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Kola Karelian

1931, closed from 1951-1960
Size: 24,447 ha (245 km2)
Buffer Zone: 46, 061 ha (460 km2)

Contact information:
Zheltukhin, Anatoliy Semyonovich, Director

Russia 172513, Tverskaya oblast, Nelidovsky raion, p. Zapovednoye

(7-082-66) 2-24-33, 2-24-20
Email: c_forest@mail.ru

Tsentralno Lesnoy Zapovednic

Tsentralno Lesnoy ZapovednicTsentralno-Lesnoy Zapovednik, located in the Tver Region of European Russia, preserves one of the last expanses of virgin spruce forest in Europe. Animals such as wolf and lynx roam the dense forest of this nature reserve, preying on wild boar, moose, and mountain hare. Brown bears are the most numerous predators in this boreal forest reserve, thanks in part to the efforts of Dr. Pazhetnov, a dedicated biologist who raises bear cubs, orphaned when hunters kill their mothers. Impassable muskeg bogs, which took millions of year to form, remain intact in this wilderness, having dodged the blows of human development over the centuries. Small hummocks of trees surrounded by swampy bogs make ideal nesting sites for large birds like golden eagle and black stork. Bogs and swamps act as a natural filter, purifying water and snowmelt that drain into the West Dvina (Daugava), Dneipr, and Volga river basins. Created in 1931, and dedicated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1985, the Tsentralno-Lesnoy Zapovednik is testimony to how ancient forests and swamps have endured despite growing pressures of modern civilization.

Photo © 1998 Rob Badger

Zapovednik Images
Zapovednik Facts
Articles featuring this nature reserve in Russian Conservation News journal

Articles featuring this nature reserve in Russian Conservation News journal:


Images of Tsentralno-Lesnoy
Click on each photo to see a large version.

© 1998 Rob Badger

Mountain ash takes root under a canopy of spruce.

© 1998
Rob Badger

Mosses, ferns, and low bushes blanket the forest floor.

© 1998
Rob Badger

Muskeg bogs cover 18% of the zapovednik and buffer zone.

© 1998 Rob Badger r

Some spruce trees are several centuries old.

© 1998 Igor Shpilenok

Brown bears thrive in mature spruce forests.


© 1998 Igor Shpilenok

The brilliant fly agaric mushroom is poisonous.

© 1998
Igor Shpilenok

An environmental education trail passes over a muskeg bog.

© 1998 Igor Shpilenok

Virgin spruce stands are found throughout the reserve.

Zapovednik Facts:

The combination of virgin spruce forests and impassable swamps in Tsentralno-Lesnoy Zapovednik provides sanctuary to an abundance of wildlife. In all, 55 species of mammals are found in the reserve; 12 species of predatory mammals reside permanently in the reserve. Predators range from the tiny weasel (Mustela nivalis), which snakes into mouse holes to seize its prey, to the tall and lanky wolf (Canus lupis) whose main menu consists of moose (Alces alces) and wild boar (Sus scrofa). The pine marten weaves in and out of fallen trees searching for small rodents, while the furry raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) travels along rivers and swampy meadows in search of food. The European mink (Mustela lutreola) is specially protected in the reserve's buffer zone, where hunting on the species is prohibited. A population of 16-20 lynx (Felix lynx) inhabits mature forests, hunting mostly at night on mountain hare (Lepus timidus) and rodents. Fish-eating river otters (Lutra lutra) are found in all bodies of water in the reserve.

Brown bears (Ursus arctos) have the largest concentration of any predator in the reserve. As many as 70 bears live in the zapovednik and buffer zone, generally adhering to isolated spruce forests and sometimes clearcuts. Bears make dens among fallen trees and lie dormant until spring, giving birth to cubs in January and February. The bears come out of their dens at the end of March, when they hunt moose and boar to jumpstart their digestive systems. Plants, however, make up the majority of the bear's diet, including berries, grasses, and oats. Bear hunting is popular in Russia, and orphaned bear cubs frequently starve to death when their mothers are killed. In 1976, in affiliation with the Tsentralno-Lesnoy Zapovednik, Dr. Valentin Pazhetnov opened the "Chisty Les" Biological Station to help save orphaned cubs. Since then, Dr. Pazhetnov and his family have taken in more than 100 orphaned bear cubs, raising them until they are strong enough to be released back into the wild.

Scientists have identified 203 species of birds in the zapovednik, 42% of which are European. Nesting birds include 137 species; 42 species are permanent residents. Although 56 species of forest-dwelling birds inhabit the woods, 60% of those found in spruce forests are one of four species: chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), wood warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix), wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), and redbreast (Erithacus rubecula). Other birds found in mixed forests include: chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), goldcrest (Regulus regulus), and willow tit (Parus atricapillus). Muskegs, or bogs, are important nesting and feeding grounds for many birds, such as tree pipit (Anthus trivialis), yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava), and whinchat (Saxicola rubetra). The larger willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus), common crane (Grus grus), and great gray shrike (Lanius excubitor) nest only on muskeg bogs. Open swamps serve as substitute habitat for meadow birds such as common shrike (Gallinago gallinago), northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), and Eurasian curlew (Numenius arquata).

Rare birds like the black stork (Ciconia nigra) and golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) find refuge on islands of trees surrounded by impassable bogs, which serve as their feeding grounds. Greater spotted eagle (Aquila clangra), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), merlin (Falco columbarius), northern hobby (Falco subbuteo), and red-footed falcon (Falco vespertinus) are also found in sphagnum forests near bogs. Capercaille (Tetrao urogallus) use these areas as their mating display grounds (leks); 37 leks are known in the reserve where up to 25 cocks gather to show off their fancy tails, waddling and hopping dance, and rattling song to hens.

A diversity of insects thrives in spruce forests. Over 600 spruce pests alone live in weak, dry, and fallen trees, mainly bark beetles (Ipidaceae) and capricorn beetles (Cerambycidaceae). Of the 250 species of butterflies found in the reserve, the most common are mourning-cloak butterfly (Vanessa antiopa) and peacock butterfly (Vanessa io).


Virgin Norway spruce (Picea abies) dominates the terrain - its dense, multi-layered foliage blocks out much of the light below. In wintertime, snow piles onto the spruce's large green fans, wrapping the trees in snowy blankets. Norway spruce thrives in the cool and moist Northern climate. The complex structure of virgin spruce stands, with varying age groups up to 300 years old, enhances the stability of the ecosystem, allowing natural processes of forest regeneration and increasing resistance to pests. Under the spruce canopy, shade-tolerant trees, ferns, and berries sprout in the dim light over the moss-covered forest floor.

More than a third of the reserve is covered with secondary forests and pioneer species like birch (Betula pendule, B. pubescens), aspen (Populus tremula), and speckled alder (Alnus incana) due to disturbance by fires and windthrow, as well as logging while the zapovednik was closed. Swampy scotch pine stands make up 10% of the reserve, bordering bogs and muskegs, which in turn cover 4% of the core area. Six massive muskeg bogs break up the forested terrain, barren of trees but for a few old, scraggly stems scarcely hanging on in the spongy tangle of lichens and peat moss. Muskegs make up 18% of the zapovednik and buffer zone combined, the largest of which are Katin Mokh and Staroselsky Mokh.

A small number of meadows expose floodplains and river terraces. Black alder swamps (Alnus glutinosa) hug the mouths of rivers in narrow strips. Black alder carrs, woodlands formed over bogs, cover 1% of territory, but have the highest biodiversity, hosting 20% of the plant species. Dark orange water flows from bogs into forest streams, having been steeped in swampy vegetation like tea. Whole swaths of forest are flooded with a deluge of water from melting snow in spring.

In all, there are 546 vascular plants from 280 orders and 87 families in the zapovednik, a mixture of boreal and southern broadleaf forest species. Boreal species include: stub-wort (Oxalis acetosella), beadruby (Majanthemum bifolium), starflower (Trientalis europaea), bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), cowberry (Vaccinium vitus-idaea), and pyrola (Pyrola spp.). Southern broadleaf forest species include: woodrowel (Asperula odorata), lungwort (Pulmonaria obscura), hazelwort (Asarum europaeum), forest sedge (Carex sylvatica), basswood (Tilia cordata), and elm (Ulmus laevis and U. glabra). Two rare plant species, listed in the Russian and IUCN Red Books of rare and endangered species, are the yellow ladies'-slipper (Cypripedium calceolous), which grows singularly and in groups of up to 50 plants, and honesty (Lunaria rediviva), a relict of European broadleaf forests, which grows thickly in the floodplain of the Tyudma River.

Geographical Features

The Tsentralno-Lesnoy Zapovednik is located on the Great Russian Divide between the Volga, West Dvina (Daugava), and Dneipr rivers. Eventually, rivers originating here make their way to three seas: the Baltic Sea (Daugava River), the Black Sea (Dniepr River), and the Caspian Sea (Volga River). The zapovednik is halfway between Moscow and St Petersburg, in the western part of Tverskaya Oblast. The slightly hilly terrain, called the Southwest Valday highlands, has elevations ranging from 220-270 meters above sea level. The area receives an average of 700 mm precipitation annually. Atlantic winds prevail. The maximum summer temperature soars to 38°C, and the minimum winter temperature drops to 48°C below zero. January is the coldest month of the year, with average temperatures of -10°C. July is the warmest month of the year, with average temperatures of +16°C. The skies are overcast and cloudy half the time. Stable snow cover coats the landscape from late November to mid-April, with the maximum snowfall hitting at the end of February.

Poorly drained clays are widespread in the reserve which, together with the flat and low terrain, give rise to swamps and bogs. The bedrock is made of limestone, covered by a thick layer of till (over 40 m), left by three glaciers. Many shallow rivers and creeks flow through the forest into narrow, V-shaped valleys. The Tudovka, Zhukopa, Tyudma rivers drain to the Volga basin, and the Mezha River drains into the Western Dvina basin.

Conservation Status

From the middle ages to the end of the 18th century, the region where the zapovednik is situated today constituted the border of ancient Russia. Later the region became the boundary of the Smolensk, Tver, and Novgorod Provinces, helping it to avoid intense human development, which tended to concentrate around administrative centers. As a result, ancient virgin forests were preserved. There are no major sources of air and water pollution in the region, and the hydrological regime of the bogs acts as a natural water filter.

Logging and wetland drainage outside the zapovednik create problems for conservation in the reserve. Cutting trees close to the border of the reserve, together with the instability of neighboring single-age plantations and drainage of bogs, create unstable environments and affect hydrological and other regimes of zapovednik ecosystems.

Not all of the muskeg bogs are protected in their entirety in the zapovednik. In order to guarantee the ecological integrity of the delicate muskeg ecosystems, which formed over millions of years, the entire area of muskeg bogs around the zapovednik should be granted fully protected status.


Zapovedniks of the USSR: Western European Part of Russia I. Mysl publishing agency, Moscow, 1988.

Brochures with lists of sphagnum mosses, spiders, birds, mammals, and rare plants are available from the zapovednik.

Text compiled and translated by Laura Williams, in part based on materials provided by the zapovednik staff. Reviewed by Tatiana Minaeva of Tsentralno-Lesnoy Zapovednik.

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