Southern Taiga Ecoregion, Siberia

Southern Taiga Ecoregion, Siberia

The primary forests of Russia facing increasing threats of wildfire

Russia holds 20% of global forests and some of the largest remaining tracts of primary forest. Timber harvest has steadily increased since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Weak and unstable governance structures, limited and dated silviculture, unpredictable forest use rights and ownership, and corruption have led to widespread deforestation and degradation of primary forests.

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Southern Taiga Ecoregion

The Angara region in central Siberia is a hot-spot of deforestation from timber harvest, fires, mining, and hydroelectric construction.

Location case study area in Angara Region, of Russia

Why is the Southern Taiga Ecoregion so important?

Primary forest area6.3 million ha
Carbon storage / sequestration620 million tonnes (from an above ground biomass carbon layer estimated for 2018 at MODIS resolution (Wayne Walker et al, forthcoming). Does not include soil carbon; carbon sequestration rates have not been calculated for Angara yet.
Keystone faunal speciesbears, marals, musk deers, wolverines, sables, Lynxes, peregrine falcon, peregrine owl, osprey, black stork, greater spotted eagle
Supporting indigenous groups / local peopleLocal people profit economically from the forest sector and are accustomed to hunting, fishing and gathering non-wood forest products.
ThreatsIndustrial logging, fires and mining, habitat fragmentation, lack of effective management.


Due to a long history of forest exploitation, the Angara region is a hotspot of rapid forest cover change in boreal Eurasia. The unique Angara pine forests and its many rare species of plants and animals are threatened by logging, fires and mining, among others.

Owing to the large forest resources concentrated in the region (~12.7 million ha), the basis of the regional economy is timber production. Although the national harvest volume is presently much lower than during Soviet times, logging activity has remained high in this region given its adequate road and river networks.

Logged areas and the surrounding primary forests are also highly susceptible to fire due to a combination of high fuel loads and accessibility for human ignition.8 Finally, the Angara region has significant reserves of oil, gas and other natural resources of commercial importance. Intensive extraction of these resources contributes to further deforestation and forest degradation. 

The dramatic alteration of Angara landscapes has served as an arena for a long-lasting environmental conflict in Siberia. The current State forest management system does not ensure participation of NGOs or the general public in forest management and the development of forest policy.

Poor efficiency of old harvesting technology and usage of heavy machinery have negative impacts on soil, forest undergrowth and young trees. Despite the fact that several major third-party forest certification schemes are present in Russia (e.g. Forest Stewardship Council, FSC), many forests still suffer from deforestation caused by extensive logging.

The Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Management of Russian Forests adopted in 1998 does not include parameters for sustainable forest management, nor does it provide any change to the forest management system. The general type of logging is clear-cutting on large areas (up to 50 ha). 

This causes heavy soil erosion, swamping and catastrophic changes to the forest environment, with an absence of reforestation and disappearance of many species of forest flora and fauna. 

Burning of forest remnants releases CO2 into the atmosphere

Burning of residues from deforestation in Siberia adds more carbon to the atmosphere.

Burned timber residues in Angara forests.

Up-scaling protection

An integrated program of science, management, and policy analysis will elevate the importance of Siberian primary forests and improve their valuation, management, and protection.

Scientific assessments will focus on quantifying ecosystem services, impacts from logging and other disturbances, effectiveness of protection strategies, mapping forest condition, spatial optimization of reserve design, and development of a multi-scale monitoring and early warning system including dissemination and capacity building (940,000 USD / year).

Policy analysis will focus on mechanisms for protecting primary forests and optimizing ecosystem services within Angara and across Siberia at local, regional, and national levels (295,000 USD / year).

Research articles from case study

Mapping forest stability within major biomes using MODIS time series

Forest stability is a key component of ecosystem integrity and primary forests. Current remote sensing products largely focus on deforestation rather than forest degradation, and depend on machine learning calibrated with extensive field measurements. To address this, we used MODIS time series to develop a novel approach for mapping forest stability across forest biomes.

Fire and logging threats to primary forests in central Siberia

Using remote sensing time series, we found increasing trends in fire and logging disturbances in primary forests of the Angara case study region. We also found large increases in fires closer to human settlements, roads, and logged sites.