Russia: Fire Situation (IFFN No. 24)

Fire Situation in Russia

(IFFN No. 24 – April 2001, p. 41-59)

Introduction – terminology, and classification

Russian forest inventory manuals and basic forest legislative acts (e.g., the Forest Code of the Russian Federation, 1997) characterise forest land into two categories, Forest Fund and Forest Lands, with the latter divided into Forested Areas, or closed forests, and Unforested Areas, or lands that are temporarily not covered by forests but are intended for forests (e.g., burnt areas, dead stands, natural sparse forests, grassy glades and barrens). Official definitions of these categories are given in the Appendix.

We use Forested Areas, together with natural sparse forests and non-stocked forest plantations as equivalent to the FAO category “forest”, and the other categories of Unforested Areas as “other wooded land”. Some analysis is given for “other land”, which is mostly represented by non-forest land of the Forest Fund and northern unused territories of State Land Reserve.

As of 1 January 1998, Russian forests (FFSRF 1999) were comprised of 1.178 billion hectares (ha) of Forest Fund, 881.97 million ha of Forest Lands, 296.58 million ha of Non-forest Lands [NFL], 774.25 million ha of Forested Areas and 107.72 million ha of Unforested Areas, of which 24 percent were burnt areas and dead stands, 68 percent were sparse forests, 5 percent were unregenerated harvested areas (clearcuts), and about 3 percent were represented by grassy glades and barrens. The total growing stock volume (i.e. total volume of stem wood of all growing trees) was estimated to be 81.86 billion m3. Russian closed forests (Forested Areas) contain 41.05 billion tons of vegetative carbon, including 32.86 billion tons of carbon in living biomass (phytomass), 3.79 billion tons in dead roots and 4.40 billion tons in coarse woody debris (Shvidenko et al. 2000). In addition, the top one metre layer of soil of forest ecosystems contains 130.4 billion tons of carbon, of which the litter layer contains 11.4 billion tons.

Fire environment, fire regimes, the ecological role of fire

A tremendous diversity of climate, soil and vegetation, together with a wide variety of anthropogenic impacts, is inherent in the vast territories of Russia. Russian forests stretch through eleven time zones and ten bio-climatic zones and subzones-from tundra in the north to deserts in the south. The major factors that influence the distribution, species composition, structure and productivity of forests, as well as the fire regimes of Russian terrestrial vegetation in general and in forests particular are temperature, precipitation, continentality and aridity of climate and land-use. Table 1 shows the distribution of Russian terrestrial biota by bio-climatic zone with a special emphasis on forests.

There are several reasons why fire is a major natural disturbance in Russian forests:

  1. About 95 percent of the forests are boreal forests, and a major part of them is dominated by coniferous stands of high fire hazard;
  2. A significant part of the forested territory is practically unmanaged and unprotected – large fires (>200 ha) play an important role in this region;
  3. Due to slow decomposition of plant material, the forests contain large amounts of accumulated organic matter;
  4. A major part of the boreal forest is situated in regions with limited amounts of precipitation and/or frequent occurrences of long drought periods during the fire season.

Table 1. Distribution of Russian terrestrial vegetation by land class and bio-climatic zone

Bio-climatic zones

Vegetated areas by major land classes (million ha)

Species composition of closed forestsc

Amount of potential fuel in forests (kg C/m2)









Arctic desert and semi-desert














Forest tundra, sparse taiga









Middle taiga









Southern taiga









Temperate forests


















Desert and semi-desert









Non-vegetated land



1 709.5








Note: Abbreviations used in Table 1 are: 

a – (land classes) G&ShL – grassland and shrubs.
b – (fractions of vegetation organic matter) AGB – above ground live biomass (phytomass), CWD-coarse woody debris (on-ground and above-ground dead wood with the diameter at the small end >1cm).
c – (dominant tree species) L-larch, S-spruce, P-pine, B-birch, F-fir, C-Russian “cedar” (Pinus sibirica and P. koraiensis), O-oak, A-aspen, D-other deciduous, Cn-coniferous species, HD-hard deciduous species, SD – soft deciduous species.
d – Coefficients of the species composition formulas indicate 0.1xPercent of a species in the total growing stock volume by a zone.

Forest fire in the boreal zone of Eurasia is both a geographical and historical phenomenon, and its impact on the environment has local, regional and global dimensions (Goldammer and Furyaev 1996). The diversity of forest types, growing conditions, landscape peculiarities, structure and productivity of forests, types of anthropogenic impacts, etc., define different types of fires, their distribution, intensity, ecological impact on terrestrial ecosystems and landscapes as a whole, and even alters the general estimates of the environmental role of wild forest fire.

The double-faceted role of forest fires – destructive and dynamic – is evident in the boreal zone. In the southern and central parts of the zone, forest fires are one of the most dangerous environmental phenomena, causing significant economic losses with a strong negative ecological impact on forest ecosystems and biodiversity. On the contrary, in unmanaged and unused forests of the northern and sparsely stocked taiga and forest tundra, particularly on permafrost sites, surface fires occurring at long-return intervals of 80 to100 years represent a natural mechanism that prevents the transformation of forests to shrubland or grassland: Exclusion of fire induces the build-up of organic layers that prevents melting of the upper soil and rise of the permafrost layer, resulting in impoverishment of forests, decreasing productivity, and paludification. Nevertheless, frequent recurrent fires can significantly decrease the productivity and stability of forests (up to 40-50 percent), even in the extreme north. Under severe climatic conditions, fire is often responsible for forest decline and extension of the tundra to the south. Fire is the major reason for the “human-induced” treeless belt along the boundary between the taiga and tundra in northern Eurasia. It presently is 100-250 km wide and its area increases by 0.3 million ha per year.

Forest fire is a significant force in the transformation of vegetation cover in the boreal zone. It initiates long-term changes in all the components of a landscape. The micro-climate conditions of the atmosphere’s surface layer (light, humidity, wind), the temperature and humidity of upper soil layers, soil water regimes, soil chemical properties as well as many other site characteristics, are significantly changed for long periods by fire. The soil formation processes can be changed, in particular on humid and wet sites. The partial or complete change of species, age, stand structure, reforestation peculiarities, level of productivity, etc., are common components of post-fire succession. Generally, fire generates the specific features of ecological regimes at the landscape scale. The duration of post-fire recovery of forest ecosystems depends on the type and severity of fire as well as climatic conditions and usually ranges from 5-7 to 100-150 years.

Fire is a major driving force in the succession of northern Eurasian forests. Among five classes of a comprehensive forest succession classification developed for Siberia and the Russian Far East, different phases and stages of pyrogenic succession cover 40 to 96% of the total forested area of most ecological regions. For instance, for a typical taiga landscape of 165 000 ha in the Kos-Yenisey plain of eastern Siberia, the total area affected by fire (including recurrent fires) for the period 1700-1956 was estimated at 5.38 times the size of the total area (Furyaev 1996). The expansion or decrease in area of different forest associations, as well as changes in dominant species and species composition, are mainly dictated by fire in the major boreal areas of Russia.

Fire hazard and fire risk depends on forest ecosystem characteristics, weather and ignition sources. Forest inventory identifies all Russian forests by five classes of fire hazard based on landscape/ecosystem indicators from Class I [highest fire danger], where fire is possible during the entire fire season (young coniferous forests, dry sites of slashed harvested areas, pine forests with lichens and mosses, etc.) to Class 5, where fires occur only under extremely unfavourable conditions, e.g. long-period drought (e.g., spruce forests with Sphagnum).

Russian forests (Forested Areas) are 72 percent dominated by conifers, including larch (about 37 percent), pine (16 percent), spruce and fir (13 percent) and cedar (Pinus sibirica and P. koraiensis) – (about 6 percent). The distribution of Forest Fund area in 1998 by fire danger classes was: first class, 17.4 percent second class, 15.3 percent; third class, 30.3 percent; forth class, 26.3 percent; and fifth class, 10.7 percent, i.e., about two-thirds of all the Forest Fund area belongs to the first three fire danger classes.

The duration of the fire season is geographically dependent and ranges from 90-100 to 200-250 days per year. There is a clear zonal gradient in the seasonal distribution of fire (Korovin, 1996). On the average, for the zone protected by aviation, the distribution of fire occurrence (percentage of fires by month) is as follows: May 23 percent, June 28 percent, July 31 percent, August 13 percent and September 5 percent (Chervonny 1979).

Fire in the boreal zone is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Due to different approaches, estimates of annual carbon emissions to the atmosphere caused by fires in the early 1990s (for relatively “normal” by fire danger years) ranged from 35 to 93 million tons of carbon (Isaev and Korovin 1999) to 125±21 million tons (Shvidenko and Nilsson 2000), of which post-fire biogenic flux comprised about 50%. Fire generates from 30 to 40 % of the total carbon flux emitted to the atmosphere by all human-induced and natural disturbances in the northern Eurasian boreal forests.

There is no doubt that fires also have had a significant negative impact on biodiversity, in particular in the southern part of the boreal zone. Fires and other anthropogenic impacts impoverish biodiversity at both the ecosystem and landscape levels. Southern species that are at the northern edge of their distribution are particularly vulnerable. For example, in Primorsky Kray the richness of 60 species of vascular plants, 10 fungi, 8 lichens and 6 species of mosses changed for the worse during the previous decades, mostly due to human-induced fires and fragmentation of forests. Significant fragmentation of forests inhabited by the far eastern tiger has been reported. The number of tigers, wild pigs, sable and deer (Cervus elaphus) on large areas burned in 1976 in the Amur River basin decreased from 1972 to 1997 by 20-50 times (Kulikov 1998). The number and species composition of wild animals has dramatically declined in territories impacted by large severe fires.

Such indicators as the extent, frequency and severity of fire determine the duration of post-fire regeneration, etc., and define the major features of disturbance regimes and their impact on the environment and the ecological functions of forests.

The extent of fire occurrence

Official data on the number and extent of fires have only been reported for protected areas of the Forest Fund, which, for last 40 years, have comprised about 60 % of the Forest Fund area (e.g., official data for 1985-1990 were 62.5 percent of the Forest Fund). Areas not protected against fires are mostly located in the forested tundra and the northern and part of the middle sparse taiga of western Siberia (43 million ha in 1989), eastern Siberia (119 million ha), and the Far East (249 million ha). During recent years the area actually protected has significantly decreased. Even for the protected area, data are often not complete and, as a rule, are underestimated, in particular for fires on Unforested Areas and Non-forest Land. In addition, official statistical data on forest fires before 1988 were deliberately falsified for political reasons.

Annual forest fire statistics for fire-protected areas during 1950-1999 are presented in Table 3. During this period, the number of forest fires detected annually was between 18 000 and 37 000. After a decade with rather high fire activity (1950-1959) the burned area was reported as stabilized for the next three decades, and again increased during the last 10 years (the average area of Forest Lands burnt annually for the decades 1950-1959, 1960-1969, 1970-1979, 1980-1989, 1990-1999 was 1.54, 0.68, 0,48, 0.54 and 1.2 million ha, respectively). The major ignition causes (as a percentage of the total number of fires) were local population 64.8 percent, lightning 16.0 percent, agricultural prescribed burning 7.3 percent, forest harvest activity 2.9 percent, expeditions 0.9 percent, activities of other enterprises 5.0 percent and unknown reasons 3.1 percent (Shetinsky 1994). The data do not include prescribed controlled burns on Forest Fund areas (which were negligible) and on “other lands” (for which no statistics exist; some expert estimates are given in Shvidenko et al., 1995).

Evidence of areas of stand-replacing fires is given by forest inventory data on areas of burnt and dead stands. These data are available for the entire country for the period from 1961 to 2000, and are of good reliability. According to the State Forest Account data, areas of burns, dead stands and grassy glades were estimated for the last 40 years for forests managed by state forest authorities, i.e., for about 95% of all Russian forests as of 1961, 70.6 million hectares; 1966, 68.4 million hectares; 1973, 53.6 million hectares; 1978, 43.9 million hectares; 1983, 36.8 million hectares; 1988, 34.9 million hectares; 1993, 35.0 million hectares and 1998, 28.0 million hectares (SNKh SSSR 1962; Goskomles SSSR, 1968, 1976, 1986, 1990, 1991; FSFMRF 1999). These data show significant progress in forest fire suppression during the last 40 years, but they also illustrate the incompleteness and significant bias of the official statistics.

The extent, timing and geographical distribution of fires varies greatly. The annual area burnt can vary about ten-fold. About 60 to 90 percent of the area burned annually is usually concentrated in three to six regions. In one or more of these, fires could be of catastrophic character. In Siberia, on average, about 1 percent of the fires are large (with an area of more than 200 ha) but in dry years this may rise to 10 percent. However, large fires make up 50 to 80 percent of the burned area and cause up to 90 percent of the total damage (Valendik 1990). In extremely dry years, a similar picture can be observed even in densely populated regions with intensive ground-based fire protection, e.g., during the twentieth century about 25 percent of all forests have burned twice in the Mary-El Republic (the basin of the Middle Volga) – in 1921 and 1972. In extremely dry years fire behaviour is extreme, including the occurrence of fires in wetlands. High-intensity fires are difficult to control. The consumption of large amounts of phytomass results in high fire severity with consequent long-lasting impact on ecosystem composition and function.

The areas burned annually in unprotected territories can only be indirectly estimated. Several modelling and expert approaches have reported rather consistent results. For instance, Shvidenko and Nilsson (2000), using a specially developed expert system, directly and indirectly available regional fire statistics and other information, data on the dynamics of major forest formations as well as distribution of Forested Area by age classes and types of stand age structure, estimated the average area burned annually for the period 1988-1992 in Forest Fund areas at 3.0 million ha (of which fires on Forested Areas are estimated to be about 1.2 million ha) and, in addition, 0.5 million ha on territories of the State Land Reserve in the extreme north. Official data reported for this period for the protected territories of the Forest Fund were about half of this figure. Using the modified model described in Shvidenko and Nilsson (2000) we estimated the long-term average burned area (1970s to the end of the 1990s) at 5.1 million ha, of which 4.1 million ha were on Forest Fund lands. The model results aggregated by bio-climatic vegetation zones are presented in Table 2.

The official fire statistics account for three types of fire on forested areas; surface, crown, and ground. The average ratio (percent of forested area burned) of the above three types of fire for the protected forested area was 83:17:0.3 in 1989-1992; 82:18.0:0.3 for the period 1986-1995 and 73.6:25.4:1.0 for the period 1971-1985. In a “normal” year, 1962, the ratio was 87:11:2. In the extremely dry year of 1972 it was 56:44 percent (no data for ground fire) and in 1978, 76:24:0.1 percent (Chervonny 1979). Shetinsky (1994) presented the ratio 81.4:18.6:0.02 based on official statistics for recent decades. Taking into account the nature of forest fire regimes in unprotected areas, our long period ratio of crown to surface fires on Forested Areas is about 15:85 percent. Taking into account a significant amount of peat burning in the carbon budget evaluation we separated peat fires (which are defined as fire on sites with an organic layer more than 15 cm deep and the depth of the consumed organic matter more than 10 cm, usually 15-20 cm) and kept the category of ground fires (which are defined as basically peat, but there are other types of underground fire) with the consumed organic layer more than 0.7 m.

Table 2. Model estimates of annual average forest fire area during the last three decades by bio-climatic zone and type of fire for the total Forest Fund and lands of the State Land Reserve.

Bio-climatic zone

Estimates of annual areas burned by types of fires, 1970-1999
(million ha)

Crown fire

Surface fire

Peat fire

Incl. GF1





Arctic desert and semi-desert2



Sub-arctic and tundra2




Forest tundra and northern taiga








Middle taiga








Southern taiga








Temperate forests











Semi-desert and desert











Surface fires in forested areas (FA), on unforested areas (UFA), and on non-forest lands (NFL);
ground fire (GF).
2 Basically, territories of State Land Reserve areas.

There are some satellite data estimating the total extent of fire for all of Russia or its major parts. Cahoon et al. (1994), based on AVHRR data, determined the area burned in the Russian Far East and eastern Siberia in 1987 to be 14.4 million ha. VNIIZlesresurs, using Soviet satellite data for 1987 for central Siberia and a major part of the Far East, estimated about six million ha. Such huge areas of fire are possible in extremely warm and dry years. In the year 1915, with catastrophic weather conditions, forest fires were observed on 1.6 million km2 and the total area of burnt closed forest was estimated to about 14 million ha. There are also years with rather low fire risk – for example, 1994 and 1995. Cahoon et al. (1995), using AVHRR data, estimated the burnt vegetated areas in the total Russian territory in 1992 to be about 1.5 million ha (officially reported burned areas for protected Forest Fund territories were 1.14 million ha). Based on satellite data, Shvidenko et al. (unpublished data) estimated the area of vegetation burned in 1998 for Forest Fund in the Asian part of Russia at 9.4 million ha (for details, see below).

Fire frequency

Frequency of fire depends on many factors: the spatial structure of landscapes, their ecological regimes, the fuel characteristics of forests and adjoining vegetation, typical fire weather during the burning period, inter-annual climate variability (recurrence of extreme drought), population density, accessibility, level of forest fire protection, etc.

As a rule, for basic upland forest types and geographical localities, the fire-return interval, including all types of fire, is 25 to 70 years. However, the variation is very large with an upper limit of 250 to 300 years for wet sites and a lower limit of 7 to 15 years or even less. An interval of 3 to 4 years was observed in dry pine and larch forests in densely populated areas. From a historical perspective, areas in which no fires occurred during a single life cycle of a coniferous forest (200-300 years) are negligibly small in the taiga zone (Furyaev 1996). There have been many attempts to identify temporal regularity of fires occurrence (specifically, years with extremely dangerous fires) based on climatic cycles, but the best conclusion is that available statistics and historical records do not present enough reliable data to permit any sort of prediction (Melekhov, 1979). For instance, from 1972-1982 there were extremely high fire risks in the Far East (Autumn 1976 in Khabarovsk Kray, autumn 1977 in Primorsky Kray, summer 1979 in Amur Oblast, summer 1980 and 1982 in the southern part of Khabarovsk Kray). In 1987 and 1998, extended fire episodes affected large areas of the Russian Far East and eastern Siberia.

A large amount of research on fire regimes (e.g. Furyaev 1996) has shown that: 1) wildfires have an explicit landscape nature; 2) quantitative indicators of frequency are scale-dependent; 3) the impact of forest type on the frequency of fires is more evident than impact of relief (mountain, plateau, plain, etc.); 4) high-frequency fires (e.g., in pine and larch forests on well-drained sites), as a rule, do not cause significant damage to the main canopy layers and do not lead to a change of species, but significantly impact the process of natural regeneration and the structure of stands; 5) fires in wet sites are very rare (up to 200-300 or more years), but damage is very severe; 6) the accessibility of forests to people, proximity to populated areas and the presence or absence of roads are crucial factors of fire frequency in taiga zone.

Post-fire dieback

The immediate reaction of stands to fire is expressed by post-fire mortality (dieback). The intensity and duration of post-fire dieback depends on many factors. The average period for dieback is roughly estimated to be five years, varying from two to seven years and sometimes more. The indirect consequences of fires can be seen over a longer period. For many forest formations, in particular those in the southern part of the boreal zone, other types of disturbance often accelerate the consequences of fire, e.g. by intensive outbreaks of secondary insects (likewise, fires in forests destroyed by insects are often extremely severe due to a large amount of dead, dry wood).

Post-fire tree mortality varies greatly and greatly depends on the type and intensity of the fire, relief, presence of permafrost, weather conditions, species composition, age and diameter of trees, and many other factors. The following are average estimates of post-fire mortality for growing stock in the taiga zone: for low-severity (superficial) surface fire, 6 to 12 percent; surface fire of medium-severity, 15 to 20 percent; litter fire, 30 to 50 percent; turf fire, 60 percent; peat fire, 70 percent; and crown fire, 75 percent. The variations are, however, very large, e.g., 5 to 90 percent for litter fires and 35 to 85 percent for turf fires. In many Siberian forest types, peat and crown fires cause total tree mortality (stand-replacement fires) (Telizin 1988, Sheshukov et al. 1992). Many publications report the complete destruction of stands after only medium-intensity surface fires. Post-fire mortality on continuous permafrost with a thin melting layer is very high, and stands of all species (including larch) usually die almost completely after surface fires of medium intensity due to the large amount of dead organic matter consumed and the superficial root systems of the trees. The average annual area of forests killed due to mortality over time is approximately equal to the area killed in stand-replacement fires (i.e., the area of forests dying annually as a result of fires of current and previous years is estimated to be 0.6 million ha). For all types of fires other than stand-replacement fires, partial dieback is estimated to average 15 to 40 percent of the growing stock.

Post-fire regeneration

Post-fire natural reforestation relies on a great number of factors: geographical distribution and climate; structure of the landscape and the location of a burned area in a landscape; type and peculiarities of relief; site characteristics (parent material, soil, drainage, moisture regime, etc.); biological and ecological properties of tree species; specifics of forest types and succession stages; type and severity of the fire; size of the burnt area; availability and quality of seed; etc. The process of post-fire regeneration strongly depends on the bio-climatic zone and geographic and site conditions. As general and rough conclusions: 1) the ability of boreal forests to restore themselves is very high – the area of burnt and dead stands in Russia has decreased by 50 percent (from 70 million ha in 1961 to 28 million ha in 1998) during the last 50 years; 2) post-fire reforestation in the extreme north (forest tundra, northern and sparse taiga) is, as a rule, slow and requires a rather long time, up to 30-35 years, due to the insufficient availability and quality of seed; 3) productivity of the first post-fire forest on permafrost is 2-3-fold higher than in undisturbed areas; 4) in practically all bio-climatic zones, excluding larch stands in the extreme north, stand-replacement fire basically causes succession with a change of the dominant species; e.g., an usual scheme is: dark coniferous (spruce, fir, cedar) to soft deciduous (birch, aspen) to mixed dark coniferous-deciduous forests; 5) recurrent fires often lead to impoverishment of forests and generation of grassy glades, development of paludification processes, and finally to indefinite long periods of deforestation and “green desertification” – there are studies showing that a significant area of burns (up to 30-50 percent), if recurrent fires occur, are not restored for many years; and 6) regeneration under the canopy layer of mother stands after other than stand-replacing fires is dependent on the frequency of recurrent fires, and this is the major reason for the development of uneven-aged forests of different types.

Fire impacts in the period 1990-1999

The strong negative impact of forest fires is particularly evident during the years when catastrophic forest fires are driven by extremely unfavourable weather conditions during the fire season. During the last 15 years, Russia faced such years in 1987 and 1998.

During the summer of 1998, extremely dry weather prevailed on huge areas of Asian Russia. For instance, in Khabarovsk Kray rapid melting of snow when the soil was still frozen and subsequent lack of precipitation significantly decreased the moisture content of forest fuels by the beginning of the fire season. Precipitation in June was only 15 to 20 percent of the long-term average, in July 0 to 20 percent and in August 20 to 50 percent (Efremov et al. 2000). Hundreds of fires, a significant number of which escaped control and covered large areas, began simultaneously from May to October. Estimated burned area for the Asian part of Russia using satellite data (Shvidenko et al. 2000, unpubl. manuscript), was 9.4 million ha of vegetated land, of which Forest Land was 7.2 million ha. The area affected by crown fires was estimated to be 1.0 million ha. The severity of the fires and amount of organic matter consumed was very high. Estimated direct emissions of carbon during the fire season totalled 172.8 million tons, of which forest fires emitted 133.8 million tons.

The total area impacted by the fires was more than 100 million ha. Dense smoke significantly decreased photosynthetic activity and reduced visibility to 100 m and less. Based on preliminary estimates, average fire and post-fire dieback is estimated to be about 80 m3/ha of Forested Area. This means that expected losses of wood might reach 400-500 million m3, about 4 times the current level of harvest in all of Russia. Some regions have lost a major part of their potential for industrial harvest. Due to the extreme severity of the fires, more than 2 million ha of forests have lost their major ecological functions for a period of 50 to 100 years and about 0.5 million ha of formerly forested areas, due to deep burning of the soil, were irreversibly transformed, at least for more than 200-300 years. Outbreaks of forest pests and diseases are expected during the next few years, as well as a significant increase in fire hazard due to the accumulation of large amounts of dead wood.

The impact on wild animals and fisheries will be revealed during the coming decades. Initial estimates lead to the conclusion that the total number of birds and wild animals in the regions most affected by fire decreased by a factor of ten or more. Mortality of squirrels and weasels reached 70-80 percent, boar 15-25 percent and mice and rodents about 90 percent. There were observed mass deaths of fish. Fires greatly influenced the spawning of salmon due to increased water temperatures and possibly due to high carbon dioxide levels in the air and water (Kulikov 1998). A significant increase in respiratory ailments was observed in many settlements in the Far East. There were indications that this may have contributed to several deaths during the period.

Extremely large fires have long-term and partially irreversible consequences. One of the most severe fire years in northern Eurasia was in 1915 when about 14 million ha of closed forests were completely burned within a forest area of 160 million ha in Siberia, and about 600 million ha was affected by smoke. Deep (up to several meters) peat fires continued until winter. Only 65 % of normal solar radiation was registered in parts of the country in August, and crops matured 15-20 days later than usual. Corn and fodder for livestock were of very low quality and contributed to the poor health of the population and the loss of cattle. Large numbers of wild animals died, and a dramatic migration of animals for thousands of kilometres was observed (Shostakovich 1924, 1925).

Catastrophic forest fires in northern Eurasia should be a topic of national and international interest. The most dramatic predictions of climate change indicate an increase in annual average temperature of 4-6o C, together with a significant increase in aridity and greater frequency of extreme drought during the fire season for this region (Stocks 1993, Fosberg et al. 1996). If these predictions are correct, Russia must increase its preparedness to cope with the situation. A long-term fire prevention and management strategy must be put in place with the utmost priority. If the results of these models come to pass, they indicate a high probability that during the next century major areas of Russian coniferous forests could be burnt if the current level of fire protection is not significantly improved.

Forest fire databases

Table 3 contains data on forest fire in the protected territory of the Russian Forest Fund during the previous decades. These data were basically derived from official data of the Russian Federal Forest Service. It should be noted that different sources, including official publications, are often not consistent and sometimes contradictory. The major historical records and databases on forest fire are at the Forestry Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources. The Central Base of Aerial Forest Fire Protection (Avialesookhrana) also maintains a multi-year database in which the geographical co-ordinates and major fire characteristics are provided for each registered fire. IIASA also has a database on disturbances in Russian forests that contains aggregated regional data on the number of fires and burned areas by type of fire for the last decades.

Table 3. Number of wildfires and forest area burned on protected territories of the Forest Fund, 1950-1995.


of fires

Area burned (1 000 ha)

FF b

of which FA b


FL b


CF c

SF c

GF c



12 662









1960-1969 a

18 684









1970-1979 a

18 906









1980-1989 a

16 244

1 134









15 384










19 876










16 092










11 831










14 977










11 719










16 353

1 159









13 439

4 414







3 845


18 573

1 011









21 934

2 040


1 249


1 504


1 628


1990-1999 a

25 481

1 602




1 106


1 200



17 672

1 670


1 043


1 318


1 366



17 965

1 126









25 777

1 142









18 428

1 201









20 287










25 951










32 833

2 312


1 523


1 737


1 854



31 300










27 970

5 340


3 234


3 843


4 269

1 071


36 629

1 048








Based on data from the Russian Federal Forest Service.
a Average annual data by decades.
b The abbreviations of forest land-cover categories: FF – Forest Fund area, FA – Forested Area,
UFA – Unforested Area, NFL – Non-Forest land.
c Types of fires: CF – crown fire, SF – surface fire, GF – ground fire.

 Operational fire management systems

Under the Forest Code (1997), practically all Russian forests are federal property. There are some inconsistencies between the Russian Constitution and the Forest Code and the Russian Government is currently investigating the possibility of privatising some lands and forests.

Russia has a hierarchical system of state forest fire protection that includes two major responsible players; the state forest management authority and the aircraft forest protection system (Avialesookhrana) (Figure1). In severe fire situations, the Ministry of Extraordinary Situations is also significantly involved.

click to enlarge (24 KB)

Figure 1. Organization of forest fire protection in Russia after the reorganization in 2000.

The distribution of protected territories by the type of forest fire protection is as follows (percentage to the total area of the Russian Forest Fund; official data for 1985-1990):

Regions covered by aerial forest protection, 62.5 %

including sub-regions:

  • extinguishing of fire by aviation means alone 50.9 %
  • detection of fire by aviation,
  • extinguished by ground methods 111.6 %

Area covered by ground protection 49.1%

including sub-regions

  • forest guards, fire-chemical stations,
    and mechanized detachments11.0 %
  • other organizations 2.3 %
  • sub-regional reserved unprotected forests 35.8 %

Also included in the area covered by ground protection

The state forest authority divides Forest Fund areas into aerial and ground protection regions and the regional and subregional boundaries are indicated on maps. There are two types of aerial forest fire protection. One uses aviation as a major tool for all operations while the second provides only detection of fires by aircraft. In the latter case local ground forces of the forest management authorities provide fire suppression. The reserved unprotected forests are formally included in the area of ground protection, but practically no protection is provided. There were some attempts to divide the Russian Forest Fund and its large regions into homogeneous pyrological regions based on the different characteristics of the forests, indicators of fire risk and historical level of fires, but this has not been implemented in practice.

The State Forest Guard (SFG, currently the State Forest Service of the Ministry of Natural Resources) and managers of Avialesookhrana are the major responsible authorities for forest fire protection. The Forest Code (Article 77) and a special Statute on State Forest Guard of the Russian Federation, approved by the Decision of the Government of the Russian Federation in 1998, defines the rights and duties of the State Forest Guard. The most important duties of the SFG are prevention, detection, warning and extinguishing forest fires and mitigation of the consequences. Rangers are the lowest level in the hierarchical structure of the SFG. They are responsible for a forest territory of several hundred to several thousand hectares. As of 1 January 1998 there were 69 963 units managed by rangers with an average area of 15 900 ha. Masters are managers of 3-5 rangers. Foresters are managers of forest districts, which include 2-5 territories managed by masters. Currently Russia has about 8 000 forest districts (7 875 in 1998). An individual forest district has jurisdiction over several thousand to over a million hectares (the average area was 141 000 ha in 1998). Three to ten forest districts are combined into forest management enterprises. As of 1998 there were 1 826 forest enterprises with an average area of 608 200 ha (FSFMRF 1998). At the forest enterprise level, the Director, Main Forester and Engineer of Forest Protection are responsible for all aspects of forest protection. Simultaneously, a main forester of the forest enterprise acts as Main State Inspector on Forest Protection in a district. Correspondingly, the forester acts as Senior State Inspector. In addition there are special fire protection subdivisions (Fire Chemical Stations) strategically located in forest management enterprises. Their technical capacity depends on the regional economic and social conditions and the level of fire hazard. There are also regional and federal levels of the SFG.

Avialesookhrana provides forest fire monitoring and all types of forest fire protection using aircraft as its major technical tool. It has its own hierarchical structure (Figure 1). Managers and forest professionals of Avialesookhrana are also members of the SFG. Avialesookhrana includes special detachments of parachute jumpers (smokejumpers). During the last few decades, about 80-85 % of all fires have been detected by aviation and about 50 % of all detected fires are extinguished during the first day. Fires that are not extinguished during the first day often become very large and difficult to extinguish.

Operational regimes of the forest fire protection services are based on the weather and forest fire danger, which is usually measured by the Nesterov fire index (for a definition see Shetinsky, 1994) or some regional improvement or modification of it. Five different fire danger classes are used depending on the value of the index: 1) no fire risk, B<300; 2) small risk, 301<B<1 000; 3) medium risk, 1 001<B<4 000; 4) high risk, 4 001<B<10 000; and 4) extremely high risk, B>10000. For example, aircraft patrols are usually not provided under the first fire danger class , once every one or two days at noon under Class 2 conditions, one to two times per day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. under Class 3 conditions and not less than two times per day for each route under Class 4. Under Class 5 conditions the Forest Guard must devote all its time to fire protection and aircraft patrols should be provided not less than three times per day over each routine.

The State Forest Guard and Avialesookhrana operate in close coordination with the local and regional authorities of state forest management. Under severe fire situations, the local population, military detachments, etc., can be involved in firefighting. In spite of intensive preventive work with the population, wide use of mass media before and during each fire season, special lessons in schools, organization of special voluntary fire brigades and school forest districts, etc., not all social groups and members of society are educated and conscientious enough about fire prevention and humans continue to be a major source of forest fires. Nevertheless, the awareness of the population, participation in voluntary fire brigades, etc., has been constantly increasing, although this process is slow and different in different regions. The role of non-governmental organizations (Greens and other ecological movements) has also increased during the last decade.

The large fire situation in Khabarovsk Kray in 1998 illustrates how forest fire protection operates in Russia. From the middle of May to 15 July, when 30-40 active forest fires occurred daily, fire suppression was mostly provided by the fire protection sub-units of forest enterprises, the Far Eastern Aviabase and forest industry enterprises (44 chemical fire stations with about 350 firefighters, 290 members of the aerial protection service, and brigades of the forest logging enterprises). In addition, 18 caterpillar cross-country vehicles were bought, re-equipped and delivered to forest enterprises. During these two months, 480 forest fires with an area of 80 000 ha were extinguished. Sixty-five percent of the fires were extinguished during the first two days.

Due to an increased fire threat, an extraordinary situation was implemented in the Kray on 17 July. Free access of vehicles and the population to forests was prohibited. All available reserves were called up. A month’s reserve of food for 1 000 persons and 33 million roubles were allocated for firefighting. In addition, 120 people and 25 mechanized units (all-terrain vehicles, caterpillars, tankers, etc.) from the Ministry of Extraordinary Situations situated in the Kray, 360 persons and 96 mechanized units from the Ministry of Defence, and 220 fire brigade members and 25 mechanised units from the Ministry of Interior were allocated. Other regions of the country provided 140 people from the aerial protection service. Two BE-12P amphibian aircraft worked in the Kray. All the above prevented burnt settlements and industrial enterprises and the loss of human life. During the most dangerous days about 2 000 people and 500 mechanized units were involved in fire fighting.

Although results were more or less satisfactory, many fires, particularly in remote regions, escaped. Many of these covered areas of 25 000 to30 000 ha per fire. The regional estimate of ecological and forestry losses due to fire was 4.56 billion roubles. It probably would be difficult to organise effective forest fire protection in the Kray under these conditions due to the catastrophic character of fires. Nevertheless, the situation highlighted serious shortcomings in forest fire protection. A major problem is the shortage of funds and the lack of centralised financing. In 1997, only 9.3 percent of the total finances for forest management were allocated for forest protection, and only 24 percent of that was paid from the state budget. In 1988 and 1998, only US$0.25 and US$0.06 per ha of protected area was allocated for forest protection, respectively. The number of the State Forest Guard Staff (lower levels) in the Kray decreased by ca. 75 percent during the period 1988-1998, and Avialesookhrana’s staff decreased by 30 percent.

During recent years there has been some practical implementation of remote sensing for early warning. NOAA-AVHRR receiving stations are functioning in some Siberian cities (Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, etc.). Nevertheless, in general, there are serious shortcomings in the functional and operational activities of the different forest fire protection organizations. Following are some of the most important:

  • Lack of both up-to-date financing of aviation for fire prevention and control and sufficient use of it as an operational tool for fire suppression. At the end of the 1980s, Avialesookhrana used about 700-800 aircraft during the fire season. Currently, the number of aircraft and patrol time has decreased by more than 50 percent.
  • The number of State Forest Guard staff has significantly decreased in many regions, particularly at the lower levels.
  • Due to significantly decreased activities in sustainable land-use management of forests, huge areas still remain without any protection.
  • Lack of advanced equipment; in particular, a unified system of radio communications.
  • Insufficient use of satellite information.
  • Lack of special autonomous mobile detachments equipped with transport and trained in relevant techniques.
  • Lack of real integration between the ground and aerial fire protection services.

However, some projects that are currently being implemented are encouraging and point toward the right direction:

TACIS Project “Improvement in Forest Fire Response”

A project for the “Improvement in Forest Fire Response”, funded by European Commission Directorate DG1a as Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) Project ENVRUS-9701, is operational between 1998 and 2001. TACIS partners are the Federal Forest Service of Russia (currently the Department of Exploitation and Restoration of Forest Fund of the Ministry of Natural Resources) and its Central Base for Aerial Forest Fire Protection, Avialesookhrana (TACIS 1999, 2000). The goal of the project is to improve the response to forest fires, pests and diseases. Project activities include:

  • Adaptation of existing satellite data acquisition;
  • Tests of fire detection algorithms based on existing NOAA capability;
  • Development and implementation of a federal and regional GIS;
  • Development of a forest fire information network.

Applied fire management research

The Fire Laboratory of the Sukachev Institute of Forest, Russian Academy of Sciences, Krasnoyarsk, provides new fire information products to the State Forest Service. These products include fire location maps generated daily that are also displayed on the homepage of the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC). The Institute for Solar

Terrestrial Physics, Irkutsk, provides daily maps with fire locations depicted by NOAA-AVHRR and also a summary of the last ten days of fire occurrences as well as a map for the whole fire season. These maps are also displayed daily on the GFMC homepage (Figures 2 and 3). An example of a regional burned area map for a whole fire season is provided in Figure 4 (Amur Oblast).

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Figure 2. Example of a daily fire monitoring map (date: 29 May 2000) generated by the Fire Laboratory (A. Sukhinin) of the Sukachev Institute of Forest, Krasnoyarsk, in collaboration with the Emergency Situation Monitoring and Forecasting Agency, Krasnoyarsk branch. The maps are produced on the basis of satellite data (classification by NOAA-AVHRR). They show fire locations (by latitude and longitude) and the area affected by fire (red signature, size in ha). The red arrow at each fire location points to the nearest populated place. The fire maps are provided to the GFMC.

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Figure 3. The Institute for Solar Terrestrial Physics, Irkutsk, generates daily fire observations (high-temperature events depicted by the NOAA-AVHRR sensor) in the territory of the Russian Federation and the neighbouring territories of China and Mongolia (within the range of the receiving station). The Institute provides daily fire occurrence summaries, 10-day fire summaries (accumulated fires during the last ten days) and a total fire season summary. The map products are displayed daily on the GFMC homepage. This map shows a 10-day product (9-19 July 2000).

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Figure 4. Burned area map of Amurskaia Oblast for the period 16-27 May 2000 and 10 to 21 June 2000. The area burned is 1 934 407 ha. Source: Fire Laboratory of the Sukachev Institute of Forest, Russian Academy of Sciences, Krasnoyarsk.

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Figure 5. Fire weather forecast map for 11 July 2000 for the Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk regions.

Prescribed Fires

Agricultural prescribed burning in Russia is estimated to total 30 million ha annually, of which about 5 million ha is stubble burning and 25 million ha are pastures and hayfields (Shvidenko et al. 1995). These burns often escape and cause forest wildfires. In forest management activities, fire is used for disposal of debris on harvested areas, preparation of land for planting, reduction of fuel along railways, etc. Other types of prescribed burning, particularly as a direct fire protection tool, are not used in Russia. There is concern about the threat of large fires if prescribed fires escape control. The high cost and organizational and technological difficulties of safely conducting large-scale prescribed burning in the vast taiga with poor infrastructure are also important impediments. For these reasons prescribed burning is not currently part of the official forest fire protection policy of the country.

However, it has been repeatedly urged that high priority be given to formulating and introducing a new fire policy that would allow the integration of prescribed natural fires and the use of prescribed burning to restore the ecological balance of forest ecosystems in which fires have been suppressed over many decades. A number of experiments in Siberia and the Russian Far East support the concept of using prescribed burning as an important fire management tool. Recent publications have suggested the development of adequate prescriptions, manuals and technical requirements (Goldammer and Furyaev 1996, Sedykh 1997).

Sustainable land-use practices

There are two types of documents that regulate the practice of sustainable land-use as a tool to reduce wildfire hazard and risk. The first is a Perspective Plan of Fire Protection Arrangement of Forests that is prepared by a special institution (usually by the so-called All-Russian Designing and Prospecting Institute of Forest Management, Roshiproleshoz) for administrative regions of the Russian Federation with high fire danger. Regional Forest Inventory and Planning Enterprises prepare the second, a Plan of Fire Protection Arrangement, simultaneously with a forest inventory (lesoustroistvo) of each forest enterprise.

The Perspective Plan defines the forest fire protection strategy in a region, the distribution of areas by type of forest fire protection (ground, ground with aerial patrol, aerial), the area of responsibility of chemical fire stations, regional coordination of fire protection efforts, etc. The Plan of Fire Protection Arrangement is based on the fire hazard of individual forest stands, potential sources of fire (fire risk), peculiarities of climate and weather during the fire season and recent fire history (for the last 8 to 15 years). It also includes fire prevention activities, early detection and monitoring of fires and initial attack. Furthermore, the plan includes technical measures to reduce ignition, flammability, intensity and spread of forest fires through construction of roads, firebreaks, and fuelbreaks consisting of planted deciduous forest belts. However, a common shortcoming of these plans is insufficient funding for them to be effectively implemented (forest fire protection is still basically financed from the state budget).

More effective is a third document, an Operative Plan of Fire Protection Activities, that is developed on an annual basis (and is partially drawn from the two above-described plans) as part of the planning of forest management activities for each forest enterprise based on available financing. Briefly, this plan includes all relevant activities that support a core integrated fire management system, with special emphases on all types of fire prevention work with the local population, children, etc. Unfortunately, these plans are fully realized and relatively effective only in areas of intensive forest management, e.g., in the centre of European Russia.

By 1998 Russia had 8 822 artificial water reservoirs and specially equipped areas to provide water for fire suppression, of which 7 138 were in European Russia and 1 684 in the Asian part. The total length of fire prevention barriers (fire breaks) is 211 161 km (of which about 60 percent are in European Russia). The total length of forest roads is 997 400 km (57 percent are in the European part). Large territories of the European North, Siberia and the Far East are insufficiently covered by forest protection activities.

Public policies concerning fire

Russia has a well-developed legal basis for forest fire protection. It includes:

  • The Forest Code of the Russian Federation (special Chapter 12, Articles 92-102, directly devoted to fire protection problems);
  • Regulations on Fire Safety in Forests of the Russian Federation, approved by the Russian Government on 9 September 1993;
  • Article 261 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation [“Destruction and damage of forests”];
  • A number of Instructions/Regulations/Manuals that are obligatory for all bodies of state forest management, i.e., Instruction on fire prevention prophylactic in forests and regulation of activities of forest protection services, approved by the Federal Forest Service [1993], Instruction on detecting and extinguishing of forest fire, approved by the Federal Forest Service [1985], Instruction on forest fire protection by aviation [1993], Statute of Chemical-Fire Stations [1993], etc. (Shetinsky and Sergeienko 1996).

These laws cover all relevant aspects of forest fire protection and are obligatory for people, state and private organizations, all forest stakeholders, etc. However, implementation of the legal requirements is poor. In many regions, forest authorities do not have enough human and financial resources to provide effective forest management and control. Russia is still undergoing a period of transition from a centrally planned to a decentralized market economy and is suffering severe economic, social and moral stress. Unfortunately, the country has not yet developed a clear long-term national forest policy addressing problems of forest protection and conservation. The major current problems of the forest sector are of an institutional nature. Many unsolved forest problems are dramatically reinforced by ineffective legislation and unresolved state economic and social policies. The country has no long-term forest strategy. The elimination of the State Forest Committee and the Federal Forest Service in mid 2000 and the new administration under the Ministry of Natural Resources (see Figure 1) will lead to decentralization of tasks to the regional and local forest management levels but positive results of this reorganization are yet to be seen. However, an increased interest in the fate of Russia’s forests by the public and various stakeholders has been evident during the last two to three years. This process has been facilitated by a number of international institutions such as the World Bank, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IAASA), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the Russian office of the Worldwide Fund of Nature (WWF) and the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC).

Forest fire science, including fire ecology, protection, etc., is well developed in Russia. Nevertheless, a rather modest part of this knowledge is really used. The Russian experience is clear evidence that during catastrophic fire years such a big country with a huge boreal zone is not able to adequately protect its forests against fire. Taking into account expected climate change, the need to develop and, of crucial importance, implement a new forest fire protection paradigm for Russia is evident. This paradigm should be part of a philosophy of sustainable forest management and include an anticipatory strategy with a solid background of relevant long-term activities supported by appropriate human and financial resources in the following areas:

  • zoning of Forest Fund territories by relevant fire protection regimes based on estimates of current and future fire danger and the ecological role of fire;
  • development and implementation of a forest fire monitoring system using a combination of multi-sensor remote sensing observations along with a comprehensive characterisation of the landscape, e.g., an integrated land information system;
  • consistent implementation of sustainable land-use practices and fire protection arrangements, e.g. regulation of species composition, development of appropriate infrastructure, regulation of the amount of on-ground fuel, etc., in particularly in territories of taiga zone;
  • introduction of forest fire protection services that correspond to the basic philosophy and criteria of sustainable forest management;
  • involvement of the population and all forest stakeholders as a very important part of forest fire protection;
  • increasing international cooperation in all aspects of forest protection.

Conclusions and Recommendations

It is quite obvious that forest fire management in Russia has a large potential – a potential for both opportunity and failure. More than seventy percent of the global boreal forest cover is in Asia, mainly in the Russian Federation, and this economically and ecologically important area represents the largest undeveloped forested area of the globe. The carbon stored in boreal ecosystems corresponds to ca. 37 percent of the total terrestrial global carbon pool (plant biomass and soil carbon). Thus, the magnitude of the boreal forest area suggests that it may play a critical role in the global climate system, e.g. as a potential sink or source of atmospheric carbon. Vice versa, climate change models indicate potentially dramatic changes in the continental climate of the country. Prolonged vegetation growth and an increasing occurrence of extreme summer droughts, with consequent extreme wildfire danger, are elements of climate change scenarios.

As a consequence of the increasing occurrence of wildfires under extreme drought conditions, as was experienced in 1987 in the Trans-Baikal Region and in 1998 in the Far East, it is expected that natural recovery cycles will be disturbed as well. Fires affecting forest ecosystems on permafrost sites could lead to the degradation or disappearance of eastern Siberian larch forests. Melting permafrost could lead to the decay of presently frozen organic matter and the release of radiatively active (greenhouse) gases. In addition, fires penetrating into desiccated organic terrain (swamps) could release large amounts of terrestrial carbon into the atmosphere. That the boreal ecosystems of Eurasia represent such a potential threat, recently called thecarbon bomb”, requires significant national and international attention.

This brings the authors of this report to the conclusion that the proper management of the Russian forests and associated vegetation resources and ecosystems needs to receive high priority. The responsibility of managing and protecting these resources should not be given solely to the private sector, and there are limitations on delegating resource protection to the regional and local levels. The establishment and strengthening of a central institution to protect forests and other ecosystems is not only in the best interest of the country but must also be supported by the international community.

International responsibility is two-sided and includes “taking” and “giving”. Russia must receive continuing international assistance to protect its vegetation resources. During times when they are not needed, however, Russia can pay back other countries by making available human resources and equipment to address fire problems in other parts of the world.


Cahoon, D. R., Jr., B. J. Stocks, J. S. Levine, W. R. Cofer III, and J. M. Pierson. 1994. Satellite analysis of the severe 1987 forest fires in northern China and southern Siberia. Journ. Geophys. Res. 99, 627-638.
Cahoon, D. R., Jr., B. J. Stocks, J. S. Levine, W. R. Cofer III, and J. A. Barber. 1996. Monitoring the 1992 forest fire in the boreal ecosystem using NOOVA AVHRR satellite imagery. In: Biomass Burning and Climate Change. Vol. 2 (J. S. Levine, ed.), 795-802. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Chervonny, M.G. 1979. Aircraft forest protection. Forest Industry Publ., Moscow, 120 pp [in Russian].
Efremov D. F., Sheshukov M. A., and A. Z. Shvidenko. 2000. Impact of catastrophic boreal forest fires on the carbon budget: Russian Far East Case Study, 1998. Paper presented at the International Science Conference, May 8-12, 2000, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The abstract is published in M. Apps and J. Marsden (ed.) The Role of Boreal Forests and Forestry in the Global Carbon Budget, Canadian Forest Service, 2000, p.37
Fosberg, M. A., B. J. Stocks, and T. J. Lynham. 1996. Risk analysis in strategic planning: Fire and climate change in the boreal forest. In: Fire in ecosystems of boreal Eurasia (J. G. Goldammer and V. V. Furyaev, eds.), 495-504. Kluwer Academic Publ., Dordrecht, 528 pp.
FSFMRF. 1999. Forest Fund of Russia (State: 1 January 1998). Federal Service of Forest Management of the Russian Federation, Moscow, Russia, 650 pp [in Russian].
Forest Code of the Russian Federation. Adopted by the State Duma of the Russian Federation on 22 January 1997. Cit. by the translation made by All-Russian Information and Research Center for Forest Resources [ARIRCFR], Moscow (1997).
Furayev V. V. 1996. Role of fires in forest forming processes. Nauka Publ., Novosibirsk, 253 pp [in Russian].
Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC).
Goldammer, J. G., and V. V. Furyaev. 1996. Fire in ecosystems of boreal Eurasia. Ecological impacts and links to the global system. In: Fire in ecosystems of boreal Eurasia (J.G. Goldammer and V. V. Furyaev, eds.), 1-20. Kluwer Academic Publ., Dordrecht, 528 pp.
Goldammer, J. G., and B. J. Stocks. 2000. Eurasian perspective of fire: Dimension, management, policies, and scientific requirements. In: Fire, climate change, and carbon cycling in the boreal forest (E. S. Kasischke and B. J. Stocks, eds.), 49-65. Ecological Studies 138, Springer-Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg-New York, 461 pp.
Isaev A. S., and Korovin G. N. 2000. Carbon in forests of Northern Eurasia. In: G. A. Zavarzin (ed.) Turnover of Carbon in Territories of Russia, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 63-95 [in Russian]
Korovin, G. N. 1996. Analysis of the distribution of forest fires in Russia. In: Fire in ecosystems of boreal Eurasia (J. G. Goldammer and V. V. Furyaev, eds.), 112-128. Kluwer Academic Publ., Dordrecht, 528 pp.
Kulikov A. I. (ed.). 1998. Forest Fire in the Russian Far East. Report of the WWF Project RU1029. Khabarovsk, 28 pp [in Russian]
Melekhov I. S. 1979. Forest pyrology 2. Moscow Forest Technical Institute, Moscow, 95 pp [in Russian].
Sedykh V. N. 1997. Forests of West Siberia and the oil-gas complex. Ecology, Moscow, 36 pp [in Russian].
Shetinsky, E. A. 1994. Protection of forests and forest pyrology. Ecology, Moscow, 209 pp [in Russian].
Sheshukov, M. A., A. P. Savchenko, and V. V. Peshkov. 1992. Forest fire and their fighting in the North of the Far East. Far Eastern Forestry Research Institute, Khabarovsk, Russia, 95 pp [in Russian].
Shetinsky, E. A., and V. N. Sergeienko (eds.). 1996. Forest Fire Protection (Legislative Acts and Regulations). Federal Forest Service of the Russian Federation, Moscow, Russia, 216 pp [in Russian].
Shostakovich, V. B. 1924. Forest fire in Siberia in 1915. Reports of East Siberian Division of the Russian Geographical Society, Vol. XLVII, Irkutsk, 1-8
Shostakovich, V.B. 1925. Forest conflagration in Siberia. With special reference to the fire of 1915. Journal of Forestry 23, 365-371.
Shvidenko, A., S. Nilsson, R. Dixon, and V. Rojkov. 1995. Burning biomass in the territories of the former Soviet Union: impact on the carbon budget. Idorjaras, Quarterly Journal of the Hungarian Meteorological Service, Vol. 99 (3-4), July-December, 235-255
Shvidenko, A., and S. Nilsson. 2000. Extent, distribution, and ecological role of fire in Russian forests. In: Fire, climate change, and carbon cycling in the boreal forests (E. S. Kasischke, and B. J. Stocks, eds.), 132-150. Ecological Studies 138, Springer-Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg-New York, 461 pp.
Shvidenko, A. Z., S. Nilsson, V. S. Stolbovoi, M. Gluck, D. G. Schepazhenko, and V. A. Rozhkov. 2000. Aggregated estimates of the basic parameters of biological production and the carbon budget of Russian terrestrial ecosystems: 1. Stocks of plant organic mass. Russian Journal of Ecology 31 (6), 371-378.
Stocks, B. J. 1993. Global warming and forest fires in Canada. The Forestry Chronicle 69, 290-293.
SNKh SSSR, 1962; Goskomles SSSR, 1968, 1976, 1986, 1990, 1991, FSFMRF, 1999. Data of the State Forest Account by 1st January of years, respectively, 1961; 1966; 1973; 1978; 1983; 1988; 1993; 1998 [official publications, in Russian].
TACIS (1999, 2000).
Telizin, G. P. 1988. Forest fires, their prevention and extinguishing in Khabarovsk Kray. Far Eastern Forestry Research Institute, Khabarovsk, 95 pp [in Russian].
Valendik, E. N. 1990. Fighting with big forest fires. Nauka Publ., Novosibirsk, Russia, 193 pp [in Russian].


Shvidenko, A., and J. G. Goldammer. 2001. The forest fire situation in Russia. International Forest Fire News No. 24 (in press)


Translations of major forest land-use/land-cover definitions from the “Manual on Forest Inventory and Planning in Forest Fund [sometimes designated Forest Reserve] of Russia”. Volume 1. Organization of Forest Inventory and Planning. Field observations. Approved by the Federal Forest Service of the Russian Federation on December 15, 1994, N 265. Published by VNIIZlesresurs, Moscow, 1995, 175 pp [in Russian]

Comment: Forest Fund is not defined in the Manual cited above. Forest Fund, Forest Lands and Non-Forest Lands are defined by the Russian Forest Code (Articles 7 and 8), but not in a quantitative way. For instance, page 6:

Article 7. The Forest Fund

All forests except of those located on defence lands and the lands of settlements, as well as lands of the Forest Fund not covered with forest vegetation (forest lands and non-forest lands) make up the Forest Fund…

Article 8. Lands of the Forest Fund

The lands of Forest Fund include forest lands and non-forest lands. Forest lands include lands covered by forest vegetation or those not covered by it but intended for its restoration (cutovers, slashes, perished forest stands, open stands [comment: better-sparse forests], wastelands, glades [comment: better-grassy glades and barrens], areas occupied by nurseries, free-growing forest cultures [comment; i.e., forest plantations], and others. Non-forest lands include lands that are part of the forestry system (land occupied by cutlines between forest compartments or blocks, roads, arable lands, and other lands), as well as other lands located within the borders of the Forest Fund (lands occupied by bogs, rocky places, or other lands unsuitable for use.

Manual on Forest Inventory, Page 53


All lands of Forest Fund are divided in two major categories: Forest Lands and Non-Forest Lands. Non-Forest Lands include lands that are not designated, or which are not suitable for forest or shrub growth without preliminary melioration or recultivation. All the rest of the lands are inventoried as Forest Lands, i.e., suitable and designated for forest growth. Forest Lands are divided into following categories:

  • Forested Areas;
  • Non-Stocked Planted Forests [comment: i.e., planted stocked forests, not plantations in the tropical sense];
  • Forest Plantations and Nurseries;
  • Natural Sparse Forests;
  • Unforested Areas. Forested Areas include:

  • lands covered by young stands with a relative stocking of 0.4 and more and stands of other age groups with a relative stocking of 0.3 and more;
  • cutovers, burns and other territories of naturally reforesting Forest Lands, on which the amount and quality of natural regeneration, or young trees, protected under harvest, are corresponding to requirements, developed for conversion of these categories into Forested Areas; areas covered by shrubs in regions where tree species cannot grow due to severe natural and geographical conditions, or where special shrub management is provided. [comment: the definition of closed forests (i.e. Forested Areas) has not been changed after 1961; see, for instance, cl. 152, page 66 of the Manual on Inventory and Survey of Forests of State Meaning of the USSR, Moscow, 1952; approved by the Minister of Forest Management of the USSR on June 29, 1951]

Page 54

…Planted forests of which indicators are not corresponding to the requirements for the conversion of them into Forested Areas, are identified and inventoried as non-stocked planted forests. Natural sparse forests include:

  • stands with a relative stocking of 0.1-0.2 that grow under extreme climatic conditions, where forming stands with higher relative stocking is impossible. … Unforested areas are:

  • presented by areas of Forest Lands on which at the time of the tree and shrub vegetation is absent, which by their relative stocking, canopy closure or amount of regenerated young trees cannot by identified as Forested Areas.

Primary inventory units of Unforested Areas include the following categories:

  • burned areas (burns) – areas on which woody vegetation has been killed by fire;
  • dead stands – areas of dead stands as a result of the damage caused by insects or diseases, natural calamity (blowdown, windfall, snowbreak), atmospheric pollution and other natural or anthropogenic impacts.

Page 55

Cutovers (unregenerated harvested areas) – areas on which stands have been clear cut due to final felling or entire sanitary cuts and natural regeneration on those either is absent or its amount and quality do not correspond to requirements on conversion into Forested Areas.…

Grassy glades and barrens; grassy glades are presented by small unregenerated areas caused by windfall or harvest of a stand due to any negative impact of the local character; barrens include significant by area old harvested areas, burns and others territories with destroyed forest vegetation which was not restored during the period after the previous forest inventory” [comment: the period between two inventories is usually from 10 to 15 (20) years].

Contact addresses:

Anatoly Shvidenko
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
A – 2361 Laxenburg

Fax: ++43-2236-71313
Tel: ++43-2236-807497


Johann G. Goldammer
Editor, IFFN
Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC)
Freiburg, GERMANY


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