Ukraine has designated two new Wetlands of International Importance, and now boasts 39 Ramsar Sites.
Located between the Stokhid, Prypiat and Styr rivers, Byle Lake and Koza Berezyna Mire (Ramsar Site no. 2281) includes an extensive eutrophic and mesotrophic bog area, a deep oligotrophic karst lake, swamp forests, pine woods and a small channelled river flowing across the bog. Byle Lake is one of the biggest karst lakes of the Polesia Region. Koza Berezyna Mire was formed in a glacial valley and is an important habitat for glacial relict plant species such as Salix lapponum and Vaccinium macrocarpum.
The Site is very important for the conservation of the rare flora and fauna of the region: over 900 native plant species and nearly 500 animal species have been recorded there, a number of them nationally red-listed. The Site is an important breeding habitat for wetland-dependent birds including the nationally endangered western capercaillie Tetrao urogallus as well as the common crane Grus grus, black stork Ciconia nigra and common goldeneye Bucephala clangula.
The wetland complex plays an important role in the maintenance of hydrological regimes of the central part of Western Polesia, in addition to carbon storage and climate regulation. Its ecological character depends on the cooperation of local communities, who collect berries and mushrooms on the Site for selling. Traditional recreational activities are concentrated around Byle Lake. The main threats affecting the ecological character of the Site relate to droughts. Since 2006, the Rivnensky Nature Reserve , of which the Ramsar Site is part, has an ecological and education centre and organizes annual events focused on the importance of environmental conservation and the value of wetlands and the Site.
Archipelago Velyki and Mali Kuchugury (Site no. 2282) consists of an archipelago of sandbank islands (“big” and “small” Kuchugury), as well as the surrounding shallows in the upper reaches of the Kakhovka Reservoir in the floodplain of the Lower Dnieper (Dnipro) River in south-eastern Ukraine. It is an important nesting location for wetland bird communities; the shallow waters with rich benthos and good protection from the wind and storms are attractive to birds during moulting periods and seasonal migrations. During the autumn migration up to 30,000 waterfowl individuals have been observed. 156 bird species , 18 mammal, 54 fish, 867 insect, 163 plant, 14 alga and 16 fungus species have been recorded. A ridge of sand dunes, which are the largest location of the endemic Centaurea konkae, helps to protect the plant diversity.
The Site is valuable as a reproduction site for the development of fish stocks throughout the Kakhovka Reservoir, and so the state of the wetland also influences the status of many game fish species. The wetland is of great importance as a natural filter of fresh water within the Reservoir. In this shallow part of the Reservoir, water is extracted for agricultural irrigation and also as a drinking water resource.