Ukraine’s Biosphere Reserves – Part One

Seven of Ukraine’s protected areas are listed with UNESCO as Biosphere Reserves, as they meet the criteria of balancing conservation with sustainable use in line with the organization’s Man and the Biosphere Program founded in 1971. These reserves – Askaniya-Nova, Carpathian, Danube Delta, Chernomorskiy, Desnianskyi, East Carpathians and Shatskyi – each have their own special features, and all are worth exploring when visiting Ukraine.

Located in Kherson Oblast, the Askaniya-Nova Biosphere Reserve was Ukraine’s first steppe reserve (created in 1888) and is home to the world’s largest captive group of Przewalski’s Horses. These beautiful wild horses (Equus ferus) roam the thirty square kilometer steppes region of the reserve, having been brought back from the brink of extinction through the efforts of conservationists. The reserve is also home to a host of animal species, including bison, llamas, zebras, antelopes and a variety of birds. Within the biosphere reserve there are six villages housing up to 10,000 people, the majority of whom make their living out of agriculture and animal husbandry. Askaniya-Nova receives thousands of visitors each year and tourism is essential to the economy of the area.

Established in 1968, the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve was included in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1992. The reserve includes the Chorna Hora and Yulivska Hora botanic preserves, with most of the 57,880 hectare reserves covered by oak and beech forests. The flora in the reserve is diverse and plentiful, including hundreds of species of fungi, moss and lichen – all indicators of the purity of the environment – as well as more than a thousand species of flowering plants, ferns and conifers. The spectacular terrain of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve is home to a wide variety of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds and invertebrates, many of which are listed in the Ukrainian Red Data Book of endangered or threatened species.

Situated on the northern coast of the Black Sea, the Chernomorskiy Biosphere Reserve features inland wetlands, marshes, shallow coastal bays, dunes, and coastal and forest steppes, which provide habitats for a fascinating variety of flora and fauna. Birding enthusiasts will appreciate the rich and varied birdlife in the reserve and a nature museum offers educational activities to visitors of all ages.

The remaining four Biosphere Reserves of Ukraine are reviewed in Part Two.