stranded dolphins, endangered bird colonies… the conflict also puts nature at risk

In the parks and nature reserves of the Carpathians or Polesie, accommodation for tourists has been transformed into reception centers for displaced persons. Environmental protection organizations sent funds, food or medicine to their colleagues located in the combat zones. On the other side of the border, they welcomed those who had had to flee Ukraine, sometimes offering them jobs.

Since the start of the war led by Russia, nature protection actors have been mobilized to deal with the dramatic human and material consequences of the conflict. Added to these concerns are those for the fauna and flora. “Ukraine is a vast country with a huge variety of natural habitats, which is quite rare in Western Europe,” underlines Martin Harper, regional director for Europe and Central Asia of the NGO BirdLife International.

A sign of this wealth of biodiversity, 271 sites are listed in the Emerald network, the equivalent of the European Natura 2000 network, and around fifty wetlands are protected under the international Ramsar convention. Ukraine is also home to more than 430 species of birds: more than 15% of the European population of some twenty of them is found in the country.

To what extent have these species and ecosystems been destroyed? While fighting continues in the East and South, and several regions are still occupied, measuring the extent of the damage is proving particularly complex. Within the framework of working groups set up by the government, dozens of experts and NGO officials are working to develop a methodology for documenting and assessing the damage. “We used to estimate the damage caused by a company or an individual, but the magnitude of the current impacts is quite different”, recalls Oksana Abduloieva, who coordinates the biodiversity group.

Loss of nest sites

From press information or government data, the NGO Ecoaction says it has identified more than 300 incidents. “In some areas, we have absolutely no idea what is going on”, however, specifies Sofia Sadogurska, one of the campaign managers. The terrain, even in areas safe from fighting, often remains inaccessible. The Hetman National Nature Park, for example, in the northeast of the country, is no longer in occupied territory, but the area has been mined. Cleanup operations may not take place until the end of the war.

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