Moscow, the capital of Russia, is also the nation's most populous city. However, simply because it's an urban center with a large population does not mean that the city and the immediate area are devoid of nature and wildlife. The Moscow region is in a mixed forest area, which means that it is rich in flora and fauna, especially as one moves away from the densest areas of the city and into the suburbs and rural areas surrounding the capital.
Moscow's position in the center of the country means that it lies between ecosystems that exist in Russia's north and south. The city and its surrounding region fall into a band of mixed forest approximately 500 kilometers wide. This means that broad-leaf birch and other warmer-weather, deciduous trees mix with the vegetation of the taiga, including the northern pine, fir, and spruce trees, which dominate in the north until the barren tundra. Willows and larch trees also grow in abundance around Moscow.
Like any large city, the center of Moscow does not have many large animals, but the Elk Island National Nature Park sits just on the boundary of the city and its northwestern suburbs, meaning that wildlife thrives close to the capital. More than 200 animal species make their home in the park, including wild boar, dappled and roe deer and elk, along with beavers and otters that live in the area's waterways. Area birds include partridges, pheasants and egrets.
The park's Alexeev Copse is also home to 200-year-old pine trees and spruce trees as old as 170 years. Eighty-five percent of the area is forested.
Moscow's plants and animals depend on a healthy environment. Naturally, given Moscow's status as a political and economic powerhouse, the city's population is growing, which means a larger population pushing into the surrounding areas and greater industrial activity, both of which can have a negative effect on the environment and the species that live within it. However, the government is making efforts to protect its natural resources. Approximately 17,700 hectares of Moscow territory enjoy special protection, and the city hopes to increase that amount to 24,800 hectares, or a full 20% of its total area, by the year 2020.
Increasing public awareness and corporate responsibility, including greener technologies, are encouraging signs as well. Still, decreasing government regulation is a concern, while growing demand for land and natural resources mean that the future of Moscow's natural habitats and flora and fauna continue to be in question.