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Biomes and Regions of Northern Eurasia

The Mountains of Northern Russia

<<< Arid Environments: Human Impact on Ecosystems | Biomes & Regions Index | The Khibin Mountains >>>

Introduction

This chapter discusses the montane environments of Northern Russia including the Khibin mountains, the Putorana plateau, the vast mountainous countries of north-eastern Asia, and the Urals. The latter is an interzonal meridional cordillera which cuts across the continent from the Arctic coast to Kazakhstan, marking a boundary between Europe and Asia. These montane regions were grouped together because, with the partial exception of the Urals, they are located in cold environments. Since geomorphological processes, ecological communities, and natural environmental change are strongly controlled by climate, these regions have much in common despite being located at a great distance from each other. Thus, most of these mountains were repeatedly glaciated in the Quaternary; extensive frost weathering, glaciers and perennial snow packs are typical features of a modern alpine landscape from the Kola peninsula to the Sea of Okhotsk; and models of vertical vegetation zonation are relatively simple. However, different geological histories and orography as well as only broad similarities between climates have resulted in a unique evolution and character of each region. Following a brief introduction to the characteristics of each region, its tectonics, Quaternary environmental change, modern climate, cryogenic phenomena and glaciation, and models of altitudinal zonation are discussed. Much attention is given to glacial history because the contemporary 'minimalist' view advocates the dispersal of ice from the montane centres in contrast to the 'maximalist' hypothesis of the Panarctic ice sheet which was popular in the 1960s — 1970s. These hypotheses are discussed above, which also provides a correlation of glacial events. The monograph Montane Glaciation in Northern Eurasia in the Holocene (Solomina, 1999) is recommended for a more detailed discussion. For the explanation of terms associated with permafrost and cryogenic processes, the reader is referred to one of the above sections. Human activities have had a strong impact on the environments of the Khibins, western Putorana, and especially the Urals. These issues are discussed in other chapters in this volume to which references are made.

The detail of discussion varies because of the different geographical scales involved. Thus, although more attention is given to the vast and extremely diverse mountainous chains and highlands of the north-east, it is evident that despite the enormous effort put into the research of these remote and hostile environments our knowledge still remains imperfect and the sheer size of the region does not allow an in-depth discussion.

<<< Arid Environments: Human Impact on Ecosystems | Biomes & Regions Index | The Khibin Mountains >>>

 

 


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