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Russian Nature

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Russian Zapovedniks and National Parks

<<< National Park "Chavash Varmane" | Index and Map | Zapovednik "Astrakhansky" >>>

Povolzhye

The list of the Povolzhye Region Zapovedniks (Nature Reserves) and National Parks:

This fairly small but densely populated region comprises oblasts (regions) and republics situated along the lower reaches of the Volga River (Ulyanovsk, Samara, Saratov, Volgograd, Astrakhan region, Chuvashia, Tataria and Kalmykia). Since in Soviet times, numerous big hydroelectric power stations were constructed on the Volga, the great Russian river has been regulated, containing a continuous system of reservoirs from Cheboksary to Volgograd. The water in them is well heated. In addition, the water is polluted by the effluents of industrial enterprises, and therefore the fish often perish there.

Only the lowest reaches of the Volga where the river is separated into numerous channels that have retained their original outlook. The Volga Delta, which stretches from north-east to south-west almost 200 km, is characterized by an exceptionally rich wildlife — there breed hundreds of thousand of waterfowl and waterbirds, including numerous species of pelicans, herons, cormorants, spoonbills, gulls, and bald coots. On the flyway, one can see almost all the species of swans, geese and ducks breeding in the European Russia.

The fish fauna is no less rich, comprising over 60 species, Cyprinidae being the most numerous, including the common carp, carp bream, occur in the lower reaches of the Volga River. The most valuable are Acipenseridae, which each year migrate from the Caspian Sea to the Volga spawning grounds.

After the huge hydroelectric power stations were constructed, the water level in the lower reaches of the Volga River varies to affect the entire life of the local dwellers.

Ecologists are particularly concerned about the development of the Astrakhan gas processing project.

The northern part of the Region lies on the junction of mixed forests and forest-steppes, hence, the landscapes there are highly variable and picturesque. Particularly well known are the ancient pine forests situated on the southern edge of their distribution range (e.g., the Raifskii Forest in the "Volzhsko-Kamsky" Reserve" near Kazan and the plots of pine forests in Zhiguli), and also the famous Privolzhye oak forests glorified in myths and tales. In combination with the oak tree and other deciduous forests, the pine forms some very complex plantations which have been retained in a fairly original forth, only in some individual protected areas.

As the entire forest-steppe zone Povolzhye has been exposed, to intensive economic development, and the entire nature of the region has been disturbed. However, there occur such common forest species as the moose, wild boar, roe deer, marten, lynx, and the squirrel. In not so distant past, the famous Zhiguli Mountains were home to bears, which became extinct in the middle of the 19-th century. Some present dwellers of Povolzhye were acclimatized there in the 1930s (the axis deer, raccoon dog, American mink).

Farther to the south, the forest steppe is primarily replaced by the steppe and subsequently, by semi-desert landscapes. It is exactly semideserts that encompass the lower reaches of the Volga River, and take up a considerable portion of the Cis-Caspian Lowland within Kalmykia. The numerous natural features there are associated with variation of the Caspian See Level — this ancient salt lake, which is characterized by variability and fluctuation of the volume. Some areas, e.g., Elton and Baskunchak lakes lie below the sea level, although near them the steppe mountain Bogdo is located, which rises almost to 200 m.

Characteristic are the wormwood steppes and solonchaks, where grow some specific plants adapted to local conditions (tamarisk, black wormwood, biurgun saltwort, various grasses and even lichens).

The great space which has been constantly increasing during the recent years, is taken up by sands, whose intensive development is also associated with modification by man, namely, by overgrazing of sheep. These landscapes are characterized by a very peculiar fauna — the steppe corsac fox, various sousliks, hamsters, gerbils. Of particular interest is the saiga — steppe antelope, the dweller of the semideserts of Kalmykia and the Astrakhan Region. It was almost extinct at the beginning of our century, but its numbers were not only restored, but in the 1960s-1970s it was harvested on a massif scale. However, due to overharvest and construction of numerous irrigation canals, the saigas are again hard up, and special measures are called for to save them.

The semidesert zone is characterized by a large number of various water bodies — from large lakes and reservoirs to small ponds. They all attract numerous birds and other members of the local fauna. Hence, the wildlife of the semidesert Povolzhye is fairly rich and diverse and needs to be strictly protected.

The list of the Povolzhye Region Zapovedniks (Nature Reserves) and National Parks:

 

<<< National Park "Chavash Varmane" | Index and Map | Zapovednik "Astrakhansky" >>>

 

 


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