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Biomes and Regions of Northern Eurasia

Mixed and Deciduous Forests

<<< Mixed and Deciduous Forests of the Russian Far East | Biomes & Regions Index | Deciduous Forests of Transcaucasia >>>

Forests and Woodlands of the Crimea

On the Crimean peninsula, natural forests originally developed in the mountains and on the coast. The Crimean mountains are composed of three ridges stretching from the north-east to the south-west parallel to the Black Sea coast. The altitude increases from north to south and the northernmost ridge is low (200-300 m above sea level). In the south, altitudes exceed 1500 m and the Main Ridge steeply descends towards the coast. While most of the peninsula is characterized by unreliable precipitation and high evaporation, in the mountains annual rainfall varies between 700 mm and 1000 mm and moisture is sufficient to maintain forests. Mountains protect the coast from cold northern advection and the climate of the coastal areas is reminiscent of the Mediterranean.

Three types of forest and woodland communities are distinguished in the Crimea: (1) shrublands (so-called shibliak) and low juniper-oak woodlands which occur on the coast and in the foothills; (2) pine forests; and (3) deciduous forests (Rubtsov, 1958). The coast is one of the major resort areas in the FSU and primary vegetation has mostly been destroyed here and replaced by anthropogenic landscapes such as built-up areas, vast parks, and vineyards. Woodlands composed by low trees of Quercus pubescens occur mainly in the foothills and the lower slopes of the Main Ridge, on the stony, predominantly calcareous soils. Juniperus excelsa is the main co-dominant. In mixed stands, Arbutus andrachne and Pistacia mutica occur locally. Woodlands are interspersed by shrublands which are represented mainly by Rhus coriaria, Cotinus coggygria, and Paliurus spina-christi. The same plants and also Cornus mas occur in the undergrowth of the oak forests. Shrublands quickly spread across the deforested areas and in many coastal areas undergoing intensive development, the replacement of coastal forests and woodlands by shrublands is widespread.

Coastal juniper-oak woodlands and shrublands give way to pine stands which cover most of the southern slope of the Main Ridge. The treeless karst landscapes, developing on the flat summits, are an exception. Deciduous forests occur on the northern slope which receives more moisture. Oak forests develop between 300 m and 600 m with prevailing Quercus pubescens and an admixture of Carpinus betulus, Acer campestre, Tilia dasystyla, and Fraxinus excelsior. The Fagus and Carpinus communities occur between 600 m and 1400 m. The deciduous and pine forests of the Crimean mountains were used by the Russian royal family as hunting grounds and, because of it, some forests remained well preserved. Intensive cuttings, however, occurred between 1888 and 1921, when the forested area was reduced by approximately 25 per cent (Mishnev, 1990). Much of the forest was also damaged during the Second World War.

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