Presentation of West Polesie Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (Belarus/Poland/Ukraine)1

Alicja Breymeyer

The proposed Transboundary West Polesie Biosphere Reserve is located at the crossing of the Bug and Prypiat Rivers Valleys which are ecological corridors of a strategic value and all-European meaning: Valley of the Bug River runs South-North along Polish and European Union eastern border and one of the largest European swamp-lake-forest complexes (different kinds of wetlands). West Polesie Biosphere Reserve is located in the Central European Biogeographical Region: the Polish portion of the Reserve nearly covers the entire region of Łęczyńsko-Włodawski Lake District; West PolesieTBR is located in an ecotone zone of two biomes: boreal coniferous forest and temperate zone deciduous forest, with the majority being boreal coniferous forests. This is the only region in Poland's Lake District, which was not covered by the last glaciation. The Ukrainian portion belongs to Yotynske Polesie, Shatsk Landscape Region. The Ukrainian and Belarusian parts meet along Valley of Prypiat River running to the East. The whole Region is characterised by a great number of lakes (62 in Poland and 28 in Ukraine) mires, meadows, swamp and lake complexes with peculiar flora and fauna, including a number o rare and endangered species from the 3 countries Red Books and international Red Lists: it is the main distribution area of the World-wide endangered bird Aquatic warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola), also breeding place for European endangered birds like Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis), Cranes (Grus grus) and others. The area is considered to be an important cross-point of migratory birds. The north-south flyways (migratory birds' passage) and east-west latitudinal migration of birds meet in the Western Polesie. Therefore the entire  region has a high importance for birds as resting place during the migration period. Because of complicated history, the political boundaries moving West-East and East- West and strong influences from both directions, the Polesie Region was a melting pot of different cultures, nationalities and religions such as Roman Catholic, Orthodoxian, and Judaism. The collection of churches of all those religions belongs to great attractions of the region. Some of those churches were built by presently not existing populations - one example are the Uniate Churches, the other the synagogues abandoned because of dramatic extermination of thousands of local Jews:killed in Sobibor Death Camp. The area represents and protects a unique landscapes and traditions on the cultural edge of both, Eastern and Western Europe The dominating economic functions of this area are agriculture, nature tourism, and agrotourism, weekend recreation, as well as a sustainable forestry and fishing. A low population, a large range of forests, plus a very low level of environmental pollution allows for the production of healthy foods and recreation in a naturally rich environment. In rural areas there are many examples of traditional wooden architecture, which is characteristic of the Polesie region. There are interesting cultural and folklore initiatives still undertaken here. In 1993 the Euroregion Bug was formed to strengthen economic, cultural and environmental cooperation. When all the above features are recognized, this area can be an object of interest for scientists and tourists from alI over Europe. In the transition zone of the West Polesie Biosphere Reserve there are the cities: Wtodawa, Shatsk, Parczew, and Lęczna. Ail of them have interesting monuments and local cultural traditions. These cities may become service centres for the entire WP-TBR as they have excellent features for providing this type of service. The area of Transboundary West Polesie Biosphere Reserve has been and is still utilized for many scientific research programs, especially in the geomorphology, hydrology, hydrobiology, soil sciences, phyto-sociology, geo-botany, animal ecology, land and water ecosystems ecology, landscape ecology, nature protection and management. Numerous projects, summer schools, dissertations are based on WP-TBR collections and studies. Students from Lublin, Lviv, Kiev, Minsk Universities are involved in these projects. Special attention is paid to the creation and distribution of the information-enlightening data about West Polesie Biosphere Reserve, its tasks and possibilities, in particular using the existing materials and also to contribute into the development of exchange of information on the borderland. Also special attention is paid to the involvement of youth, students and schoolchildren into the nature protection events and to conducting ecological educational work among them; the well organized Society of Polesie Friends with headquarter in Wtodawa town is active between local students and children organizing the excursions, holidays, celebrations etc. Between 1992-1996, in the Polish part of the BR, a pioneering programme for the renaturalization of drained water-moor ecosystems was conducted with the monitoring of landscapes, ecosystems and species. Poleski National Park has a Museum & Education Centre, in the towns Łęczna and Włodawa, there are interesting regional museums, precious Jewish artefacts are displayed there. Already existing at the park are a meteorological station and a system of stations for monitoring forest ecosystems, as well. A network of points for monitoring water conditions is currently being organised. To assist in integrating the local community around the nature preservation together with sustainable development of the region, and for promoting the goals and activities of the West Polesie Biosphere Reserve, Poleskie Association was formed in 1999 by local proecological organisations in Włodawa. Ukrainian part of the Reserve is represented by region of Shatsk lakes area, the territory of realization of many research projects. Scientists, scientific and educational organizations of cities Lviv (900 thousand inhabitants), Lutsk (400 thousand inhabitants) and capital of Ukraine - Kyiv (Kiev), play leading role in conducting of investigations in this area. Such non-governmental organizations as Polesie Society and Society of Lion (in Lviv) play the important role in development of the Reserve. The structure of land protection and use in the BRs contains 3 separate zones: core, buffer, and transition (Table 1). The Polish (West Polesie) and Ukrainian (Shatski) parts of TBR were accepted by UNESCOin April 2002 as the separate parts. UNESCO ICC Bureau stopped the creation of 2-parts TBRand decided, that we should wait for creation of the third, Belarusian part of TBR. Belarusian part was created as Pribuzskoe Polesie BR and was accepted by UNESCO in October 2004. The common application for three-national Transborder Biosphere Reserve was prepared in 2006,(corrected by MAB Committee of Poland after Secretariat review) and submitted to UNESCO in May 2007. After positive evaluation by ICC Advisory Committee it was stopped by MAB Bureau to the time when we get the official agreement of three Governments involved.

1 This is a summary of the West Polesie characteristics based on Nomination Form prepared in Warsaw, Kiev, Minsk by National UNESCO-MAB Committees and introduced to UNESCO in May 2007 Nomination, form Authors and consultants are: Prof. drTetyana Andrienko, Prof, dr Alicja Breymeyer, Dr Pavlo Cherinko, Prof.drTadeusz Chmielewski, Prof.dr Yakiv Didukh, Dr Roman Dziedzic. Dr Lucjan Gazda, Dr Marian Harasimiuk, Mr Andriy Gorun, Dr Janusz Holuk, Dr Arkadiusz Iwaniuk, Dr Magdalena Kamola, Dr Bogustaw M. Kaszewski, Dr Mykola Klestov, Mr Janusz Kusmierczyk, Mr Vasyl Mateychyk, Prof.dr Zdzislaw Michalczyk, Dr Grygoriy Parchuk, Dr Dariusz Piasecki, Dr Tetyana Poltoracka, Prof. Dr Stanisław Radwan, Doc. Andrzej Różycki, Mr Mykola Setsenko, Mrs Beata Sielewicz, Dr Pavlo Yashchenko, Ms Danuta Urban, Mr Yuryi Yoznyi, Mr Janusz Wójciak.

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