Primorye Territory (hereinafter
referred to as “Primorye”) is situated in Russia’s 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
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 ecotypes—from mountain peaks to wide river valleys of
Primorye’s 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 N.lat. of bogged open larch trees outwardly and floristically resembling
the sparse larch forests growing on bogs (“mari”) in the northern areas
of Russia’s 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 UFB’s
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
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
(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