Distribution of basic vegetation

       Primorye Territory (hereinafter referred to as Primorye) is situated in Russias extreme southeast, extending along the Japan Sea coast from the southwest to the southeast for almost 900 km to occupy approximately 400 km latitudinally. Primorye is over 160 thousand square kilometers in area, which is mostly occupied by the Sikhote Alin mountain system with small altitudes hardly exceeding 2,000 m, and within Primorye ranging from 1,750 to 1,950 m. The average altitude of most of the main watershed is from 800 to 1,000 m. East Manchurian mountain spurs with peaks of from 800 to 900 m and average altitude of ca. 400 m wedge from the west into the southern part of Primorye. From the Sikhote Alin Mountain system, they are separated by the southern part of the Suifun-Hanka plain.
   In the past, Primorye never experienced surface glaciation. This circumstance plus its specific geographic location and climatic features essentially determine the diversity of the plant kingdom both on specific and cenotic levels and the abundance of vegetation resources, so unique for Russia and this section of the northwest Pacific.
   The flora of Primorye includes over two thousand higher plant species, of which about 250 species are trees, shrubs and ligneous lianas. The moss and lichen flora is very diverse. Primorye flora also includes numerous valuable remedial, commercial and food plants, and quite a few relict and endemic species. About 200 species have been entered in various Red Books as rare and endangered species because of their outstanding remedial properties.  The abundance of flora, the uniqueness of the climate at the abutment of Eurasia and the Pacific, the broad amplitude of ecotypesfrom mountain peaks to wide river valleys of Primoryes flatland create conditions for existence of highly diverse vegetation and, often, exotic combinations of its elements. Already in the last century, the Russian explorer Przhevalsky noted that in Primorye southern lianas entangle northern spruces. Equally unusual are combinations in the same phytocenosis of the northern larchwood and oak or cedar, the presence under 42-43o of bogged open larch trees outwardly and floristically resembling the sparse larch forests growing on bogs (mari) in the northern areas of Russias Far East.
 The distribution of vegetation on the territory of Primorye is generally subject to common regularities of latitudinal distribution of natural events. Sikhote Alin represents typically medium-altitude mountains. Yet, despite the relatively small altitudes, the upper forest boundary (UFB) is clearly pronounced on its outstanding peaks. The UFBs  altitudinal position depends on remoteness of the peaks from the sea, massiveness of the mountain structure (connection) and latitude. In southern Sikhote Alin, the UFB on the average passes over coastal peaks at an altitude of about 1,500 m, over continental macroslope peaks remote from the sea at an altitude of 1,500 m and higher. In central Sikhote Alin (north Primorye), the UFB declines to 800-1,000 and 1,300-1,400 m, respectively.
   On the highest peaks of Sikhote Alin above the forest upper boundary, the upper vegetation belt is well pronounced. In the literature, it has come to be called alpine, given that its position in the ecological row, its appearance, floristic composition and ecological protective significance correspond to existing concepts on vegetation of real high mountains. Spots of mountain tundra (bald peaks) occur on numerous peaks, preferentially on plateau-like sites and gently sloping declivities. Thickets of pine elf trees and various shrubs grow below them over slopes of different exposition and steepness.  Still lower is a belt of forest proper. The boundaries between alpine tundra, sub-bald peak thickets and forests are far from rectilinear, representing a mosaic of interpenetrating tongues of various vegetation types.
   Low-productive Betula lanata forests grow at the upper forest boundary in southern Sikhote Alin. Sites with prevalent Abies nephrolepsis and considerable areas of mixed  elfin woodland formed by B. lanata, A. nephrolepsis and Picea ajanensis also occur to alternate with tongues of mixed P. ajanensis and A. nephrolepsis forests rising from the band of their absolute dominance below. In Northern Primorye, in sub-bald peak forests, the role of B. labata and A. nephrolepsis diminishes, and forest areas with absolute prevalence of P. ajanensis increase; the Larix spp. also occurs.
   A belt of typically bidominant forests consisting of P. ajanensis and A. nephrolepsis, which occupy vast areas on the upper and middle sections of mountain slopes of different exposition and steepness, directly adjoin sub-bald peak forests. With decline in forest landscape altitude, B. lanata is replaced by Betula costata; Tilia occurs along with other broad-leaved species, and in the lower part of the strip, an admixture of Pinus coraiensis appears.
   As this admixture increases, a transitional forest strip forms with prevalence of P. coraiensis and participation of numerous broad-leaved species.  Mixed broad-leaved forests are widespread in the lower sections of both Sikhote Alin macroslopes, the largest areas being occupied by forests with prevalent Quercus mongolica.
   The very valuable Abies holophylla, the largest coniferous tree in the region, penetrates into southern Primorye from China. In valleys or rivers flowing into Peter the Great Bay, only recently it chiefly formed forests over considerable areas. But in the current decade, forests with prevalent A. holophylla suffered strongly, notwithstanding the ban to chop this species, and the ban on illegal industrial chopping, allegedly performed on sanitary and other fictitious grounds.
   Mixed forests consisting of Fraxinus mandshurica, Ulmus japonica, Juglans mandshurica, Tilia amurensis, T. mandshurica, Populus spp, Chosenia arbutifolia, Salix spp and other species, commonly grow in river valleys.
   Various types of bogs, ranging from grass-reed bogs to oligotrophic-shrub-peat moss ones, form on flat floors of intermontane depressions (Upper Bikin, Upper Ussuri and others). These depressions also form in the central declined areas of mountain plateaus that naturally occur in the main Sikhote Alin watershed. Floaters and grass-reed bogs occupy the lowest levels of Hanka-Ussuri plain near the shores of Lake Hanka. As the landscape rises, bogs are replaced by meadow and moist reed grass, and then by reed grass-herbage meadows. Remains of broad-leaved forests have remained on the plain in some places.
   So called undergrowth arboreal-shrub thickets representing the worst extent of man-made degradation of mixed forests, occupy considerable areas in the foothills and farmed slopes surrounding the plain itself. Small groves, groups and individual Pinus funebris, Armeniaca mandshurica, A. sibirica, etc. occur in these areas.
   The overall nature of vegetation distribution in Primorye is shown in the attached map, compiled on the basis of the  forest management materials of the National Forest Foundation of Primorye, previously published geobotanical maps and the authors personal data.
   This work is essentially distinguished by the fact that the forest-management materials were used in digital form. During 1996-1997, the Research Center of the Association of Indigenous Small Peoples of Primorye, the Pacific Institute of Geography, F. E. Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Biology and Soil Science, F. E. Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, and Primorye Forest Administration created a data base for the National Forest Fund of Primorye to include the following:
(1) descriptive information for each taxation sector;
(2)  cartographic information (digital maps, scale 1:25,000, 1:50,000) containing the boundaries of forestries, quarters, and taxation sectors. Total area 12 million ha; average area of taxation sector 30 hectare; Total number of entries 300 00.

    In transforming the map to its present scale and to generalized contours, contours up to 1,000 ha in area could not be shown in this scale. So, some were shown using extra-scale signs, and some absorbed by surrounding contours. For instance, this concerns upland vegetation, Pinus funebris groves and significant numbers of forest sites with prevalent Tilia amurensis, T. mandshurica and Betula costata, which formed after Pinus koraiensis cuttings. These secondary forests proved included in the contour with prevalent Pinus coraiensis to cause their areas to be exaggerated compared with recent area by approximately 20-25 percent.

   V. ROSENBERG, Cand. Sci. (Biology), Leading Researcher,  Institute of Biology and Soil Science, F. E. Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences.

   E. SHATKOVSKAYA, Leading Engineer, Institute of Biology and Soil Science, F. E. Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences.

   I. LANDINA, Senior Lab. Researcher, Institute of Biology and Soil Science, F. E. Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences.

  S. KRASNOPEEV, S. M., Cand. Sci. (Physics and Maths), Senior Research Fellow, Pacific Institute of Geography, F. E. Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences

  T. KRASNOPEEVA, 1st Category Programmer,  Pacific Institute of Geography, F. E. Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences

  S. TOURCHANOV, 1st Category Programmer,  Pacific Institute of Geography, F. E. Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences

  E. SHESHIKOVA, 1st Category Programmer,  Pacific Institute of Geography, F. E. Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences

 T. SHASHURA, 1st Category Engineer, Pacific Institute of Geography, F. E. Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences