School children in the Murmansk region have planted 10 thousand plants along the Varzuga river orifice. This will protect the river with the biggest herd of salmon in Europe and the Kuzomen village from approaching sands.
Scientists name a number of possible reasons for the Kuzomen sands. The main theory states that the desert in the southern part of the Kola Peninsula appeared in mid nineteenth century as a result of deforestation (in order to provide saltworks with firewood) and excessive cattle grazing. Its current area is 1600 hectares, it causes the wind to lift thousands of square meters of sand, which land in the Varzuga river, making it more shallow and changing its watercourse, as reported by the press agency of WWF Russia.
“The Varzuga river has an enormous value in terms of nature protection as the biggest salmon herd in Europe has been preserved within it. Moreover, it is very clean and is a standard for a river that hasn’t been touched by man, in comparison with polluted rivers of Scandinavia”, – says director of the Barents division of WWF Russia Oleg Stukaytis.
According to specialists, fitomelioration – anchoring the soil by planting perennial herbs and later trees – can stop the sands from spreading and protect the watercourse of the river. Such works have been carried out by locals for the past thirty years, but ecological organisations think that the lack of a clear system and low volumes do not provide the necessary effect.
Last year the Barents division of WWF Russia in collaboration with the Kola Centre for Wildlife Protection (KCWP) joined the efforts to solve the issue of desertification. A new methodic of planting seedlings has been derived especially for this area. As part of the experiment volunteers have managed to plant 6 thousands plants here.
“We are pleasantly surprised by the first results – around 80% of plants have survived winter and started growing according to provisional observations. We expected much fewer plants to survive. There are yellow fir-needles here and there, but that is a natural outcome to frost: in this area levels of snow are often minimal even by New Year. Alder looks the most optimistic at the moment”, – shares Olga Petrova, head of the forest preservation and biodiversity programs of KCWP.
This year around 10 thousand more plants have been planted on around one hectare of land. Most of the work was done by teenage school children of Varzuga and Kuzomen villages, as well as Apatity town. They both prepared the seedlings and planted the trees in their new homes.
Oleg Stukaytis noted that involving students is a very important part of the project. On the one hand, school goers often carried out nature protecting work by themselves, results of which will be seen for many many years. On the other hand, the children saw how eager and capable WWF were of completing the project that is so integral for the local community.
Next year the planting efforts will continue with their volumes depending for the most part on the financing, which is currently provided exclusively by WWF. Moreover, the possibility of a forestry establishment on the basis of the Varzuga village school is being entertained. It is thought that students will be able to not only prepare planting materials, but also hold ecological workshops.