At the beginning of 2022 the President of Ukraine signed a decree officially creating the new Pushcha Radzivila National Park in Polesia.
The Amazon of Europe
Polesia is Europe’s largest remaining inland wetland wilderness and greatest floodplain region. It has been called the Amazon of Europe for its extraordinary biodiversity. Some of the continent’s last ‘wild’ rivers meander across the landscape, through a vast patchwork of carbon-storing peatlands and forests, islands, lakes, bogs and wet meadows. Stretching across Belarus and Ukraine, spreading into Russia in the East and Poland in the West, Polesia covers more than 18 million hectares. This is crucial habitat for struggling wildlife. The area harbours 60% of the world’s remaining aquatic warbler population and is the most important breeding ground for the globally threatened Greater Spotted Eagle. Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds stopover in Polesia each year to rest, feed and breed while large mammals, like wolf, lynx and European bison, occur in significant numbers.
Wilderness without borders
One million hectares in Polesia are already protected. There are three national parks and several nature reserves and sanctuaries. The ‘Polesia – Wilderness Without Borders’ project, an alliance of organisations and research institutions from five countries, is working to secure this rich natural heritage. Olga Yaremchenko from the Ukrainian Society for the Protection of Birds (USPB) says that “a key component of our success in creating the Pushcha Radzivila National Park is the engagement of local communities who live nearby and understand the importance of nature conservation as the basis of a healthy life”. This support helped Rivne region to expand its protected area network and thus increase the protection of Polesia.
Protecting important wetlands
The new park will cover 24,265 hectares in Rivne region. Combined with protected areas in neighbouring Belarus, it forms one of the largest natural complexes of bogs and transitional mires in Europe. Located in Pripyat basin it plays a hydro-regulatory role for the Pripyat which is the lifeblood of the Polesia region. Multiple water bodies of the area represent a vital water store for Polesia and Ukraine. The area holds old-growth European spruce forests and a majestic 1,300-year-old veteran oak. There are more than 450 species of plants and 230 species of animals, including 39 nationally endangered species among which are Grey Cranes and Black Grouse. The protected area is also a home for species like beavers, otters, lynx, moose, and almost a dozen species of bats. The park borders the Rivnenskyi Nature Reserve in Ukraine and Belarus’s Almany Mires Reserve in the north and thus will also strengthen the protection of important wetlands in Rivnenskyi such as Perebrody Peatlands and Syra Pogonia Bog Ramsar sites.