Russia is home to world's largest forest area but logging and climate change are causing woodland to disappear at a rapid pace. Activist Marianna Muntianu is fighting back by with trees and mobile technology.
Smoke, ash and tree stumps — this is what Marianna Muntianu remembers was left of her home region in Kostroma, western Russia, following huge wildfires in 2010. It was a decisive moment that would shape her future. Instead of pursuing a career in finance, she joined the Russia environmental group, ECA, to plant trees.
With almost half of its territory covered in trees, Russia is home to the largest forested area in the world, even ahead of Brazil. But the country's forests are disappearing. Wildfires alone wipe out around 3 million hectares (7,413,161 acres) of forest annually, according to WWF Russia.
Muntianu previously worked to protect Russia's woodlands with the "Plant the Forest"project. The young environmentalist says together with volunteers she has restored the equivalent of 1,350 football fields in 24 Russian regions. Now she runs her own "Russian Climate Fund" and aims to plant 1 billion trees by 2030.
Planting goes beyond placing seedlings in the soil. The goal is to educate people, so they care about the environment, and technology is one way to get to them. Muntianu and her team launched the mobile game "Plant the Forest" to help make virtual trees a reality. Players learn how forests work and how they can be restored, while the income generated from the game goes toward reforestation.
In 2019, this innovative approach earned the 31-year-old the UN "Young Champions of the Earth" prize, which is awarded to seven environmentalists each year.
A film by Tatiana Kondratenko