Primorsky region (Primorye) is situated in the south of the Russian Far East. It borders on Khabarovsky region of Russia in the north, People’s Republic of China and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the west and southwest, respectively, and is washed by the Sea of Japan (East Sea) in the east and the south. Primorye takes up 165,900 km2. It is more than Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Switzerland taken together! The capital is Vladivostok. The population is about 2,220,300. The south of the region is most densely populated. Big cities are Vladivostok, Nakhodka, Ussuriisk, Arseniev, Artyom.
The Sikhote-Alin mountain ridge stretching for about 2,000 km from the north to the south divide Primorye into the eastern and the western mountainsides. Rivers of the eastern slope belong to the watersheds of the Sea of Japan (East Sea) and those of the western slope fall into the Amur River. In the southwest lies vast lowland of Khanka Lake. The length of shoreline from the Zolotoy Cape in the north of the region to the southernmost mouth of the Tumannaya River is 1,500 km. The largest river is the Ussury. The majority of rivers are mountainous and shallow with fast currents and stony beds. Primorye is rich in mountain lakes, mineral springs and sea bays with exotic landscapes of beaches and desert islands.
The region is located in the moderate Pacific monsoon zone. It cools quickly in winter while the vast ocean heats slowly in summer. Winter usually lasts from late November till early March. It is cold and windy, with little snow and a great number of sunny days. The winter temperatures vary from12°C below zero (+10,4°F) in the coastal area to – 30°C (F° -22) in the north. The cold sea current that flows north to south along the coast causes frequent and protracted fogs. Most precipitation falls in summer months. It is impossible to give an average characteristic of summer; this period varies very much in different years. Sometimes summer is rainy and cool, sometimes it is sunny and hot. August is the warmest month with average temperatures of about 18 -25°C (F° 64.4 – 77), but it is the very season for the strongest and most destructive typhoons. The best season in Primorsky region is autumn, warm, dry, clear and silent. The temperature goes down slowly. This season is usually called “the golden Far Eastern autumn”. It remains warm especially long in coastal areas.
The animal world has a distinctive wealth of species and a combination of southern and northern fauna. A great variety of species inhabit our forests: Amur tiger, Amur leopard, Asiatic black bear, brown bear, wolf, wild boar, goral, sika deer, reindeer, Siberian stag, roe deer, musk deer, sable, Far Eastern wildcat, lynx, fox, Siberian weasel, otter, wolverine, squirrel, chipmunk and many others. The Amur leopard, a wild cat boasting fetching spots on its fur, resides nowhere in Russia but in southern Primorye with Kedrovaya Pad Preserve as one of its known habitats. About 28-33 individuals (according to the count held in 2002-2003) are on the verge of extinction and under protection.
Among 690 birds species inhabiting the territory of Russia, 458 dwell permanently and migrate through Primorye. Birds included in the Endangered Species List of the Russian Federation are cattle egret, spoonbill, black stork, black-billed white stork, mandarin duck, Japanese starling, black vulture, golden eagle, Japanese crested ibis, Asian spruse grouse, hooded crane, Polivanov’s parrotbill and many others.
Climatic conditions and region’s topography cause the growth of a great diversity of higher tracheal plants. The number of different plant species recorded in Primorye is nearing 2,500. The majority of the region’s territory is taken up by rich coniferous and coniferous-broadleaved forests (the Ussury taiga). It is not only our national property, but also the world’s treasure, basis for hunting, recreation and tourism activity. Among rare plants such species as ancient lotus, ginseng, different ferns, yew, chozenia willow, eleuterococus, Chinese magnolia vine, decussate microbiota, rhododendron fauriei franch are worth mentioning.
The following nature reserves were created to conserve the unique fauna and flora of the region:
1. Lazovsky Nature Reserve (http://lazovzap.ru/) in the southeast of Primorye, about 250 km far from Vladivostok. Due to its peculiar relief and location, the reserve is home to 2,000 plant species of various geographical zones (e.g. taiga, tundra and even subtropical zone), 57 animal species and 319 birds. The reserve is famous for such rare animals as Amur tiger (also known as Siberian, Manchurian, Ussuri, North-Eastern Chinese tiger), goral and sika deer, as well as relict yew trees.
2. Ussuriisky Nature Reserve is situated near Ussuriisk city, about 150 km far from Vladivostok. Ginseng, a medicinal plant, and 17 rare plants can be seen there. About 61 mammal species inhabit the reserve, including Amur tiger, Amur leopard, wild boar, bear, fox, lynx and sika deer. Over 160 bird species are found in the reserve.
3. The Far Eastern Marine Reserve (a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve), the only one marine reserve in Russia. It is located in the richest – in terms of biodiversity – area of the Sea of Japan. It contains 11 islands, many rocks and a vast water area. About 3,300 invertebrate and vertebrate species, terrestrial and water plants are represented here. There are colonies of marine birds including unique ones such as white-tailed eagle, Steller’s sea eagle and black vulture, rookeries of common seal. Seal Phoca largha breeds on the islands of the reserve only. The surrounding waters are inhabited by the richest marine fauna. Among them, about 170 fish species, 300 crustaceans species, more than 200 species of Mollusks and 30 species of different Echinoderms. The most remarkable are trepang (so-called “marine ginseng”), two species of scallops, giant octopus, Kamchatka king crab.
4. Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve, located in the Khasan district, southern Primorye, is Russia’s oldest nature reserve. This unique area is home to Amur leopard. The county’s highlights are deer farm, salmon farm, and Gamov Cape and Lighthouse. The reserve is known for its fauna. There are all together 240 different birds species, 100 of them nest in the reserve. Several animal species, such as roe, sika deer, wild boar, raccoon dogs and Asiatic (Himalayan) bears can be found in the reserve. But the main pride of the reserve is the Amur leopard. The population of this rare predator totals only 30 animals, including one animal that is a constant feature of the reserve. Long-term ecological research of the behavior of Amur leopard is conducted in collaboration with foreign scientists.
5. Khankaisky Biosphere Nature Reserve, founded in 1990, is the youngest in Primorsky region. Waters and bogs of Lake Khanka is a unique natural complex where various birds nest and stop during migration. From 287 species included into the list-appendix to the International Convention “On protection of migrant birds and birds under the threat of extinction and their habitat” 225 are registered there. One can see rare meadow and marsh plants such as: Hindu lotus, Gordon eurvale, water chestnut, tenchweed, water lilies. An important task of the reserve is to protect fauna of the lake: suppon, Chinese perch. There is a large population of muskrats, it is possible to meet raccoon dog and otter there. On snow-covered rice fields and plains many red foxes hunt. The majority of pheasant population lives within the boundaries of the reserve.
6. Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Nature Reserve is located in the north of Primorye. Its primary goal was to conserve and restore the sable population almost exterminated in the 30’s of the last century. The reserve includes parts of three landscape zones: cedar-broadleaved, broadleaved-coniferous and fir-spruce forests. More than 1,100 species of tracheal plants grow on the territory including 38 rare and endangered ones: Japanese yew, devil’s-club, rhododendron fauriei franch, moccasin flower. About 63 mammal species reside there, among them several included in the Endangered Species List of the Russian Federation: Amur tiger, goral, sika deer, Asiatic black bear. The most typical animals inhabiting the reserve are brown bear, sable, marten, Japanese mink, Far Eastern wildcat, American mink, wild boar, musk deer, and roe deer. Over 342 bird species are represented on the territory: Temminck’s cormorant, hazel grouse, white-rumped swift, marsh tit, nuthatch, nutcracker, Chinese merganser, mandarin duck, osprey, Asian spruce grouse, Blakiston’s fish-owl, Hodgson’s hawk eagle, white-tailed eagle, Steller’s sea eagle, black stork. The reserve works in cooperation with WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) on Amur tiger research and protection.
In 2007, two national parks were established in Primorye: