Вісник Київського національного університету імені Тараса Шевченка


Bulletin of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv



Gavrylenko O.

Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Kyiv, Ukraine


Virgin herbage of Ukrainian steppe landscape zone was being destroyed first by over livestock pasture, regular haymaking, later – by total plowing, building of cities, industrial objects, transport highways etc. The result of steppe natural vegetation disappearing is draining and absolute degradation of the steppe soil. The main reason of steady transformation of steppe zone to a desert or semidesert is total plowing of the territory leading to absolute degradation of soil cover. Remaining steppe ecosystems are currently the scarcest natural complexes that are primary to be protected in Ukraine. However, even those remainders are becoming extinct very quickly.  Their intentional destruction is connected with the enactment of official documents validating new indexes of optimal forestation for each Ukrainian region that have to be formally forested.

However, those ‘scientifically substantiated’ forestland indexes didn’t consider even the presence of suitable lands for afforestation: part of afforested lands had to increase especially for steppe areas where current climate conditions allow only ravine forests. So-called regional standards of optimal forest cover didn’t correspond neither to present principles of environmental protection nor to land tenure in Ukraine. Attempts to increase forest cover by virgin areas not used in husbandry led to the destruction of last steppe formations. Currently, the area of natural steppe doesn’t exceed 3% of Ukrainian territory. In addition, remaining virgin steppe is a natural habitat for almost 30% of all flora and fauna included to The Red Book of Ukraine. Those fragments are the last reservations of country’s steppe biodiversity – first of all arroyos, ravines and coastal slopes of the rivers among arable lands. These objects have to become promising natural-protecting territories of local value and the skeleton of ecological chain of the whole steppe region.

Wind-breaking afforestation in arroyos also turned out to be ineffective because trees are growing lower than the level of arable they were meant to protect. At the same time, belts restoration needed for preservation of arable land fertility in steppe zone is not being developed. Potential sources of afforestation are eroded arable, degraded forest belts and mining dumps, where forests are not being recovered. Forestry makes use of absence in Ukrainian legislation the concept of steppe where lands for afforestation are marked not as steppes but as «eroded, degraded and unproductive lands». After land reform significant area of eroded arable lands were distributed. It is almost impossible to make a landlord not use their share as arable land but transfer it to natural or seminatural state. This means that destruction of natural steppe ecosystems, high plowing of the territories and corresponding soil erodibility are enshrined in Ukrainian law.

A constructive solution of the problem may be legal encouragement of land users to conserve private lands and establish private protected areas. It is necessary to legally define the steppe, give priority to measures of its conservation and restoration, and hold an inventory of steppes in order to protect them. It would be reasonable to allow a change of land function from agricultural to environmental, exclusively for conservation and vegetation reproduction on it. Massive afforestation should be held in the most suitable for growing forest areas (Polissia, the Carpathians, to some extent in the Forest-Steppe). And a priority direction for steppe should be its revival through the creating meadows. At the same time, afforestation in steppe area should be held in slagheap, quarries, landfills and also it is important to create protecting belts on arable land. The greatest drawback of official documents of Ukraine regarding the problem of large-scale land degradation is ignoring the natural laws of ecosystem functioning. It doesn’t mean the expansion of forest area, but only correctly justified selection of lands for afforestation. Geoecological approach should take everything in its place – in the steppe zone the majority of landscapes should make steppes and in the forest zone – forests.


Steppe afforestation, conservation of degraded and unproductive lands, the Red Book species, protected area, degradation of plant communities, steppe habitats.



DOI: http://doi.org/10.17721/1728-2721.2017.66.8


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Suggested citation:

Gavrylenko O. (2017) Afforestation of the Ukrainian steppe – good or disaster? Visnyk Kyivskogo natsionalnogo universytetu, Geografiya [Bulletin of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Geography], 1-2 (66-67), 66-70 (in Ukrainian, abstr. in English).