Location and Values: The Virgin Komi Forests World Heritage Site is located in central Russia, on the western slopes of the northern Ural Mountains. It includes two adjacent protected areas, the Pechoro-Ilychisky Nature Reserve and Yugyd Va National Park. This vast protected area complex runs for 320km north-to-south and straddles the interface between arctic tundra and boreal forest (also known as taiga, the world’s most extensive terrestrial biome extending across the northern hemisphere through Europe, Asia and North America). It is the largest block of undisturbed boreal forest in Europe, a vast expanse of conifer, aspen and birch forests with wild rivers, wetlands and meadows in a naturally dynamic system. The world heritage listing recognizes the scale and complexity of the ecological processes here, which are rarely found across such a wide range of altitude and latitude. The fauna includes both European and Asiatic species, with a relatively modest number of species (for example, 43 mammals, 204 birds) including species of conservation concern such as wolf, otter, beaver, sable, wolverine and lynx.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of the Virgin Komi Forests is of ‘significant concern’. On a positive note, the IUCN report recognises that the forest ecosystems are still in very good condition, particularly in Pechoro-Ilychisky Nature Reserve and the southern portion of the Yugyd Va National Park. The broader region is very sparsely populated and remains little affected by human activity, although minor threats include a certain amount of poaching, tourism activity and infrastructure development. Efforts are being made to manage visitors to the Manpupuner Stone Pillars which is the area’s primary tourist attraction (a modest total of 7,000 visitors came in 2015). However, despite the generally low level of threats to most of the site, there is significant concern over the prospects for mining, particularly affecting the Chudnoe gold deposit, which has resulted in a proposal (subsequently withdrawn) to excise this area from the World Heritage Site.
Official UNESCO Site Details
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description