3 main impacts of the war on ecosystem/biodiversity

Photo: Efrem Lukatsky

Fact-sheet as of August 2022

Ukraine authorities estimate that due to Russia’s military aggression, 900 protected natural areas of Ukraine have been affected and an estimated 1.2 million hectares, or about 30% of all protected areas of Ukraine, suffer from the effects of war. 

 Pollution caused directly by hostilities and weapon waste
  • Since the first days of the war, Russian aggression has been focused on the destruction of fuel warehouses. More than 40 oil depots and storage facilities, 200 industrial facilities, bunker and merchant ships with a supply of fuel and weapons on board were attacked. For example, the Russian military hit an oil depot with a ballistic missile in Vasylkiv district of the Kyiv region, and the explosion of the oil depot in Borodyanka.
  • Serious negative impacts are inevitably arising from the use of weaponry which can bring acute and long-term environmental health impacts, changes of the quantity of microelements in soil ecosystems and marine ecosystems, a decrease in the number of microorganisms, plankton and, as a result, a loss of biodiversity.
Wildfires caused by hostilities
  • The State Ecological Inspectorate calculated that the amount of damage caused by the criminal actions of the occupiers amounts to more than UAH 3.4 billion. According  to the State Agency of Forest Resources of Ukraine, the fires have already affected 6460.4 thousand hectares.
  • More than 10 000 hectares of forests burned in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone due to hostilities, 31 fires have been recorded, causing an increased level of radioactive air pollution.
  • At the end of March, airstrikes and missile attacks on forest areas of the Chernihiv Military Forestry State Enterprise damaged more than 400 hectares of forest. A large-scale fire broke out in the Dnipro Wetlands near the city of Kherson that is a part of the Nizhnyodniprovsky National Nature Park, which is temporarily occupied by Russian troops.
  • Due to the actions of the occupiers, it is impossible to ensure the extinguishing of a large-scale fire on the protected Kinburn Spit (National Nature Park ‘Biloberezhzhia Sviatoslava’). The most difficult situation is in the Kherson region – 4484.6 thousand hectares were affected by fires. In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, due to continuous hostilities fires are burning in 2-3 rounds at the sites of forest fires that happened in 2020.
  • According to the NASA satellite systems data, there were at least 37 867 fires recorded in the hostilities zone during 4 months of the war. The area of ​​Ukraine covered by fires was 100 662 hectares (1 006 sq. km). Fires destroyed 36 154 hectares of forests and 10 250 hectares of grassland ecosystems.
Impact on species
  • According to the employees of the National Nature Park ‘Tuzly Lagoons’ the death of dolphins due to the actions of Russian warships near the shores of Odesa have been recorded. More than 200 bombs hit the lagoons, disturbing water birds such as avocets and Dalmatian pelicans during critical migration and nesting periods.
  • In the protected area of the Velykyi Luh National Nature Park, enemy vehicles destroyed a significant number of bulbocodium (Bulbocodium versicolor), listed in the Red Data Book of Ukraine. Experts prognose that 20 species of plants may disappear due to Russia’s war in Ukraine.