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Location Belarus, Gomel
Central coordinates 29o 54.00' East  51o 38.00' North
IBA criteria A1, B2, B3
Area 218,318 ha
Altitude
Year of IBA assessment 2005

Akhova Ptushak Belarusi



Site description The site is located within the 30-km exclusion zone, established after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant explosion in 1986, which closed all access and economic activities. About one third of the area is Pripyat floodplain, characterized by prolonged spring floods. Before the Chernobyl disaster, most of the forest-free areas were drained wetlands used for agriculture. After the explosion, all the drainage canals were closed to prevent fires. This resulted in the re-naturalization of large wetland areas. Abandoned villages, industrial and cattle-breeding enterprises retain thickets of so-called escape plants and contribute to the wide proliferation of synanthropic weeds. Indigenous wild plants, however, are also proliferating fast. This, combined with half-destroyed buildings, creates a very specific habitat and encourages the development of a unique wildlife assemblage.

Key Biodiversity The complete withdrawal of economic activities and no human disturbance, coupled with the wetland re-naturalization, has improved habitats rapidly and there has been a proliferation of several rare animal species. Today the exclusion zone is known to host a breeding group of Greater Spotted Eagle. Numbers of other rare bird species have also grown: Black Stork, Short-toed Eagle, Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Spotted Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Hobby, and Kestrel. The sandy dunes are probably the last and the only breeding ground of the Stone-curlew, a species that is disappearing from Belarus. The Pripyat floodplain within the zone hosts the largest Belarusian breeding group of Ortolan Bunting (on steppe-like meadows) and Lesser Grey Shrike (in the vicinity of abandoned dwellings). The population density of Great Grey Shrike is also quite high. Today the exclusion zone serves as an important wintering ground for the largest Belarusian populations of White-tailed Eagle (40-60 birds) and Golden Eagle (5-10 birds).In early spring the flooded areas host large populations of migrating geese and ducks. In some years, concentrations of Great White Egret and Black Stork have been recorded in summer. Displaying Great Snipe have been recorded here increasingly often in the last several years.

Non-bird biodiversity: The absence of people defines high densities of ungulates (Wild Boar Sus scrofa, Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus, and Elk Alces alces) and Wolves. Numbers of some smaller terrestrial predators (Fox Vulpes vulpes, Raccoon Dog Nyctereutes procyonoides, and Stone Marten Martes foina) on the territory of the Zapovednik have also grown. Some National Red Data Book species can also be encountered here, including Badger Meles meles, Lynx Felis linx, and Common Dormouse Muscardinus avellaris. In 1995 European Bison Bison bonasus was introduced here. At present these animals live here freely.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Black Stork Ciconia nigra breeding  2000  30-50 breeding pairs  good  B2  Least Concern 
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga breeding  2000  3-5 breeding pairs  good  A1  Vulnerable 
Short-toed Snake-eagle Circaetus gallicus breeding  2000  10-15 breeding pairs  good  B2  Least Concern 
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus breeding  2000  40-60 breeding pairs  good  B3  Least Concern 
White-tailed Sea-eagle Haliaeetus albicilla breeding  2000  8-10 breeding pairs  good  A1  Least Concern 
Lesser Spotted Eagle Clanga pomarina breeding  2004  30 breeding pairs  good  B2  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Polesski Radio-ecological Zapovednik 211,500 protected area contains site 52,350  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland) Fens, transition mires and springs; Rivers and streams; Standing freshwater  40%
Forest Alluvial and very wet forest; Broadleaved deciduous woodland; Mixed woodland; Native coniferous woodland  30%
Grassland Humid grasslands; Steppes and dry calcareous grassland  20%
Artificial - terrestrial   6%
Other   4%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 100%
Notes: The site is located within the 30-km exclusion zone, established after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant explosion in 1986, which closed all access and economic activities.

Protection status National Conservation Status: Polesie Radio-Ecological Zapovednik. International Conservation Status: Potential IBA.Potential Ramsar site.

References A.Kozulin, L.Vergeichik, M.Nikiforov and others. Treasures of Belarusian nature.- Minsk, 2002. -160 p.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Polesie Reserve. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/12/2014

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