Before the 1990s, the Mezen River and its tributaries in the Komi Republic suffered extensive, uncontrolled and concentrated clear-cut harvesting for wood. The impacts included ground water levels decreasing and small streams drying up. The people of Udora district speak about “river swallowing and reducing of fish resources” but, up until 2014, there was no real scientific evidence of how the harvesting had impacted on river condition, hydrology or fish resources.
Supported by Mondi, the Model Mezen River project is a proactive partnership with NGO Silver Taiga and the local community. It is providing valuable information to guide decision-making and improve freshwater resources in Komi and other regions in north-west Russia.
Phase 1 of the project focused on identifying the causes of dwindling fish populations on the upper Mezen River catchment and exploring what was needed to restore these numbers. Illegal and unsustainable fishing had depleted the fish resource. The second phase of the project then looked at the potential impacts of long-term clear-cutting on water and fish resources. The results show a noticeable negative impact on the Mezen River and its tributaries where the most extensive cutting has historically taken place.
Now, the Silver Taiga Foundation is using the evidence to provide recommendations on landscape-scale ecological planning of forest use. The aim is to avoid future negative impacts on local watersheds and forest rivers and help improve general harvesting practices and forest planning in north-west Russia for the long-term.