Landscapes of the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone

The Chornobyl Exclusion Zone (ChEZ) is located within the physical and geographical area of the Kiev Polissia of the Polissia lowlands of the East European Plain.

The ChEZ relief is characterized by the general decline in the eastern direction, by the presence of moraine and outwash, moraine and hilly and outwash plains and by the prevailing heights of 115-140 m above the sea level with the maximum elevation of 160 m in the northwestern and central parts.

The largest rivers in the Pripyat and Uzh regions have wide, up to 5-7 km floodplain lowlands with the marked above the flood plain terraces. In addition, the entire territory is covered by a network of the small watercourses (the rivers: Sakhan, Bragynka, Illia, Grezlia, Veresnia), on the southeastern outskirts there is an upper reach of the Kiev reservoir of the Dnieper River. Until 2014 in the very center of the ChEZ there was a large Chornobyl NPP cooling water pond (22 km2), which is currently in the stage of decommissioning (drainage) with the return to the status of a small floodplain reservoir. In addition, there are many other small reservoirs of the glacial origin and several lakes of artificial origin (formerly peat digging) at the ChEZ territory.

The nature of the relief and the high level of the groundwater caused, in the past, waterlogging of a large area of the land. Due to the developed network of the reclamation channels (some of which were built in XIX century), the swamps occupy no more than 2-3% of the total area, but in the last 30 years as a result of the cessation of reclamation work and activity of animals, there is a gradual restoration of waterlogging.

At the ChEZ territory there are remains of the deciduous forests, which in the past dominated at the considerable area of the European continent, and now they are very fragmented. Such lands retain the potential for the spontaneous reproduction of the natural mosaic-tiered structure of the phytocoenoses, and at the same time of the boreal fauna, where forestry and agricultural activities are carried out.

Being predominantly forest, the ChEZ is characterized by eight types of landscapes, a large number of wetlands and meadow lands, about 30 types of forest vegetation, 23 upland and 7 aquatic phytocomplexes, 12 upland and 8 aquatic zoocomplexes. All this ensures a stable, absolutely natural and independent development of all kinds of flora and fauna, including those with the large individual sites (predatory birds and animals), provides opportunities for the reproduction of the components (species, communities) and relations existed in Polissia hundreds of years ago, and which are impossible on the lands where a man lives.

This natural reservation plays an important role both in conservation and maintenance of the species that grow and reproduce here, as well as of the migrant species. The region is crosses by the large migratory routes of birds flying from the north and east of the Europe to the south and west. In addition to conserving and enhancing of biodiversity, the forest and wetlands of the region contribute to the carbon cycle and improvement of the climate on the Earth.