EXPLORE Virgin Komi Forests with this slideshow, check the location map and get all the facts and information below.
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Website Category: Temperate & Boreal Forests; Temperate Grasslands, Steppes, Shrub-Lands & Tundra
Area: 32,800 km2
- Outstanding natural beauty (vii);
- Ecological processes (ix);
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prospects for mining, particularly affecting the Chudnoe gold deposit, which has resulted in a proposal (subsequently withdrawn) to excise this area from the World Heritage Site.
The slideshow ‘tells the story’ of the Virgin Komi Forests with a portfolio of photos by Andrey Petrov, taken during two visits to the site in June and October 2010. The images provide excellent aerial overviews of the site, showing the vast expanses of boreal forest and some of the wild rivers as they flow out of the mountains across the lowland plains to the west. Some of the limestone karst features along the river banks in the foothills is illustrated, with a waterfall feature and image of floodplain meadows at the peak of summer. The second part of the slideshow illustrates the more wintery snow-covered scenes in the Ural Mountain foothills in October, with domesticated reindeer at a herder’s encampment. The slideshow continues with further aerial views of the wild forested lowlands in autumnal mood and finishes with some snow-covered images of the spectacular stone pillars on the Manpupuner Plateau in Pechoro-Ilychskiy State Nature Reserve.