According to the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, more than 40% of the Ukrainian steppe that once occupied about 40% of the country has been reduced to 5,5% intensive agriculture.   Of this percentage only 1% is protected from development, the largest portion of virgin steppe is 11054 hectares which is located in the  Askania Nova Biosphere Reserve.  There is a small portion of steppe in Elanetskaya Steppe Nature Reserve  as well as in the former military zone in Tarutinsky district of the Odessa region.   Tarutinsky Steppe located on the southern slopes of the South Moldavian Upland.  The area is dissected by valleys  and its  highest point is 152 m above the sea level.

The Tarutinsky Steppe is the last and perhaps the only place in the Odessa region where  a significant number for steppe birds and other native wildlife are found in Ukraine, among which are 15 rare species.  In addition, Tarutinsky Steppe acts as an feeding stopover and ecological corridor for migratory birds.  Currently, there are a number of rare species significantly for Ukraine, who living there, such as stone curlew, buzzard, Ruddy Shelduck which are  listed in the Red Book of Ukraine.

Furthermore, this habitat supports seven rare or endangered species of mammals not only in the Tarutinsky Steppe, but also for Ukraine and Europe, these include the  weasel, the steppe polecat, common hamster  and the speckled ground squirrel.

The landscape of Tarutinsky steppe with its high biodiversity, is of great cultural importance, since it is one of the last preserved steppe, not only in Ukraine but also in Europe.

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Iryna Shchoka is a regional development expert and is based in Uzhhorod, Ukraine.

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