Research has shown that >20% of the southwestern Primorsky Krai, a region of almost 7,500 km2, is impacted by forest fires each year. Within this region there is also a small UNESCO biosphere reserve “Kedrova Path”, where the Amur leopard still lives. Each year 7% of the area is destroyed by fire. Between 2002-2008, nearly 30% of the reserve has been affected by fire. Especially shrubs, trees and seedlings burn but the larger trees usually survive the fires. If the old large trees die, the forest will slowly change into grassland. This habitat is not suitable for tigers and leopards, nor for the brown- and black bears which live in the same area.
The importance of firebreaks
Forest fires are more frequent in areas where people live. Most fires are started by farmers in order to refertilize their land. Old and dead plant material is removed to stimulate growth of new grass for cattle to graze. However, also the more remote areas which are leased by hunters, are more frequently burnt. The new growth of grass attracts deer and other wildlife. Unfortunately, this also gives poachers easier access to their prey.
Bears in Mind donated a bulldozer for the park management to create the necessary firebreaks.