Inventories of intact Maksimjärvensalo wilderness area

Intact Maksimjärvensalo forest area, situated in Russian Karelia, south of the Kostamus Strict Nature Reserve, is an important area to be established as protected area and to be included in the Barents Protected Area Network. A proposal to protect the area was presented as a part of the GAP analysis project for developing the protected area network in Northwest Russia and it is included in the Karelian protected area development plan as planned Spokoinyi nature reserve.

Dead trees after forest fires in Maksinjärvi area, Republic of Karelia (Photo: Olli Manninen)

Signs of forest fires in Maksinjärvi area.  (Photo: Olli Manninen)

“In summer 2012 in a Finnish-Russian project, coordinated by the Finnish Environment Institute, inventories and studies were carried out on natural values of Maksimjärvensalo. The work was done in cooperation with the Karelian Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Directorate of Regional Protected Areas of the Republic of Karelia and Kostomuksha Strict Nature Reserve”, says Raimo Heikkilä, leading researcher from the Finnish Environment Institute.

A large share of the area was excluded from loggings through a moratorium agreement made between Russian nature conservation NGOs and forest industry companies. However, the agreement was partly dismantled a few years ago. Since then, roads have been constructed and extensive logging operations launched in the area. “Rapid measures to protect the valuable area must be taken. Cooperation between authorities, scientists and NGOs is vital”, points out forest inventory specialist Olli Manninen.

Signs of forestry in the landscape of the Maksimjärvi area, Republic of Karelia. (Photo: Olli Manninen)

Forestry in the landscape of the Maksimjärvi area. Dead trees damaged by decay at the side of a forest access road. (Photo: Olli Manninen)

Nature of the Maksinjärvesalo is very unique. Many observations of threatened polypores, lichens and bryophytes have been made in the area. Additionally, the continuous forested wilderness area provides an important habitat for the forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus) whose populations have declined rapidly in Karelia. More information is still needed on the area’s natural values.

In the field studies, three species of the Red list of Russian Federation (Bryoria fremontii, Lobaria pulmonaria and Rangifer tarandus fennicus) and 28 species of the Red list of the Republic of Karelia were discovered. In addition, about 100 indicator species were observed in the area. “Not all the samples have yet been defined, and even more species are expected to be found”, adds Heikkilä.

According to the preliminary inventories, a large proportion of the area’s forests are in a natural state”, says forest engineer Jyri Mikkola. The oldest pine generation in the forests is as old as 400–500 years. The extensive and continuous old-growth forests include many stands in development stages following natural forest fires, and many spruce mires around larger mire areas, which are seldom found in their natural state in Finland’s neighbouring areas.

The plan is to continue studies next summer to ensure that the valuable forests will not be lost due to loggings.

Read more: Finnish Environment Institute press release