The problem of steppe conservation mode in zapovedniks: an example of Streltsovsky Steppe
L.P. Borovik, E.N. Borovik (Lugansky Nature Reserve, Luganskaya Oblast, Ukraine)
“Streltsovsky Steppe” Zapovednik (Strict Nature Reserve) was created to protect a representative tract of mesophytic variant of forbs-bunchgrass steppe as well as a population of marmots. On the territory of Zapovednik, there was established a steppe plot where any human activities were prohibited (strictly reserved), and a periodic mowing mode (a three-year rotation mode) was applied to another plot.
A forbidding mode applied to steppe ecosystem conservation shows a low efficiency. As soon as any human-induced disturbances are excluded the reserve successions start. Bunchgrass communities are replaced by rhizomatous grass communities and thickets of steppe shrubs. Zonal communities dominated by Festuca valesiaca, Stipa capillata and S. lessingiana, that were common for Starobelskii steppes, have completely disappeared during the decades when a forbidding mode held. Shrub-steppes and thickets of Caragana frutex, Amygdalus nana, Chamaecytisus ruthenicus occupy a leading position in a strictly reserved area. Not only dominating steppe grass species lose their position, but steppe forbs as well. Steppe communities were largely invaded by weeds like Cirsium setosum, Melica transsilvanica, Convolvulus arvensis, Galium aparine, Carduus fortior, Cirsium ukrainicum, Sonchus arvensis. In strictly reserved steppe plot, Caragana frutex and Amygdalus nana thickets are replaced by the forest formation including Rhamnus cathartica, Acer tataricum and other tree species. The results of phytocoenotic monitoring allow us to conclude: the reserve successions are deeply destructive; under these circumstances the conservation of native natural complexes (populations, and communities, and so on) is impossible.
From the end of 1980th for economic reasons the mowing mode in “Streltsovsky Steppe” was disrupted. Mowing became unprofitable, as a decreased livestock population needed smaller amount of hay whereas the costs of mowing were high. As a result, a significant expansion of steppe shrubs thickets was noted. At present they occupy more than half of the reserve area. The number of marmots declined from 1500 in 1985 to about 20 in 2005. The reduction of number and density of marmots’ family territories is due to the deterioration of protection and feeding qualities of marmots’ habitats.
Now the most important objective for “Streltsovsky” Zapovednik is an elaboration and promotion of an effective mode of ecosystem management. In our opinion, the effective management of steppe ecosystems should include such techniques as regular fires, moderate grazing, and grazing on after-grass.
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