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The oaks of Europe

Bringing together. Experts, local community and national culture

The first meeting of SEU Forest Campaign new program "The oaks of Russia" aimed on oak grove restoration took place in Yaroslavl in June. Yaroslavl is an old historic town - one of the sites of the so-called "Golden Ring".

This historic place was chosen as program principles are based on the recognition of oak and oak grove cultural and historic, as well as ecological values.

In many cases oak groves or odd trees are part of cultural and historical landscape of the region.

One may remember the sacred groves of Marii-El or Chuvashia. Another, more so to say down to earth example are the groves that were used by Peter the Great for ship building - we still may find the remnants of those in Novgorod Region, NW of Russia.

Speaking from environmental point of view, oak grove place in temperate zone may be compared to that of the rainforests in the tropical zone - for their richness in biodiversity and other ecosystem forming functions. Unfortunately, the speed of oak grove degradation is comparable to the rainforests elimination speed, while the oak grove number is significantly lower than that of the rainforests. In fact, the situation is as bad as, according to some estimations, oak groves may vanish completely by the year 2042. They have already lost their full capacity for self-restoration and now human help is needed.

The disastrous situation has several causes - primarily, that the best tress were cut for shipbuilding and other construction purposes, as well as in many cases the oak forests were cut to free the land for agricultural purposes.

The "Oaks of Russia" gathered different people - professional ecologists, people who care what happens around their place, study its nature and history, people working with children. It is remarkable that children and youth organizations got involved actively in the program attracted very specific and concrete activities like planting young trees and taking care of them.

Representatives from Novgorod and region, Kostroma, Vologda region, Marii-el, Yaroslavl and Yaroslavl region, Moscow discussed the situation and shared ideas how to improve it.

It turned out that quite many people are eager to work on replanting the oaks, but what is needed is a simple and comprehensive manual for oak planting and caring. The oak specifics are that it is very vulnerable in its first years - starting from acorns that are to be stored carefully and more than for a year preserved from drying or being eaten by rodents. Oaks also demand specific care for the first several years. By the way, this is actually one of the reasons why foresters prefer to plant pine and spruce - not to mention that in contemporary Russian forestry spruce and pine are most popular species having highest commercial value. Currently SEU Forest Campaign works on such manual, and meeting discussions added quite a lot to it.

Participants also set up some strategies for the next step activities - like work with different level officials. One of the problems in oak grove conservation and restoration is to get officials to understand and recognize the seriousness of the problem. Only then it will be much easier to solve different problems connected to the land for oak planting and remaining oak grove conservation. Regarding this issue meeting participants decided to address Forest Department of the Ministry of Nature resources asking for oak restoration activity support.

The meeting also agreed on constant information exchange, mutual consultations, as well as on oak acorn exchange.

As one of the main meeting outcome we should note that the network of organizations working on oak grove conservation and restoration has started to form and to work.

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