European Wilderness Society

Russian war against Ukraine´s nature. Part 1

Russian war is also happening against Ukraine endangered biodiversity of protected nature reserves. Maria Feduruk, researcher from Ukraine shares with us Case studies of Chornobyl Radiation and Ecological Biosphere Reserve; Desniansko-Starohutskyi, Holosiivskyi, and Hetmanskyi National Nature Parks.

Nature is a silent victim of the war until we speak for it. That was one of the reasons why the the team from the Research and Transfer Centre “Sustainable Development and Climate Change Management” (link) at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences launched project “Nature Conservation and Conflict in Ukraine: Identifying War Damage to Nature Reserves in Ukraine” (Ukraine-Nature). It was supported by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) (link) and our team together with Ukrainian and Polish partners recorded damages from the war, accessing its impacts on soil, biodiversity, and forests in four protected nature reserves that are part of the Emerald Network – the Chornobylskyi Radiation and Ecological Biosphere Reserve (REBR); the Desniansko-Starohutskyi National Nature Park (NNP); the Holosiivskyi National Nature Park (NNP), and the Hetmanskyi National Nature Park (NNP).

Please also read: War and Nationa Nature Park “Holosiivskiy” in Kyiv

The Desniansko-Starohutskyi NNP, soil sample from crater made by artillery fire

Military actions

The territory of the Chornobylskyi REBR borders Belarus. In the first days of the full-scale invasion Russian troops entered Ukraine through nearby local roads. The Chornobylskyi REBR experienced direct occupation of about 94% or 213.000 ha by Russian Armed Forces for about 1.5 months in total. During this period, fires caused by the occupiers damaged an area of  31,760 ha (14% of the Reserve´s territory). Even after liberation of the territories, control over almost the entire territory has been lost due to contamination by unexploded ordnance and mines, as well as increased security measures along the state border, caused by the risk of repeated incursions. 

The Desniansko-Starohutskyi NNPis situated in the Sumy region, far north of Ukraine. And this case vividly demonstrates the challenge of bordering with the aggressor country. The length of the common border with Russia in the North and East reaches 30 km. The national park was not under occupation, but every day — starting from 24 February 2022 — it suffers from Russian shelling. The central building of the park is located 400 m from the border with Russia. Almost the entire area of the park (about 98%) is recognized as the potentially mine-contaminated. In the NNP only in May 2023, 939.6 ha (ca 6% of whole Park territory of 16,214.36 ha) were burned due to the fire set on the Russian border. On the other hand, due to the lack of economic activity and hunting bane some species, such as bears and ungulates, are recorded more often. The main threat to biodiversity relates to the occurrence of fires, which cannot be extinguished until the territory is cleared of mines. 

The material was prepared and photo provided by Maria Fedoruk.


Walter Leal Filho, Maria Fedoruk, Joao Henrique Paulino Pires Eustachio, Anastasia Splodytel, Viktor Shparyk, Anatoliy Smaliychuk, Oleh Chaskovsky, Andrii Zamoroka

If you want to support protected areas, described in the post, please contact Maria Fedoruk via email:

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