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EU/UNDP wetland conservation project to kick off in Belarus in February

31.01.2014 18:15

MINSK, 31 January (BelTA) - The EU/UNDP project “Conservation and sustainable management of peatlands in Belarus to minimize carbon emissions and help ecosystems to adapt to climate change" will be launched in Belarus in February 2014, Natalia Minchenko, the head of biological and landscape diversity at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Belarus, told a press conference.

The goal of the four-year project is to restore the bog wetlands Zvanets and Sporovskoye (Brest Oblast), major nesting sites of Aquatic warbler listed in the Red Book List of Endangered Species. Aquatic warbler is recognized worldwide as a globally threatened species (according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature). The Aquatic warbler population has been steadily shrinking.

According to the records, the Aquatic warbler population in Belarus was approximately 12,000 in 1997. This amount is the minimum one to allow the population to survive, said Alexander Kazulin, head of the sector for international cooperation and scientific support of environmental conventions at the research center for bio-resources at the National Academy of Sciences. The size of the Aquatic warbler population which would be considered normal for Belarus is not less than 50,000. Now there are only 6,000-8,000 left in Belarus. The population of this bird species continues to decline.

Before 1980s, i.e. before large areas were drained, reeds, shrubs and woody vegetation would be scythed by locals for hay. Once large neighboring areas had been drained, local farmers got easy access to large neighboring newly dry areas for hay-making, and so cutting of un-drained peatlands fell dramatically. As a result, the proliferation of shrubs and trees onto open fens and bogs has grown to a dramatic extent, threatening the very existent of open fen and bog peatlands as a biotope. This negative succession of vegetation entails disappearance of unique species of flora and fauna found only on open peatlands.

Therefore, active conservation management (physical removal of shrubs at large scale) will be required to maintain the health of peatland ecosystems. Measures have been devised to restore the hydrological regime of the wetlands in belarus. Equipment will be purchased for the harvesting and processing of biomass.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has been designated as the executing agency in Belarus. The project will be implemented with the support of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, national nature reserves Zvanets and Sporovsky, local authorities of the Drogichin and Bereza districts and the APB BirdLife Belarus public association.
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