The war in Ukraine caused significant damage to forests. Three million hectares of forests were damaged by Russian aggression and need to be restored. Windbreaks (field protection forest plantations) protecting agricultural lands also suffered significant destruction. Therefore, the International Scientific and Practical Conference “Food security and environment in the conditions of war and post-war recovery: challenges for Ukraine and World” dedicated to the 125th anniversary of the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine has been held on May 25, 2023.
In particular, Vasyl Yukhnovskyi, professor of the Forests Restoration and Melioration Department gave a speech “Post-war restoration of the forest component of agro-landscapes with innovative agroforestry”. The speaker noted that the forest component of agro-landscapes was severely damaged by artillery shelling, which caused fires in agro-landscapes, forests and windbreaks, by the construction of fortifications used of wood and other military actions. Therefore, after the war, they will need to be restored.
Unfortunately, during the martial law, it is impossible to accurately establish the volume of field protection plantations damaged by military actions either by ground or remote inventory methods. However, it is possible to roughly predict the area of damage to plantations, taking into account the existing degree of intensity of military operations in certain operational areas, the volume of windbreaks in occupied or liberated territories, the density of the road network, data from satellite images, and other sources of information.
According to statistical data of 2018, in the southeastern regions – Dnipro, Zaporizhia, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk, there are 42.5, 51.9, 33.8, 50.0, 29.0, 31.9 and 30.3 thousand ha of windbreaks, respectively. The area of windbreaks damaged by military actions will be about 2.7 thousand hectares, roughly assuming only 1% of the territory of windbreaks, in which deployment, basing and military operations, took place. The degree of damaged linear plantations is still expected to be established by remote inventory methods using unmanned aerial vehicles or aerial means with preliminary demining of the territories.
It is recommended to restore or replace severely damaged, thinned, inefficient and dying plantations with reconstructive felling, which, depending on the degree of damage, should be carried out by continuous or selective methods. Since usually during military operations the outermost rows are more severely damaged, it is advisable to remove the outermost rows of trees and shrubs. This is also consistent with the goal of reducing the width of the previously established windbreaks to optimal parameters.
During such measures, it is advisable to transform windbreaks into an silvoarable type of agroforestry with the formation of two or three rows. As an example, the speaker cited the experience of using silvoarable agroforestry in EU countries, in particular in Italy.
Reducing the width of the windbreaks has some advantages. First, the width of a windbreak will decrease sharply, almost by half, which will make it possible to free up significant areas for the cultivation of agricultural crops. Secondly, an effective design of the windbreak will be formed in the appropriate natural and climatic zone. Thirdly, during such reconstruction, the windbreaks will be supplemented with new, more valuable tree species that correspond to local growth conditions, adapted to climate changes with a wide range of ecosystem services.
Reconstructive felling and thinning can be used to form an optimal design of windbreaks, namely: a blown one for the Forest-Steppe zone and an sieve-looked one for the Steppe.
Restoration of windbreaks with innovative agroforestry is carried out by planting seedlings, saplings or sowing seeds of tree species and bushes, as well as natural restoration on the spot of destroyed plantations after their felling
Thus, the destruction of both wood and windbreaks systems as a result of the war in Ukraine should lead to revisions in forest management that will help forest ecosystems better cope with climate change, maintain biodiversity, and strengthen ecosystem services. A more diverse mosaic of agroforestry systems should replace the damaged windbreaks. New agroforestry systems will be less vulnerable to intense fires, more stable, with high amelioration properties.
Conference participants were interested in the development of agroforestry in Ukraine, legal aspects of windbreaks, the introduction of alien species, etc. The speaker noted that agroforestry provides many benefits and ecosystem services. The World Bank estimates that 1.2 billion people use agroforestry practices, and according to the European Agroforestry Federation (EURAF) by 2025, 50% of farmers will use agroforestry systems. EURAF has also set itself an extremely ambitious mission – 10% of tree cover on all agricultural lands in Europe by 2040, which farmers and agroforesters must implement.
Ukrainian agroforesters will not stay away from this event to increase the ecological and economic potential of the current agricultural landscapes.
Oleksandr Sovakov, Associate Professor