Species of special concern | Conservation of steppes in Russia

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CONSERVATION OF STEPPES IN RUSSIA
Project UNDP/GEF Improving the Coverage and Management Efficiency of Protected Areas in the Steppe Biome of Russia
ПРООН ГЭФ Минприроды России
This website was created and is supported by the UNDP / GEF / Ministry of Russia project "Improving the coverage and management efficiency of protected areas in the steppe biome of Russia"

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Species of special concern

Fragmentation and disturbances of steppe biome are resulted in threats to many species inhabiting steppes. Steppe is a basic or important habitat for many endangered and vulnerable species in Russia. As usual it is hard to assess situation in steppe invertebrates instead of a number publications on the subject. Thus we concentrate on vertebrates only.

Mammals

Steppe habitats of Russia are harbour of 14 species of global conservation concern (and two ungulates become extinct in wild). Two species were formerly listed as Vulnerable, now reassessed as Least Concern. On national level Federal Red Data Book listed 14 steppe species (two of them are extinct in wild in Russia) (Table 1). Eight species are listed on both national and international levels (including two extinct in wild) and 13 species on only one of these levels (Low Risk or Least Concern in global IUCN Red List). On sub-national (provincial) level there are listed a number of mammal species relating with steppe habitats (more details are provided for selected provinces only).

Table 1. Mammal species of global and/or national concern inhabiting steppe habitats (IUCN 2008; Russian Red Data Book 1998) 

Scientific name, English name Global IUCN Red List Russian Federation Red Data Book Russia Provinces (all range or maximum density only)* Longitudinal Steppe Sector (Eastern or Western**); Steppe ecosystem types the habitats associated with Major identified threats
Alticola olchonensis, Olkhon Mountain Vole DD ver 3.1 (2008) - Irkutsk region Eastern; Stony steppe Habitat loss / degradation
Cuon alpinus, Asiatic Wild Dog or Dhole EN C2a(i) ver. 3.1 (2008) 1 Altai, Tyva, Buryatia, Zabaikalsky krai Eastern; Mountainous steppe, tundra-steppe, Cobresia grasslands in Russian part of the range Poaching?
Eolagurus luteus, Yellow Steppe Lemming LC ver 3.1 (2008) 1 Altai (only one site) Eastern; Mountainous steppe ?
Equus ferus (= Equus przewalskii), Wild Horse CR ver 3.1 (2008) 0 In Russia extinct in wild Eastern;
Equus hemionus, Asian Wild Ass (Kulan) EN A2abc+3bd ver 3.1 (2008) 0 In Russia extinct in wild (last record –Zabaikalskii Krai, 1926) Eastern; Desert and desertified steppes Habitat loss / degradation, poaching, competition with livestock, interruptions of migration routes
Marmota sibirica, Tarbagan Marmot EN ver 3.1 (2008) 1 Altai, Tyva, Buryatia, Zabaikalsky krai Eastern; Any variants of mountainous steppes Hunting, habitat loss / degradation
Mesechinus dauuricus, Daurian Hedgehog LC ver 3.1 (2008) 4 Buryatia, Zabaikalsky krai Eastern; Any types of steppes in Russian part of the range Fires, pesticides, agricultural processes, dog’s predation
Mesocricetus brandti, Brandt’s Hamster NT ver 3.1 (2008) - Daghestan Western; Mountainous steppe Habitat loss / degradation, pesticides
Mustela altaica, Altai or Mountain Weasel NT ver 3.1 (2008) - Altai, Altaiskii Krai, Irkutsk, Buryat, Zabaikalskii Krai, Amur Province Eastern; Mountainous  steppe and alpine tundra-steppe Habitat degradation (overgrazing) / pika-control campaigns
Mustela eversmanni ssp. Amurensis (the sub-species is not distinguished in late version of the Red List) VU A2cd ver 2.3 (1994) 2 Amur Province Eastern; Steppefied meadows (“Amur prairie”) Habitat loss / degradation
Myospalax psilurus espilanus, Transbaikal Zokor LC ver 3.1 (2008) 2 Zabaikalsky krai Eastern; Meadow steppes Habitat loss / degradation
Ochotona hoffmanni, Hoffmann’s Pika EN B1ab(iii) ver 3.1 (2008) - Zabaikalsky krai Eastern; Mountainous steppes, tundra-steppe climate change
Ochotona pusilla, Steppe Pika LC ver.3.1 (2008) (VU A1cd, C2a ver 2.3 (1994)) - Saratov, Samara, Orenburg, Bashkortostan , Chelyabinsk, Altaiskii Krai Western; Shrub steppes (meadow, genuine, and dry types) Habitat loss / degradation
Otocolobus manul, Pallas’s cat NT ver 3.1 (2008) 3 Altai, Tyva, Buryatia, Zabaikalsky krai Eastern; Mountainous and piedmont dry and desert petrophytic steppes hunting – Regional/international trade; Changes in native species dynamics – Prey/food base
Ovis ammon, Argali NT ver 3.1 (2008) 1 Altai, Tyva Eastern; Mountainous steppe, tundra-steppe, Cobresia grasslands Habitat loss / degradation, poaching, competition with livestock
Procapra gutturosa, Mongolian Gazelle LC ver 3.1 (2008) 1 Zabaikalsky krai Eastern; Any types in Russian part of the range Fires, hunting, interruptions of migration routes, habitat loss
Saiga tatarica, Saiga Antelope CR A2acd ver 3.1 (2008) - Kalmykia Western; Desertefied steppe Habitat loss / degradation, poaching, international trade
Spalax giganteus, Giant Mole Rat VU B2ab(iii) ver 3.1 (2008) 3 Dagestan, Chechnya, Stavropol Western; Sand steppe, desertified steppes Habitat loss / degradation
Spalax microphthalmus, Greater Mole Rat LC ver 3.1 (2008) (VU D2 ver 2.3 (1994)) - Kursk, Voronezh, Belgorod, Orel, Penza, Tula,  Tambov, Saratov, Samara, Ulyanovsk, Rostov Western; Genuine and sand steppe Habitat loss / degradation
Spermophilus suslicus, Speckled Ground Squirrel NT ver 3.1 (2008) - Kursk, Voronezh, Belgorod, Orel, Penza, Tula,  Tambov, Samara, Ulyanovsk, Stavropol, Krasnodar, Rostov, Volgograd Western; Genuine and meadow steppes Habitat loss / degradation, poisoning, grazing decline
Vormela peregusna ssp. pallidior, Semirechye Marbled Polecat(the sub-species is not distinguished in late version of the Red List) LR/lc ver 2.3 (1994) 1 Altaiskii Krai (extinct in wild?), Altai, Tyva Eastern; Sandy and shrub steppes Habitat loss / degradation
Vormela peregusna ssp. peregusna, European Marbled Polecat VU A2c ver 3.1 (2008) 1 Rostov, Saratov, Samara, Orenburg, Krasnodar, Daghestan Western; Sandy and shrub steppes Habitat loss / degradation

* Only those where the species is living in steppe habitats

Categories of RF Red Data Book used in the table 1 (and table 2 as well):

0 – Probably disappeared species.

In this Category there are species and populations that were known earlier from territory (water area) of the Russian Federation, but the presence of which in a wild nature is not confirmed (for invertebrates – in last 100 years, for vertebrates – in last 50 years).

1 – Under threat of disappearance.

Species and populations,

• Which number has decreased up to a critical level and they can disappear in a near future;

• Taking place on the verge of disappearance, there are only a few registrations during last 25 years;

• Not under threats of disappearance, but have high risk of loss (because of extremely low number and/or of narrowness area or extremely small number of habitats sites).

2 – Declining.

Species and populations with steady number declining. They could get in a category taking place under threat of disappearance very soon because of further influence of the negative factors.

3 – Rare.

Species and populations with usual low number, located in limited (land or water) area or sporadic widespread on significant (land or water) areas, surviving of which is needed in special protective measures.

4 – Indefinite status.

Species and populations which (probably) are concerned to one of the previous categories, but there is no detailed information about present conditions, or they do not meet completely with criteria of all other categories.

5 – Restored and restoring species.

Species and populations, number and distribution of which have been restored and would not require urgent conservation and restoration measures (the cause of restoration was the influence of the natural reasons or a result of the accepted conservation measures).

Birds

Russia is recognized as the most important European country for conservation of steppe birds. The list of bird species whose European population are 75% or more concentrated in steppe habitats is topped Russia and Turkey with 21 species (from 27 in total). Summing the numbers of national populations of all steppe bird species in Europe reveals that Russia supports 39% of the total European breeding population of these 27 species (other top countries are Turkey, 36% and Spain, 22%). Ten of these 27 breeding steppe species are of global conservation concern; Russia harbours 9 of them – more than any other European country (Burfield, 2005).

On national level Russian Federation Red Data Book (1998) lists 126 bird species and subspecies, 14 of which are typical steppe birds (Antonchikov 2005).

Need to note, as Russia holds several relatively intact steppe landscapes there are some non-steppe habitats intimately related with these landscapes (special steppe wetlands, rock habitats in mountainous steppe, special small forests associated with steppe, etc.). As well there are some characteristic bird species inhabiting these habitats. All the species should be taken into consideration as well as proper steppe ones. Doing it, we found in RF Red Data Book 30 species and subspecies inhabiting steppe habitats or habitats closely related with steppe landscapes. Thus our complete list includes 42 species (Table 2).

Table 2: Bird species of global, European, and/or national concern inhabiting steppe habitats (IUCN 2008; Antonchikov 2005; Burfield 2005; Prisyazhnyuk 2004)

Scientific name, English name Global IUCN Red List 2004 SPEC category Russian Federation Red Data Book Russia Provinces (nesting range and/or maximum density on flyways)* Longitudinal Steppe Sector (Eastern or Western**); Keystone steppe habitats Major identified threat (if known)
Tadorna ferruginea, Ruddy Shelduck LC ver 3.1 (2009) 3 Rostov, Stavropol, Volgograd, Saratov, Samara, Bashkortostan,  Altaiskii Krai, Altai, Khakass, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk, Kurgan, Novosibirsk, Orenburg, Tuva, Buryatia, Chelyabinsk, Omsk, Tyumen Both;genuine,  dry, and desertified  steppe dotted with lakes or ponds
Oxyura leucocephala, White-headed Duck EN A2bcde+4bcde ver 3.1 (2008) 1 1 Kalmyk, Rostov,  Chelyabinsk, Kurgan, Omsk, Tyumen, Novosibirsk, Orenburg, Altaiskii Krai, Khakass, Tuva Both;steppe lakes or ponds
Circus macrourus, Pallid Harrier NT ver 3.1 (2008) 1 2 Orenburg, Novosibirsk,  Altaiskii Krai, Altai, Khakass, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk, Kurgan, Tuva, Buryatia, Chelyabinsk, Omsk, Tyumen Both; different types of steppes and meadows close to water
Buteo hemilasius, Upland Buzzard LC ver 3.1. (2009) Monit. Altai, Buryatia, Irkutsk, Zabaikalskii Krai, Khakass, Tuva Eastern; mountainous and hilly steppe with outcrops
Buteo rufinus, Long-legged Buzzard LC ver 3.1. (2010) 3 3 Altaisky krai (not nest), Samara, Saratov, Volgograd, Astrakhan, Rostov, Orenburg, Chelabinsk, Bashkortostan, Kalmykia, Stavropol, Krasnodar Western; mountainous and hilly steppe with outcrops
Gyps fulvus, Eurasian Griffon Non-SPEC 3 Stavropol, Dagestan, Altai (not nest) Western; high mountainous steppe with large rocks and cliffs
Aegypius monachus, Black Vulture NT ver 3.1 (2008) 3 Daghestan, Stavropol, Altai, Tuva, Buryatia, Zabaikalskii Krai Both; high mountainous steppe with large rocks and cliffs
Neophron percnopterus, Egiptian Vulture Endangered A2bcde+3bcde+4bcde ver 3.1 (2008) 3 3 Stavropol, Krasnodar, Daghestan Western; mountainous steppe with large rocks and cliffs Habitat loss / degradation, grazing decline
Gypaetus barbatus, Lammergeier LC ver 3.1 (2009) 3 Stavropol, Krasnodar, Dagestan, Altai, Tuva Both; high mountainous steppe with large rocks and cliffs Habitat loss / degradation, grazing decline
Circaetus gallicus, Short-toed Eagle LC ver 3.1 (2009) 3 2 Rostov, Stavropol, Tambov, Voronezh, Saratov, Samara, Altaiskii Krai, Altai, Buryatia, Zabaikalskii Krai, Khakass, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk, Kurgan, Novosibirsk, Orenburg, Tuva, Chelyabinsk, Tumen Western; steppe dotted with small groves and/or outcrops
Aquila nipalensis, Steppe Eagle LC ver 3.1 (2009) 3 3 Rostov, Stavropol, Saratov, Samara, Bashkortostan,  Altaiskii Krai, Altai, Buryatia, Zabaikalskii Krai, Khakass, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk, Kurgan, Novosibirsk, Orenburg, Tuva, Chelyabinsk, Tumen Both; hilly short-grass steppe preferred
Aquila heliaca, Imperial Eagle VU C2a(ii) ver 3.1 1 2 Rostov, Volgograd, Saratov, Samara, Altaiskii Krai, Altai, Buryatia, Zabaikalskii Krai, Khakass, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk, Kurgan, Novosibirsk, Orenburg, Tuva, Chelyabinsk Both; forest edges opened to steppe, forest-steppe, steppe with solitary trees, etc.
Falco naumanni, Lesser Kestrel LC ver 3.1 (2011) 1 1 Altaiskii Krai, Altai, Buryatia, Zabaikalskii Krai, Khakass, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Orenburg, Saratov, Bashkortostan, Tuva, Chelyabinsk Both; steppe with ruined outcrops or artificial constructions (buildings, tombs, walls) Habitat loss / degradation, grazing decline, pesticide use
Falco vespertinus, Red-footed Falcon NT ver 3.1 (2008) 3 Monit. Buryatia, Khakass, Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk, Kemerovo, Kurgan, Omsk Orenburg, Tyumen, Tuva Both; small forests contacting steppe Habitat loss / degradation, pesticide use
Falco cherrug, Saker Falcon EN A2bcde+3cde+4bcde ver 3.1 (2012) 1 2 Orenburg, Bashkortostan, Altaiskii Krai, Altai, Tuva, Buryatia, Khakass, Irkutsk, Zabaikalskii Krai Both; cliffs, outcrops, single trees within steppe Poaching – international trade, pesticide use, habitat loss / degradation
Bubo bubo, Eagle Owl LC ver 3.1 (2009) 3 2 Every provinces in steppe zone Both; cliffs, outcrops, ravines, shrubs within every type of steppe
Grus virgo, Demoiselle Crane LC ver 3.1 (2009) Non-SPEC 5 Altaiskii Krai, Altai, Buryatia, Zabaikalskii Krai, Khakass, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Kurgan, Novosibirsk, Orenburg, Tuva Both
Otis tarda tarda, Great Bustard, western subspecies VU A2c+3c+4c ver 3.1 (2008) 1 3 Rostov, Volgograd, Dagestan, Astrakhan,  Saratov, Samara, Orenburg, Chelyabinsk, Omsk,  Novosibirsk, Altaiskii Krai, Altai, Tuva, Khakass Both habitat loss / degradation, poaching, agrochemicals use
Otis tarda dubowskii, Great Bustard, eastern subspecies VU A2c+3c+4c ver 3.1 (2008) 2 Tuva, Irkutsk, Buryatia, Zabaikalskii Krai, Krasnoyarsk, Amur Eastern habitat loss / degradation, poaching
Tetrax tetrax, Little Bustard NT ver 3.1 (2008) 1 3 Stavropol, Kalmykia R., Rostov, Volgograd, Saratov, Samara, Orenburg Western habitat loss / degradation, poaching
Chlamydotis undulata, Houbara Bustard VU A2bcd+3bcd+4bcd ver 3.1 (2008) 1 1 Tyva Eastern habitat loss / degradation, poaching
Charadrius leschenaultii, Greater Sand Plover LC ver 3.1 (2009) 3 Monit. Altai, Tyva Eastern
Charadrius veredus, Oriental Plover LC ver 3.1 (2009) Monit. Tyva, Zabaikalsky krai Eastern
Vanellus gregarius, Sociable Lapwing CR A3bcd+4bcd 3.1 (2010) 1 1 Nesting: Altaiskii Krai, Orenburg, Chelyabinsk; Flyway: Stavropol, Kalmykia Western; Land  abandonment, habitat loss / degradation
Numenius tenuirostris, Slender-Billed Curlew CR C2a(ii); D1 ver 3.1 (2010) 1 1 Omsk, Altaiskii Krai; probably: Chelyabinsk, Kurgan, Novosibirsk Western
Numenius phaeopus alboaxillaris, Whimbrel LC ver 3.1 (2009) Non- SPEC Monit. Bashkortostan, Orenburg Western
Burhinus oedicnemus, Stone Curlew LC ver 3.1 (2009) 3 4 Dagestan, Stavropol, Krasnodar,  Kalmykia R., Volgograd, Saratov, Orenburg Western
Glareola maldivarum, Oriental Pratincole LC ver 3.1 (2009) Monit. Zabaikalsky krai Eastern
Glareola nordmanni, Black-winged Pratincole NT ver 3.1 (2008) 1 2 Orenburg, Kurgan, Altaiskii Krai Western Land  abandonment, habitat loss / degradation
Pterocles orientalis, Black-bellied Sandgrouse LC ver 3.1 (2009) 3 Volgograd, Astrakhan,  Kalmykia R. Western
Melanocorypha mongolica, Mongolian Lark LC ver 3.1 (2009) 2 Altai, Tuva, Buryatia, Zabaikalskii Krai Eastern
Melanocorypha yeltoniensis, Black Lark LC ver 3.1 (2009) 3 Astrakhan,  Volgograd, Saratov, Orenburg, Omsk Western
Melanocorypha calandra, Calandra Lark LC ver 3.1 (2009) 3 Daghestan, Stavropol, Rostov, Volgograd, Saratov, Orenburg Western
Calandrella brachydactyla, Short-toed Lark LC ver 3.1 (2009) 3 Altaisky krai, Krasnoyarsk Both
Calandrella rufescens, Lesser Short-toed Lark LC ver 3.1 (2009) 3 Daghestan, Stavropol, Rostov, Volgograd, Saratov, Orenburg Western
Calandrella cheleensis tuvinica, Asian Short-toed Lark LC ver 3.1 (2009) Monit. Altai, Tuva, Buryatia, Zabaikalskii Krai Eastern
Galerida cristata, Crested Lark LC ver 3.1 (2009) 3 Both
Anthus campestris, Tawny Pipit LC ver 3.1 (2009) 3 Dagestan, Stavropol, Krasnodar, Rostov, Volgograd, Saratov, Orenburg, Novosibirsk, Kemerovo, Altaiskii Krai, Altai, Tuva, Kakass, Krasnoyarsk,  Buryat, Irkutsk Zabaikalskii Krai Both
Pyrgilauda davidiana, Pere David’s Snowfinch LC ver 3.1 (2009) Monit. Altai, Tuva, Zabaikalskii Krai Eastern
Saxicola insignis, White-Throated Bushchat VU C2a(ii) ver 3.1 (2008) 1 Altai Eastern habitat loss / degradation

* Only those where the species is living in steppe habitats

** Within bounds of Russia only

Conclusions on species prioritization

The total amount of 61 vertebrate species of special concern divides between Eastern and Western sub-regions of the steppe biome into almost equal parts (40 and 37, species inhabiting both sub-regions are recorded twice). For mammals concentration in Eastern half of steppe biome is more considerable: 13 species against 6 in Western half and no one distributed over entire biome (presented in both sub-regions). For birds, 10 species are occurred in Eastern steppes only, 14 – Western steppes only, and 17 species are occurred in both sub-regions.

Suitable habitats for many mammals (ungulates and carnivores) and some birds (carrion feaders) are predominantly large steppe tracts in semi-desert or mountain regions. Saving these species is rather impossible without designing large PAs. And vice versa, PAs is the sufficient and appropriate legal instrument for conservation of these steppe species. While some of species listed above inhabit mainly farmland habitats and strongly depend on agricultural practice. The best known examples are western Great Bustard, Demoisell Crane, Sociable Lapwing, Lesser Kestrel, Steppe and Imperial Eagles (in Russian part of their ranges). Surviving these species can not be secured by conservation in strict reserves only. They need special protection on agricultural land outside of PAs.

Thus, protecting these species of special concern should be one of main aims in steppe ecosystem management on farmland. 

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