EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Russia’s New Forests. Controversies around the Future of Abandoned Farmland

Alexander Vorbrugg
Alexander Vorbrugg
  • Institute of Geography, Univeresity of Bern, Switzerland

Trees have regrown on dozens of million hectares of abandoned farmland in Russia over the past decades. So far, their status has remained largely informal, but recent propositions to formalize forests and forestry on abandoned farmland spurred legislatorial processes and political controversies. Besides a large-scale but unplanned and unstable forest transition over the past decades, there are now propositions to actively develop “new forests” on abandoned farmland.

After introducing characteristics and implications of the ‘informal’ forest transition to date, I discuss how “new forests” have become a new object of political controversy but also future possibility. I show how certain “new forest” models go along with a reframing of abandoned farmland, long associated with loss and degradation, into a future-oriented vision with ecological, social, and economic benefits. The reduction of pressure on primary forests is one such potential benefit, opening up possibilities for new forestry models another one. I also discuss some of the (potentially) problematic implications of these models, such as the bracketing of local knowledge and needs, or companies’ rising interest in reforestation as a means to ‘greenwash’ emission-intensive businesses by carbon offsetting. In methodical terms, I discuss how studying new forests as a socio-natural entitiy in the making offers opportunities for original interdisciplinary collaboration.

How to cite: Vorbrugg, A.: Russia’s New Forests. Controversies around the Future of Abandoned Farmland, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-8190,, 2022.