The state of the forests in Ukraine does not correspond to ecological-economic requirements. The timber stand is exhausted according to the latest data of the State Forest Cadastre. Young trees account for 31.5%, average-aged trees for 44.6%, maturing trees for 12.7%, and old growth for 11.2%. This age distribution has resulted from large felling volumes in the past and intensive reforestation later.
At the same time a decline of the industrial output and construction volumes has brought about a stable tendency towards a decrease of forest use. Cutting volumes decreased from 15.3 million m³ in 1990 down to 10.7% in 1998, including felling of the forest stock limit, which dropped to 5 million m³ in 1998 as against 6 mill m³ in 1998. Forest use per hectare of forest area decreased in Ukraine in 1998 by 5% as compared to 1997.
Comparison of the data from the latest forest inventory (1 January 1996) with the data of the previous inventory by such indices as age group distribution, percentage of forest area, and principal species distribution, testify in general to an improvement of forest conditions in Ukraine. Poor final felling techniques, artificial reforestation in particular regions without consideration of specific vegetation conditions, overdrying or overmoistening of vast areas, cattle grazing, contamination of soils with industrial wastes, acid rains, and non-regulated recreation are the major factors negatively affecting the biological and ecological stability of forests, and their social and anti-erosion, hydrological and climatic significance. Excessive non-regulated forest use in this century has resulted in exhaustion of forest resources, distortion of the age structure, enhancing of erosion and other negative phenomena. It should be noted that before the 1960s, along with old growth, maturing trees were also cut. As a consequence, the share of maturing oak, beech and pine forests in the forest age structure equals only 7-8% while according to the forestry standards they should be at a level of 20%.
Special forest use dynamics
In 1998 forest harvesting volumes of all felling types were 10,689,000 m³ of commercial timber including 5,029,000 m³ of the forest felling stock. In comparison with 1997, the total volume of all felling types dropped by 5.4%, including increase of limit felling volumes by 1.1%. Only 77.9 % of the annual prescribed cut was used in 1998.
Reforestation and forest culture
The territorial structure of forest resources has been changed in keeping with the requirements of rational forest use and nature protection. The steppe zone is experiencing a severe shortage of forests, where they have an extremely important protection function. Also the forest steppe and even Polissia have a forest deficit. The percentage of forest land in Ukraine is not sufficient to meet the needs of the agricultural and industrial enterprises, as well as to create an ecological landscape balance.
The problem of increasing the forest area in Ukraine needs to be resolved as soon as possible, so the forestry development programme is prioritizing an increase of forest areas and intensification of forest regeneration. The volumes of forest regeneration are determined by the volumes of annual prescribed felling areas. Regeneration mostly implies planting of forest species.
Reforestation in 1998 was performed in an area of 30,200 hectares; 24,800 hectares of this area by planting seedlings and 5,400 hectares by natural regeneration. Besides, forest territories are being constantly increased. This year forest stands have been created in ravines, small valleys and sand areas covering a total of 3,300 hectares. Besides, 300 hectares of wind-break belts have been created.
For the last six years reforestation volumes have remained stable, while creation of new forest stands dropped by 60% in 1998 as against 1997.
In 1998 artificially created forest stands covered an area of 22,800 hectares, while natural regeneration accounted for 3,600 hectares. Besides, 9,600 hectares of forest stands in ravines, small valleys and sand territories and 1,700 hectares of wind-break belts were granted to private owners.
In 1998 the work to intensify forest regeneration and introduction of advanced regeneration methods were continued, but in small volumes only due to a lack of finance. Subsidiary crops were reconstructed in 600 hectares, and planting of selection material was performed in an area of 1,200 hectares.
Unfortunately, the lack of budget allocations for creation of wind-break belts during the last three years and also the absence of funds for capital construction have decreased the volumes of belt creation as well as construction and repair of hydraulic-engineering structures. All this has resulted in a negative ecological situation in terms of protection of soils against water and wind erosion, especially in the Middle Dnieper area. For example, in Kaniv and Rzhishchev, high bank systems with actively pronounced water erosion of soils, there is no new construction of hydraulic-engineering structures and also no repairs of old ones, which used to protect the soil against erosion and the Dnieper against contamination by erosion products.
During the last six years shelter-belt reforestation dropped because of economic difficulties and in 1993-1998 was performed only on a 69,500 hectare area, which does not correspond to the estimated volumes. Table 3.30 below presents reforestation activities in 1993-1998.
Table 3.30 presents reforestation activities in 1993-1998.
Forest protection activities
In recent years protection of forests against insects and diseases has become a real problem since the total deterioration of the ecological situation in Ukraine negatively affects growing conditions of trees, thus decreasing their natural resistance. This necessitates implementation of annual comprehensive forest protection activities aimed at preserving the forests in a sound condition even though financial constraints do not provide sufficient funds for such activities.
At the end of 1998 insects and diseases became a considerable problem in Ivano-Frankivsk, Kiev, Odesa, Kherson, Chernigiv and Lugansk regions, and the damaged areas in these regions make up 20.8%, 10.7%, 4.1%, 13.1% and 3%, respectively, of the total damaged area in Ukraine. At the same time a number of actions were planned for forest protection in these regions at the end of 1999, which make up 27.1%, 5.5%, 4.5%, 14.7%, 4.8% and 3.7%, respectively, of the total damaged area in Ukraine. Damaged forest areas in 1993-1998 are presented in Table 3.26.
Along with protection of forests against insects and diseases it is also important to take measures against forest fires. In 1998 the number of fires decreased 1.5 times as against 1993, while the fire-damaged area decreased 2.3 times.