Virgin Komi Forests
The Virgin Komi Forests cover 3.28 million ha of tundra and mountain tundra in the Urals, as well as one of the most extensive areas of virgin boreal forest remaining in Europe. This vast area of conifers, aspens, birches, peat bogs, rivers and natural lakes has been monitored and studied for over 50 years. It provides valuable evidence of the natural processes affecting biodiversity in the taiga.
2017 Conservation Outlook
Current state and trend of VALUES
Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT
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Description of values
Mountain and tundra ecosystems
Wetland and freshwater ecosystems
Outstanding example of a complex of boreal ecosystems
In 2012 it was noted that preparatory works for Chudnoe gold mining operation inside Yugyd Va National Park within the site had already started, including road works, drilling and blast works, and are causing environmental damage, including to rivers inside the site. (IUCN, 2012a). The 2013 SOC report noted that works continued within the 19.8 km2 Chudnoe gold mining concession located within the property (SOC report, 2013).
Mining operations within the site are likely to have far-reaching impacts on its Outstanding Universal Value and integrity, including pollution of rivers such as the Kozhym River, disturbance, habitat and reindeer pasture destruction and fragmentation for roads and other infrastructure, and improved access for poachers (Debonnet et al., 2010).
In January 2014 the State Party submitted a re-nomination with significant boundary modifications which would exclude 3 areas from the property – the area of Chudnoe gold deposit, a quartz quarry and a granite sand extraction area – and add some areas. However, the re-nomination was not evaluated as it was considered incomplete by the World Heritage Centre (SOC report, 2014). A new re-nomination was submitted again in 2015. The IUCN evaluation of the proposal concluded that the proposed excisions would have had negative impacts on the integrity of the property and its OUV. The evaluation also noted “a high potential for downstream impacts by the continued mining activities and the proposed gold mining” (IUCN, 2016). The boundary modification was, however, withdrawn by the State Party and therefore not considered by the World Heritage Committee. ThAt its 40th session the World Heritage Committee reiterated its position that “mining exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status” and requested the State Party to “ensure that no mining exploration or exploitation will be permitted within the boundaries of the property as established at the time of inscription” (World Heritage Committee, 2016).
The two protected areas that make up the property are Yugyd Va National Park (YVNP) to the North and the Pechoro-Illychsky Strict nature Reserve (PISNR) to the South. PISNR is a federal protected area benefiting from a strict protection regime with no economic uses are allowed. The PISNR buffer zone on its southern and western boundary, which is also part of the World Heritage Site, benefits from the same high protection status guaranteed under federal law. YVNP, established in 1994, is also a federal protected area with the status of National Park, corresponding to IUCN protected area category II. The national park has different zones with different land use regimes, including a number of nature reserves and nature monuments. YVNP also possesses a buffer zone along its western border, but established under regional law. As a result, the federal national park authorities do not have the authority to actively manage the buffer zone.
The Russian Federation currently lacks a framework law to define the unified management of World Heritage sites. The recent Federal Law No. 365-FZ on “Special economic zones in the Russian Federation” further weakens the legal basis for effective conservation of protected areas, though it is not currently applied to the site (IUCN, 2012a).
In 2008, the national boundaries of Yugyd Va National Park were changed to exclude four areas, including the Chudnoe gold mining area, from the site. As a result, a significant part of the site has been lacking the legal protection required by the World Heritage Convention Operational Guidelines, which critically undermines the integrity of the site (Debonnet et al., 2010, IUCN, 2012a). In August 2013, however, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation declared inoperative Order No. 3 of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology which constituted the basis for the boundary changes of the Yugyd Va National Park, thereby confirming the original boundaries of the park which coincide with the northern part of the World Heritage site (SOC report, 2014).
|№||Site need title||Brief description of potential site needs||Support needed for following years|
|1||N.A.||Development of wildlife monitoring programmes||
|2||N.A.||Development of a comprehensive sustainable tourism strategy for Komi Republic, with the site as its centerpiece.||
|1||Debonnet, G., Zupancic-Vicar, M., Ali, M. K. (2010). ‘Mission Report. Reactive Monitoring Mission to the Virgin Komi Forests, Russian Federation, 3 to 11 October 2010’. Paris and Gland. UNESCO World Heritage Centre and IUCN.|
|2||IUCN (1995). ‘World Heritage Nomination – IUCN Technical Evaluation: Virgin Komi Forests, Russian Federation’. Gland: IUCN. [Electronic reference] <http://whc.unesco.org/archive/advisory_body_evaluation/719…;. Accessed 15 June 2012.|
|3||IUCN (2012a). ‘WHC-12/36.COM/7B.Add: State of conservation of World Heritage properties inscribed on the World Heritage List’. [Electronic reference] <<http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/36COM/documents/>>. Accessed 15 July 2012.|
|4||IUCN (2012b). ‘The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species’. [Electronic reference] <http://www.iucnredlist.org/>. Accessed 15 July 2012.|
|5||Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation (2012a). ‘Specially protected areas of the Russian Federation: Programme for the development of educational tourism in Pechoro-Ilychsky Reserve’. [Electronic reference] <http://www.zapoved.ru/programs/268>. Accessed 15 July 2012. (In Russian)|
|6||Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation (2012b). ‘Specially protected areas of the Russian Federation: Ecological Education at Yugyd Va National park. [Electronic reference] <http://www.zapoved.ru/catalog/programs/138/>. Accessed 15 July 2012. (in Russian)|
|7||Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation (2012c). ‘Specially protected areas of the Russian Federation: Ecological Education at Pechoro-Ilychsky State Biosphere Reserve’. [Electronic reference] <http://www.zapoved.ru/catalog/programs/107>. Accessed 15 July 2012. (in Russian)|
|8||Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation (2012d). ‘Specially protected areas of the Russian Federation: Scientific activities in Pechoro-Ilychsky National Biosphere Reserve ’. [Electronic reference] <http://www.zapoved.ru/catalog/science/107>. Accessed 15 July 2012. (in Russian)|
|9||Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation (2012e). ‘Specially protected areas of the Russian Federation: Scientific activities in Yugyd Va National Park ’. [Electronic reference] <http://www.zapoved.ru/catalog/science/138/ >. Accessed 15 July 2012. (in Russian)|
|10||UNEP-WCMC (2011). Virgin Komi Forests, Russian Federation. UNEP-WCMC World Heritage Information Sheets. [Electronic reference] <http://www.unep-wcmc.org/medialibrary/2011/06/10/3f588c5c/V…; . Accessed 15 July 2012.|
|11||Web of Knowledge (2012). Search results “(Komi OR Pechora OR Ilychsky) AND (biodiversity OR conservation OR ecosystem OR flora OR fauna”. [online resource] <http://apps.webofknowledge.com/>. Accessed 15 July 2012.|