Pristine Boreal Forest Preserves of Pechora River, Eastern Komi

courtesy of Dr. Veronica Tarbaeva, Syktyvkar State University

Pechora-Ilych Reserve and Yougyd-Va National Park

In KR the largest nature preserves are Pechora-Ilych Reserve and Yougyd-Va
National Park. They have 3,200,000 ha of pristine boreal forest. They are
one of the very last untouched areas of Europe where natural dynamics
still shape the forests. The area is along west slope of the Prepolar and
North Urals. The Ural mountain complex is the important climate forming
element of all ecosystems of this region.  From here very clear flows are
initiated and mouth in the biggest river, the Pechora.  Microclimate of
the mountains is conducive to forming a mosaic of vegetative communities:
1) taiga vegetation rises in high mountain elevations along narrow
river valleys; 2) the typical Siberian flora sharply changes to European
plant species on the eastern slopes of the Ural.

All this area is included by UNESCO in the list of world legacy and named
"Pristine forests of Komi". Many ecologists from different parts of the
world come to these preservations to see virgin forests and many rare
plants. This complex has very important significance for biodiversity
preservation. Here up nowadays there are numerous populations of 49 mammal
species (bear, reindeer, beaver, elk, etc.); 230 bird species nest here.
16 fish species (including salmon species) are spawning in the rivers.
Here you can see very rare bird species: golden eagle - Aquila chrysaetos,
arctic falcon - Falco gyrfalco, white-tailed eagle - Heliaeetus albicilla,
peregrine falcon - Falco peregrinus and others.  On this area the main
rivers of the Western Ural region originate.  Larch (Larix sibirica),
spruce (Picea obovata), Siberian cedar (Pinus sibirica) are dominant in
the forests with inclusions of unique plant species.

Pechora-Ilych Reserve lies between the upper reaches of the Pechora and
its right flow the Ilych, and extends from the plain up to the crest of
the Urals, here about 1,100 m high. The initial purpose of the reserve was
to conserve fur-bearers, especially the Sable (Martes zibellina) which in
the early 20th century survived only hereabouts. Suggestions about
conservation were made first in 1912, but Pechora-Ilych Reserve was not
established until 1930.  Its area is now 7,213, though it was very
much smaller in the 1950's.  The headquarters and base for scientific
studies in Yaksha, a village on the Pechora. The pearl of this reservation
is ravine of Iordansky, situated on right bank of Pechora. There are some
large caves. In the largest cave--"Bear's cave"--our geologists and
archeologists have foundthe largest Northern European deposit of faunal
fossil sediments and the most ancient human artifacts of the upper
paleolithic period.

The unique landscape of the mountain tundra is presented by karst towers
(result of rocky weathering).  In the northern part of the range
"Manpupuner" there are famous stone columns "7 strong men". They were
described by many delighted travelers.  The large magic karst towers are
similar to fantasy animals that decorate the tops of the ranges
Yanypupuner and Bear Stone.  On the top of Torreporreiz (30 km from
Pechora's beginning in the north) there are large rock breakdowns similar
to castle ruins of the middle ages.  In the northern part of the mountain
region there is a cascade of water falls with small mountain lakes. On
Tumbal-ize, there is a canyon with a big water fall on creek Kozhym-el. 
Flora. A nucleus of vascular plant flora is boreal species. 20% of the
floristic list is composed of rare species. They are included in
International and regional Red Books. These are species of lady's slipper
(Cypripedium) and etc. There are many endemic species (Anemone permica,
Lagothis uraliensis,..).  There are more than 20 species represented by a
single population (rare species of Artemisia, Silene, Oxalis, Viola,
Tofieldia, Coronaria).  One can encounter rare siberian plant species,
which are unknown in Europe, except the P-I reservation.  25 mountain
massifs in the middle fork of Ilych are refugia for relict plants.  The
important botanical objects are swamps (5 - in Ilych basin, 2 - in upper
Pechora) with very rare species. A bryophyte floristic list includes 50%
of all the mosses growing in the KR; this is 296 species, 34 rare species
among them. There are 408 lichen species from 51 families and 108 genera.


Fauna is almost exclusively studied in relation to vertebrate animals. 
There are 300 species: 49 mammals, 230 birds, 4 amphibia, 1reptilia, 16
fish.  But invertebrata are poorly studied (about 1000 species).  There
are numerous and sustainable populations of russian sable (Martes
zibellina), pine Marten (Martes martes), otter (Lutra lutra), american
mink (Mustela vison), beaver (Castor fiber), moose (Alces alces), game
birds, especially wood grouse (Tetrao urogallus) and hazel grouse
(Tetrastes bonasia). Red fox (Vulpes vulpes), wolverine (Gulo), kidas or
kidus (a sable-marten cross, found only here), wild reindeer (Rangifer
tarandus), birds: black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), golden-eye (Bucephala),
merganser (Mergus merganser), mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchus), european
teal (Anas cressa)  are also common, but not numerous. There are several
species of salmon fish, grayling (Thymallus thymallus) is common here. One
can encounter rarely small relict populations of pika (Ochotona) and the
endangered species of European mink (Mustela lutreola). A number of
siberian birds are nesting in only this European place. 
  In 1949 the elk domestication began at Yaksha.  By 1964, 80 elk
were been born here. But now the elk-farming has stopped due to
insufficient funding.

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