Laso natural preserve          The L. Kaplanov LASO National Natural Preserve (area 120,024 ha) is situated in the southeastern part of Russias Maritime Province (Primorye), namely in Laso District on the southern spur of Sikhote Alin chain in Zapovednyi Range (highest peak within Sanctuary bounds1,379 m above sea level), gradually lowering to the south till the coastline of Japan Sea.
    The local climate is less severe and contrasting, and the sea is warmer than at the Sikhote Alin Sanctuary coast.
    The Preserve was created to conserve and study the natural complexes of conifer-broad-leaf forests of southern Sikhote Alin and the local rare and valuable animals inhabiting the area, primarily the mountain goat and the spotted deer.
    The entire Preserve is located in the South Partizansk landscape district, which belongs to the subzone of pine-broad-leaf forests. Unlike Sikhote Alin Sanctuary, Laso boasts significantly fewer cold-loving Okhotsk fauna and flora species, heat-loving species being prevalent.
    The complex mountain relief, considerable altitude gradients, proximity of the sea, and unique conditions of flora development have created a uniquely diverse plant kingdom. Over a relatively small area, one comes across plants that are characteristic of broad-leaf forests, the taiga, tundra, steppe and even subtropics. With regard to origin, plant species are subdivided into four major groups: the  Manchurian group, characteristic of the zone of East Asian broad-leaf forests; the Okhotsk group, which gravitates towards the taiga zone; seacoast plants; and also Sikhote Alin endemics, species that grow only within the Sikhote Alin range. Normally, all these group with the exception of the last one form high-altitude belts. Occasionally, their representatives may be seen growing alongside each other. The vegetations distinctive feature is its secondary nature: it changed as a result of  human activity, primarily felling.
    Twelve hundred and twelve vascular plant species, including forty-four rare and disappearing species (the dentate oak, cross-conjugate microbiota (an endemic of Primorye and Khabarovsk Territory), the hard juniper, the genuine ginseng, the Epimedium alpinum, the single-seed Ephedra, etc.), about one hundred moss species, five hundred fungi species, and over two hundred lichen species. Laso Preserve is the habitat of fifty-seven species of terrestrial mammals, including seven species recorded in Red Books of the former USSR and Russia. The principal ones are the Amur tiger (14 adult specimens), the mountain goat (210-220 specimens, and the spotted deer (650 specimens). Three hundred and nineteen bird species have been registered  (28 of them Red Book species, including the following eight nesting species: the scaly Mergur albellus, the mandarin duck, the Ussuri longbill, the Japanese snipe, the Pandion haeliatus, the accipitral buzzard, the white-tailed Haliaethus, and the black stork), and twenty-one rare and disappearing insect species, e.g. the Saturniidae Artemida, etc.).

Yu. BERSENEV, Expert, Primorye Territorial Duma.