45 million hectares).
Products and trade
Two-thirds of the forest is available for wood supply, most of the remainder being not available for economic reasons (accessibility). More than 90 percent is classed as undisturbed by humans. Average net increment per hectare is low because of the large proportion of natural forest, but fellings are much lower still.
The Russian Federation is one of the largest producers and exporters of industrial roundwood in the world. The country also exports significant volumes of sawnwood, plywood and pulp and paper. Total forest product exports valued almost US$3.9 billion in 2001. The Russian forest industry is almost completely privatized, while the forests and the roundwood production remain State-owned.
Hunting and the collection of a wide range of non-wood forest products are very important for local populations. The Russian forests are an invaluable source of wild fruits and berries, nuts and mushrooms, medicinal plants and herbs, honey, fodder and forage, resins, oils and game meats.
Many millions of hectares of forest were contaminated by radioactivity after the Chernobyl accident 15 years ago. Because of the very long half-life of the elements concerned, this situation will continue for the foreseeable future. There is no realistic means of ¿cleaning?the area. Indeed, forests are probably one of the best ways of ¿storing?the radioactive contamination, to minimize further damage. A small area is completely inaccessible except to those carrying out carefully monitored and protected scientific research, and much larger areas have controlled access. Local authorities have acquired expertise and developed strategies for handling the situation.
There is a multi agency Chernobyl Task Force, in which the FAO/International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Joint Division participates. A strategy for the management of these radio-contaminated forests (drawn up by local experts with the help of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) /FAO) was included in the multi-agency proposals for mitigating the social and economic consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, but has not been funded. The General Assembly will review this question once again this autumn, on the basis of a report by the Secretary General.
Last updated: September 2003