Landscape Conservation and Ecological Connectivity in the
East Carpathians Nature Reserve Archipelago, Ukraine
Robert J. Liebermann
graduate student, Department of Geography, University of Georgia,
Athens, Georgia 30602 2502 USA. [ contact ]
The Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains have the most significant natural temperate forests remaining in Europe, a largely intact natural landscape structure, a representative and well-arranged system of protected areas, and a long-established culture of sustainable rural agrosystems adapted to and coexisting with the local mountain environment. The region’s nature reserve archipelago is a critical element for protection of the region’s natural heritage, but the sanctuary of these “islands” is futile if they become isolated from one another by contrasting land uses or if they are immaterial to the local culture.
This is particularly important now because extensive geographic changes in post-Soviet Ukrainian society have the potential to allow significant landscape degradation and cultural strain. Though ideally suited to careful, future-oriented planning now, once critical natural areas have been fragmented and cultural heritage lost, the opportunity will not reappear. To minimize these risks and promote long-term ecological integrity potential, landscape and network-based conservation principles may be applied. Such designs promote 1; the potential for connectivity across non-reserved, economically useful lands, 2; “soft” transitions to cultural landscapes, 3; the benefits of established agricultural and other human systems to natural ones, and 4; accentuate the mutual influence of culture and nature in conservation of both.
My research examines the applicability of designating landscape elements as multiple-benefit areas (e.g., for watershed protection, traditional agriculture, sustainable forestry, recreation, floristic reserve, etc.), with the broader goal of using these culturally and ecologically defined areas to maintain critical ecological continuity between natural areas and thus to the region as a whole. The successful implementation will require sound conservation planning, based on existing local and international knowledge as well as new ideas for this outstanding area of Central Europe that will - ready or not - certainly undergo widespread geographic and landscape change in coming decades. Successful landscape conservation here could serve to protect the region’s significant natural and cultural heritage alike, and thus serve as a model of conservation planning for Europe and the world.
See a longer version of this here .
See some of my Carpathian photos here .