The island flora of Peter the Great Bay had
attracted the attention of botanists ever since the time of Russian exploration
of Ussuri Region. The first to collect said island flora was K. I. Maximovicz,
who in 1860 visited the suburbs of Vladivostok and Russky Island. In 1861,
F. B. Schmidt gathered collections on Russky Island, and in the early 1880s
M. I. Yankovsky (1881) collected a herbarium of vascular plant on Askold
Island. V. L.Komarov used the materials of those and other pioneer researchers
in writing his “Floras of Manchuria” (1901-1907), and also his celebrated
work “Vegetation Types of Southern Ussuri Region” (Komarov, 1917). We also
know the names of over ninety collectors, who had one time contributed
to the study of the vascular flora of the islands of Peter the Great Bay.
At present the islands are classified into preserve ones, i.e. those included in the Far East National Marine Sanctuary (organized in 1978), and inhabited ones or those involved in some form of economic activity or tourism (Russky, Popov, Putyatin, Reineke, Rikorda, Askold and other islands).
Island vegetation is characterized by forests derived from cedar—broad-leaved forests, preferentially oak forests on slopes and larchwood forests in valleys, and also by considerable diversity of lime forests; park forests commonly grow on slopes, and dense thickets, not infrequently pressed to rocks, on coastal cliffs and in the surf zone.
The island vegetation differs quite substantially from the continental cover. Highly peculiar yew communities, creeping Machurian apple-tree forests, and oak groves with underbrush from coastal-marine Rosa rugosa Thunb. Have been revealed here; again, species with no significant role on the continent may be dominant on islands. Unique plant communities, e.g. meadow-bog communities with dimeria near the seacoast have been revealed in Putyatin and Russky Islands.
The peculiarity of insular ecosystems is multidimensional: the vegetative communities lack some elements (as compared with their continental analogs), the tiers are combined unusually, the edificators and dominants of the vegetation cover are not common to the continent, and the life forms and seasonal development rhythms are unique. The islands attract the attention of botanists precisely because they present a natural experiment per se.
The islands are a storage of standards of unique plant communities, specific floras and unique populations. For instance, standard communities of linden groves were described from Bolshoi Pelis Island, and linden forests from the Sanctuary islands represent in themselves rare communities in Southern Primorye. Their insular location causes the specific floristic composition and specific involvement of some species in composing various communities. The coastal marine thyme groves and the gmelin-Artemisia groves on sea terrace slopes are also unique, as are populations of Arisema (on Matveev Island), Symplocarbus renifolius Schott ex Tzvel. (on Popov Island) and the coastal-marine populations of Papaver anomalum Fedde.
The water-bog complex is diversely represented on Putyatin Island. Steppe flora elements on Reineke, Askold and other islands present exclusive interest.
Some representatives of regional and even Russian flora are known only in those islands, e.g. Centunculus minimus L., Pycreus polystachyos (Rottb.) Beauv., Tucrium veronicoides Maxim, etc.
A highly rare endemic Gramineae species, Dimeria neglecta Tzvel., grows in Putyatin and Russky Islands. It has been entered in Red Books of all levels, and it fully develops during 2-3 months (during the period of monsoon rains). This plant grows on quagmires and boggy meadows to appear near the seacoast. Together with Eriocaulon spp. and Rhynchospora spp. Dimeria is included in the composition of original bog meadow communities. N. A. Desulavi collected it for the first time on Russky Island in 1922, and nobody found it again for fifty years. Dimeria was discovered again only in 1982, but this time on Putyatin Island, and only later it was “rediscovered” on Russky. Dimeria is still unknown in preserved islands. Further quests have led to its finds in three sites of the continental coast.
A whole number of species were described from islands of Peter the Great Bay; hence, their classical habitats are there.
A comparative analysis of the vegetative cover of continents and islands is a special branch of investigation, which has been developing intensely over the past decades to affect both the theory of sanctuary management and the practice of nature management and protection.
A joint monograph by Probatova, Seledets, Nedoluzhko and Pavlova: Daljnauka, in press) titled “Vascular Plants from Islands of Peter the Great Bay, Sea of Japan” characterizes the natural conditions on the islands and their vegetative cover. For the first time, it offers a Conspectus of vascular plants from those islands, including islands from the Far East Marine Sanctuary (Composite list for each of the thirty islands); 1,162 species from 501 genera and 130 families represent the taxonomic composition of the island flora; this is virtually one half of the specific composition of vascular flora of Primorye. Two hundred and eighty one species were registered on one island alone. The chromosome numbers were examined in 204 insular species. The insular flora was found to undergo adventitia, but also in peculiar manner; the phenomenon of total naturalization on Reineke Island of the adventitious North American species, Rudbeccia biflora, presently prevalent in many island herbaceous communities, was a highly interesting development. Valuable nature protection objects were revealed, and natural monuments proposed in unprotected islands. A nature-protection classification of classical localities of plant taxa was developed, and cultural and historical features were used to indicate their value as a special class of nature-protection objects and the role of corresponding taxa in preserving biological diversity.
Protected on islands included in the Far East National Marine Sanctuary are 795 species, but over one-third of vascular plants of all those growing on the islands of Peter the Great Bay (and even many genera) remain unprotected.
Already numerous groups of vascular plants have shown our assumption, initially based on Gramineae (Probatova, 1993; Probatova, 1995) that the zone adjoining the North Pacific, namely at the abutment of the Great Ocean and the Asian continent, is a historical range of specific formation. This is especially characteristic of groups initially associated with arid habitats. The islands of Peter the Great Bay, where two groups of vascular plant species (East Asia forest and North Pacific coastal marine species) are distinguished, and where the conditions of the sanctuary regime highly differ owing to substantial man-made pressing, may and must be the range for studying this process. We believe that a number of insular taxa novel to science may be described in the near future.
The islands provide an opportunity to study a broad range of socio-economic and ecological issues to devise special seacoast nature management, recreational utilization, and monitoring. The islands of Peter the Great Bay allow to examine in extreme conditions different versions of nature management and different nature protection systems.
N. PROBATOVA, Institute
of Biology and Soil Science, Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences.