Posted: 14.02.2024 16:16:00

Keeping in mind rare species

A new edition of Belarus’ Red Book is being prepared for publication

The current year will be decisive for shaping the direction in our country’s nature protection, with a new edition of Belarus’ Red Book — amended every ten years — currently under development and set to be released in 2025 

European bee-eater    

One step away from disappearing

Preliminary lists of animals and plants in need of special protection as well as brief justifications for why they are given such a status are ready, the National Academy of Sciences stated. There are species that have long been registered in the Red Book as very rare and endangered, but new applicants for inclusion in it have appeared, too. Along with that, some species have been excluded, while a few have changed the conservation category. By the way, not only species that are no longer endangered are removed from the Red Book, but also those that have become completely extinct — the latter are included in the ‘black list’.
It is expected that over 180 species of plants and 210 species of animals will be included in its new edition.

Lady’s-slipper orchid

The botanical picture

Arkady Skuratovich, Senior Researcher at the Laboratory of Flora and Plant Systematics at the V. F. Kuprevich Institute of Experimental Botany of the National Academy of Sciences, told us about ‘plant’ figures, “The main list of vascular plants proposed for protection, although increased by seven new species, in general has decreased by two taxa and will amount to 187 names instead of 189. The list of fungi previously included 34 species, but today we propose to withdraw nine species and replace them with seven species. On the whole, the list will decrease by two species and will amount to 32 taxa instead of 34. The lists of mosses and lichens will change insignificantly — the former will increase by one species (35 taxa instead of 34), the latter will increase by four species (29 taxa instead of 25). We also propose to add 22 species of algae to the new edition of the Red Book instead of 21 in the current one. 
A preliminary list of vascular plants, mosses, algae, lichens and fungi, recommended for inclusion in the Red Book of Belarus, will be posted on the Internet for general information. Everyone will be able to make suggestions for its addition and modification, in which case a justification will be required.

Another habitat

The innovations concern not only the Red Book list, but also, as already noted, changes in their conservation category. For example, the sand leek that is well known to Belarusian gardeners grows wild in our country on a narrow sandy strip along the shores of the Western Dvina. As there are several hydroelectric power plants on this river, the water level has risen and the habitat of this plant has disappeared. The sand leek remained only in the very northeast, near the border with Russia. Therefore, it has been proposed to transfer its conservation status to category I. The rationale for changing the conservation category is different for each species. For example, the lady’s slipper orchid cannot grow in thick forests. Yet, modern forest planting technologies are focused on forcing treatment (competition makes trees grow faster), which makes a suitable habitat for this species disappear. In this regard, we want to transfer the lady’s slipper orchid from category III to category II. Experts recommend adding the bog rush (Juncus stygius L.) to the Red Book — it was previously considered extinct, but was found in several places.

Speckled ground squirrel     Aleksey Stolyarov

Butterflies were put at risk

As for animals, little change is expected in this regard. According to the new list, scientists recommend excluding 11 insect species while including 17, and changing the conservation status for 25 species. In addition, changing the conservation status of two species of fish, excluding one bird species while including three species, and changing the conservation status of five species is under consideration.
As for mammals, it is proposed to include one species and change the conservation status of seven. “There were 203 species of animals in the Red Book. We propose to include 211 species in the next edition,” said Maksim Koloskov, Researcher at the Scientific and Practical Centre for Biological Resources of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. “In particular, it is planned to exclude the stone curlew since this bird has not been registered in Belarus for a long time. Some populations, such as dragonflies and grasshoppers, will be excluded for the opposite reason — they are no longer threatened, their condition is stable, and their numbers are not falling. As for inclusion on the Red Book list, butterflies have undergone the greatest changes here. It is planned to add 12 butterfly species to the new edition. This group is most at risk. Both in our country and in Europe, their habitats are shrinking — meadows, wetlands are overgrown, thus species are disappearing. The general problem of using pesticides has contributed to this situation. Previously, these butterflies were included on the lists of preventive protection, they were studied in detail, negative trends were discovered and today they have been included on the recommended list.”

Outsiders displace

“It is proposed to increase the conservation status of a small fish, the lake minnow, from category III to category I. The species has almost disappeared in Europe, including our country. It has no industrial significance due to its size and used to be quite widespread practically everywhere. The decline in numbers is easily explained — the imported invasive species of another fish, the Amur sleeper, has displaced our native one,” the scientist noted.
It is planned to include the greater noctule bat in the Red Book. This species of bat was discovered about ten years ago, but it was poorly studied, and therefore it did not get into the previous edition. Today, there is enough data about it. However, the species is rare and is only encountered occasionally, mainly in large swamp forests.
Maksim Koloskov reported on the reduction of the conservation status from category III to category IV of the European bee-eater — one of the most brightly coloured birds in Europe. “In recent years, there has been an increase in its number, but it is not long-term, that is why it is too early to completely exclude this species from the Red Book of Belarus,” he explained.
Scientists are planning to exclude 13 animal species from the Red Book, include 21 and change the conservation status of 33species.

Bison      Aleksey Stolyarov

Bears and lynxes: Please do not disturb

Hunters will probably have to be upset — in the next decade, it will not be allowed to shoot either a brown bear or a lynx as these are not planned to be excluded from the list of Red Book animals. Nevertheless, scientists have noted the growth of their populations and changed the protection category — it will be lowered to IV, same as for the European badger. For comparison, the brown bear population was previously assigned category I. Yet, according to experts, this species is still vulnerable.

Grey crane          Ivan Yarivanovich


I — the highest, taxa are endangered, there are very few of them left or their numbers are rapidly decreasing.
II — species have a tendency to decrease in population and/or habitat, as well as there is a forecast for deterioration in status or unfavourable international or European conservation status.
III — vulnerable, at risk of extinction.
IV — have an unfavourable tendency in the surrounding areas or depend on security measures.
By Olga Prolyuk