Old-growth forest disturbance in the Ukrainian Carpathians

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Spracklen, B.D.
Spracklen, D.V.
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Human activity has greatly reduced the area of old-growth forest in Europe, with some of the largest remaining fragments in the Carpathian Mountains of south-western Ukraine. We used satellite image analysis to calculate old-growth forest disturbance in this region from 2010 to 2019. Over this period, we identified 1335 ha of disturbance in old-growth forest, equivalent to 1.8% of old-growth forest in the region. During 2015 to 2019, the average annual disturbance rate was 0.34%, varying with altitude, distance to settlements and location within the region. Disturbance rates were 7–8 times lower in protected areas compared to outside of protected areas. Only one third of old-growth forest is currently within protected areas; expansion of the protected area system to include more old-growth forests would reduce future loss. A 2017 law that gave protection to all old-growth forest in Ukraine had no significant impact on disturbance rates in 2018, but in 2019 disturbance rates reduced to 0.19%. Our analysis is the first indication that this new legislation may be reducing loss of old-growth forest in Ukraine.

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