According' the National Land Inventory of 1 January 2000, mires make up 8.2% of the total land resources of the Russian Federation. According to expert evaluation, mires and peat-containing paludified landscapes cover at least 20% of the country's territory and are a major part of the world's peatland resource.
Peatlands use in the economy is associated with the following problems brought about by the specificity of the resource:
- A peatland is a complex natural object that affects the water and geochemical regimes as well as the microclimate of the adjacent areas. The natural diversity of peatlands determines their manifold effects on the environment that can change in the process of economic use.
- Various natural resources are concentrated in peatlands: water, land, biological, and, finally, mineral resources. Tech-no genie disturbances caused by peat extraction or from using the peatland surface as a land resource limit or totally exclude the renewal or use of water and biological resources and change their role in climate formation and geochemical processes that could later cause economic losses. An integrated inventory of resources and their economic evaluation should be a foundation for solving the above contradictions.
- Peatlands are of interest to many sectors of the national economy: the fuel and chemical industry, forestry, water management, agriculture, game management, construction, the mining industry, recreation, and tourism. Their activities on peatlands are discordant. Long-term planning based on preliminary assessments and prognoses is vital in order to coordinate them.
- Peatlands fall under the auspices of different departments with uncoordinated norms and regulations. The use and conservation of peatlands are regulated by a number of contradicting environmental legislative acts. Environmental legislation does not regulate peatlands conservation adequately. A methodical and regulative basis of inter sectoral collaboration must necessarily be developed to provide for wise use of peatlands.
- In their natural state, peatlands everywhere are involved in traditional nature use. They play a major social and economic role at the local level, including recreation and tourism; satisfying the material, aesthetic, cultural, and spiritual needs of the population, as well as providing for the traditional lifestyles of indigenous peoples and communities. Federal plans for developing natural resources in peatlands do not always agree with local conditions and needs. A clear partition of authority and ownership may promote wise long term planning for nature use.
- Traditional nature conservation in Russia is based on establishing specially protected areas (SPA) excepted from economic use. However, the area of peatlands required for sup porting their natural functions far exceeds the possibilities of this approach. New conservation techniques need to be implemented via sustainable nature use and effective spatial planning.
- In a market economy utilization of peatlands is limited by availability of resources and consumer demand. With economic conditions in their current state, integrated 'benefit-loss' assessments of peatland resources are necessary, as well as the involvement of modern market regulatory mechanisms of nature use such as product certification, environmental risk insurance, etc.
- Extensive use of drained peatlands and peat itself was a characteristic of a planned economic system. As a result, at the present time significant areas of exhausted peatland and abandoned peat quarries are concentrated in several subjects of the Russian Federation, causing such problems as peat fires, dust storms, the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and changes in the hydrological regime of neighbouring territories. Practice has shown that in most regions of Russia that using exhausted peatlands for agriculture and silviculture is ineffective economically and unsafe ecologically. There is need for improving and implementing alternative methods of re cultivation based on the flooding and restoration of mires.
- Peat can be considered as a renewable resource only on a geological timescale. The acknowledgement that peat is not a renewable natural resource is necessary, and new efficient peat extraction and processing technologies focused on minimizing the consumption of raw materials, reducing the utilizalion of peal as a final product, and decreasing the area of peal extraction must be developed as a consequence.
- The concept that peat resources were inexhaustible promoted their utilization in numerous sectors of agriculture, horticulture, and landscape design. Scientific and technical development is necessary to gradually replace peat in these sectors of the economy, such as the experience abroad of producing peat substitutes using urban waste or using artificially grown moss as a replacement.
- During the 20th century, large national peatland reclamation projects for the needs of forestry and agriculture were implemented in Russia. Currently, these costly amelioration networks and reclaimed peatlands often do not have regular users and are left unmanaged.
- Large areas of peatlands were allotted to individual users to build summerhouses as part of a policy of extensive land development. This experience demonstrated that assimilation of these lands require considerable investment of material and labour. The further practice of allocating exhausted peatlands for individual construction and horticulture should be hailed under current conditions.
- The technical and regulative principles of pipeline construction do not fully provide for the conservation of mire hydro-logical regimes, especially in regions with great paludification rates. As a result, ecosystems are irreversibly modified, valuable resources are lost (e. g. the mass forest floods in West Siberia), and buildings collapse. The extensive development of oil and gas extraction accompanied by the construction of long pipelines requires providing for the ecological security against their impact on mire ecosystems.
- Pollution of the atmosphere, surface and ground water results in the total degradation of mire ecosystems, loss of valuable resources and important regulatory functions of the ecosystems. When conducting environmental impact assessments, peatland ecosystems must be regarded as especially vulnerable natural objects.
A number of other existing problems were not mentioned in the above list.
The present Action Plan are intended to provide for conservation and sustainable use of peatlands and peatland resources over a complete inter sectoral base. To solve the above problems, different structures and organizations should collaborate during the implementation of the activities detailed above in the research, methodical, socio-economic, legal, and organizational spheres.
Currently a significant number of the actions proposed in Sections II and III of the Action Plan can be implemented only in a few model regions. In developing the document, the group of experts chose several regions located in different climatic zones and having different economic priorities to implement these innovative pro jects. These regions are mentioned in the Action Plan as 'model' regions without giving further details. The following regions of the Russian Federation are proposed as model regions: the Republic of Karelia, the Kaliningrad Region, the Leningrad Region, the Moscow Region, the Tver Region, the Vladimir Region, the Ryazan Region, the Nizhny Novgorod Region, the Kirov Region, the Sverdlovsk Region, the Tomsk Region, the Kamchatka Region, and the Khanty Mansy Autonomous Area.