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Urgent to protect more Barents taiga forest

Trude Myhre is an forest expert with WWF Norway.

INARI: Forest expert Trude Myhre with WWF Norway says protecting the unique taiga forest is a key to fighting biodiversity loss and climate change. Recommendations for expanding protected areas were given at the Barents Enviro-Ministers’ meeting.

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“Working in WWF, my impression is that people have understood how dramatic the loss of tropical forest is and supports our international work on saving this forest. But at the same time it seems like people have forgotten about the northern forest,” says forest expert Trude Myhre in WWF Norway to BarentsObserver.

She stresses the need for continuation of the Barents Protected Area Network, a project that supports the development of effectively managed nature preserve areas across the borders.

Today, 13,2 percent of the Barents Region’s land area is protected, making up for some 231,600 square kilometers. New recommendations for expanding the protected area network were presented at the meeting of the Barents Ministers of the Environment in Inari in northern Finland this week.  If the current plans for expanding the area by 59,400 km2 are successful, 16.6 percent of the Barents Region would be protected.

Trude Myhre argues that the boreal forest in the Barents Region, the taiga, is the Amazon of the north.

“The world’s largest intact ecosystem on land is also our largest terrestrial carbon storehouse. Thousands of species, many of them endangered, make their home here. Protecting this unique wilderness including the last of the last virgin European forests, is a key to fighting both biodiversity loss and climate change,” she says.

In Inari, Finland’s Minister of Environment and ministerial officials from Norway, Russia and Sweden agreed that there is an urgent need to establish those areas of high conservation values. 

The Barents Protected Area Network recommends especially that the ecological corridors between already protected areas should be safeguarded. The Green Belts of Fennoscandia and Lapland form corridors for species from the Gulf of Finland to the Arctic Ocean and from the Kola Peninsula to the fells of Sweden and Norway. The connectivity between protected areas is important because of climate change, as species must be able to migrate and spread in order to follow changing climate zones.

In the report, coordinated by the Finnish Environment Institute and presented in Inari, reads that special attention should be paid to the protection of natural forests and wetlands, especially concerning rare habitats, so the internationally agreed upon Aichi Biodiversity Targets for halting biodiversity loss could be reached by 2020. Additionally, the project has provided information about the regional level of protection, which varies greatly within the Barents Region, even within Finland.