Inversion forest-steppe in northwestern Caucasus
Oxana N. Lipka (WWF Russia, Moscow)
An unusual sequence of altitudinal zones in medium-high mountain ranges (up to 900 m.a.s.l.) in the northwestern Caucasus is described. The ranges run parallel to the Black Sea coastline. Flat mountain tops and the upper reaches of south-facing slopes above broadleaved forests feature steppe and meadow vegetation. The evolution of the inversion forest-steppe is complex and ambiguous. Steppe communities, however, are more likely to have a natural origin.
Geobotanical and floristic features of various types of mountainous meadow steppe and steppe meadow communities are summarized based on field studies that were carried out in 2002-2009. The principal vegetation disturbance factors are listed with the most adverse of them being wildfires, mining and building. It is emphasized that, being a unique natural phenomenon and a habitat for numerous endemic and endangered plant species, inversion forest-steppe in the western Caucasus is very much in need of protection and further study. These communities are not represented in any protected area. The situation in the Markotkh Mountain Range above the town of Gelendzhik. where inversion forest-steppe communities suffer from wildfires every year between May and October, is believed to be critical.
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