General characteristics of Yalta Mountain-Forest Natural Reserve
Sergiy Zibtsev, Anatoliy Borsuk
National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine
Yalta Mountain-Forest Natural Reserve (Yalta MFNR) was established in 1973 on the basis of the Yalta forestry enterprise. The area of Yalta MFNR is 14523 hectares. Its territory (figure 1) is a strip along the Black Sea from town Foros in the west to town Gursuf at the east with length 40 km, maximum width (north-south) is 23 km. The reserve also includes a small part of Black Sea coast. Yalta MFNR consists of 4 forestry units: Gurzuf - 3967 ha, Livadia - 4836 ha, of, Alupka - 2619 ha, Opolzniv - 3101 ha. The area of forest land is 11296 ha, including 11090 ha covered by forest, areaof non-forest land – 3227 ha.
The Yalta Mountain-Forest Natural Reserve occupies the southern slope of the main ridge of Crimean Mountains that extends from west to east and is composed with rocks of all ages: from dark gray Triassic shales, overlain by Jurassic limestone, which actually form the ridge to modern Quaternary loess. The upper and middle parts of the slopes are steep (30-40°) often precipitous, lower parts of the slopes are flat (10-20°) and strongly fragmented by deep valleys and ravines. The upper part of the ridge named yaila (translated from Tatar - "pasture") is a hilly plateau of several hundred meters to 5-7 km wide with karst caves and descent. Within the reserve are 194 karst cavity (the cadaster of karst caves of Crimea recorded more than 1000 cavities).
Climate of the Yalta MFNR is close to the Mediterranean in its lower part. With increasing altitude climate moves to moderately cool and humid in the yaila. The average annual temperature is +13 ° C, average January temperature is +3.5 ° C, average July temperature is +24 ° C. The duration of period without frost is 247 days. The average period with snow cover is 11 days. The annual amount of precipitation is 550-560 mm. Climate in yaila is moderately cool and humid. The average annual temperature is decreases to +5,7 ° C, the average temperature in January is -4 ° C, in July - +15,4 ° C. The duration of period without frost is 150-160 days. The average period with snow cover is 110 days. The annual amount of precipitation is 950-1050 mm.
In a sub-Mediterranean climate brown soils are formed, within middle and upper zones it has changed into the dark brown soil. Under dense grass cover on limestone in yaila humus-carbonate mountain-steppe soils have formed.
The vegetation of the Yalta MFNR is varied very much and forms four altitudinal zones. From coast to a height of 400-450 m above sea level (ASL) Quercus pubescens forests with some areas of Juniperus excelsa and Pistacia mutica grow. Within this zone evergreen species Arbutus andrachne L, Cistus tauricus C. Presl, Tamus communis, Ruscus hypoglossum L. and Ruscus ponticus Woronow ex Grossx occur as a mixture with main species. Under the influence of harvesting they are replaced by dense shrubs of Carpinus orientalis or Paliurus spina-christi.
At an altitude of 400 to 900 m wide stretches of forest of Pinus nigra varpallasiana grow. Sub-Mediterranean species in the lower part and nemoral species at the upper part (Quercus petraea, Carpinus betulus, Fraxinus excelsior) are dominated. Quercus petraea forests occupy large areas in some places. On the steep cliffs Pinus nigra var pallasiana spread up to the plateau (yaila).
Above 900 m - 1200 m ASL the third zone of forests is formed where Pinus kochiana (near Gurzuf) combined with Pinus sylvestris and typical Fagus silvatica forests (on flat areas) dominate.
There are specific steppe meadows (grassland) on top of the plateau. Grassland has replaced by shrubs at the steep slopes, and by meadows at karst descents. At the steppe meadows the relict species frow: Carex humilis Leys. or Festuca valesiaca subsp. saxatillis, Bromopsis cappadocica Boiss. There are some small areas of Stipa lithophila P.Smirn. There are a lot of endemic species within these areas.
The altitude zoning of southern slopes of the Crimean Mountains has no clearly expressed boundaries between the zones; the boundaries are gradual and diffuse.
18 plant communities (Juniperus excelsa, Pistacia mutica, Pinus nigra varpallasiana and Pinus kochiana, Carex humilis, Stipa lithophila etc.) listed in the Green Book of Ukraine (23 Green Book plant communities are known at the Crimea Mountain) within the Yalta MFNR has grown.
Flora of the reserve includes 1364 species of vascular plants belonging to 509 genera and 100 families. The largest group is Asteraceae (12,2%), followed by Fabaceae (9,4%), Gramineae (8,3%), Cruciferae (5,7%), Rosales (5,6%), Lamiales (5,2 %), Umbellferae (4,2%) and others. perennial grasses (54,8%) have dominate in the flora, followed by annual grasses (34,3%). The proportion of bushes, shrubs and dwarf shrubs is only 10.9%. There is one endemic genus Rumia in reserve. About 8% of species are endemic: Dianthus, Convolvulus soldanella L., Sobolevskia lithophila, Lamium glaberrimum, Lathyrus digitatus, Paeonia daurica Andrews(p. Taurica Andrews), Saxifraga irrigua, Helianthemum stevenii, Teucrium jailae Juz. and many others. There are growing 183 species of moss, which is 60% Crimean Bryophyte species, 154 species of lichens and 1733 species of fungi.
There are 78 rare plant species listed in the Red Book of Ukraine grow in Yalta MFNR: Cheilanthes persica (Bory) Mett., Adiantum capillus — veneris L., Juniperus excelsa M.Bieb., Pulsatilla taurica Juz., Cerastium biebersteinii, Silene viridiflora L., Paeonia daurica Andrews, Viola oreades Bieb., Cistus tauricus C. Presl, Sobolewskia sibirica (Willd.) P.W.Ball, Arbutus andrachne L.,Chamaecytisus wulffii (V. Krecz.),Pistacia mutica, Prangos trifida (Mill.)Herrnst. et Heyn.,Onosma polyphylla Ledeb., Adenophora taurica (Sukacz.) Juz., many species of Orchidaceae in the flora of the reserve. There are 24 species listed in the European Red List and 8 species listed in Appendix 1 of the Bern Convention growth in Yalta MFNR. There is 18 plant association (78% of Crimean rare plant association) listed in Green book of Ukraine.
A variety of environmental conditions and vegetation leads to richness of fauna. There live 37 species of mammals, 150 - birds, 16 - reptiles, 4 species of amphibians, 90 species of insects and 119 species of mollusks in Yalta MFNR.
Pinus nigravar pallasiana is a dominant tree species in the Yalta MFNR forest (figure 1).
Figure 2. Distribution of forests of Yalta MFNR by dominant species.
Pinus nigravar pallasiana grow at altitude from 350-400 to 800-950 m ASL. Pinus nigra var pallasiana grow in mixture with Quercus pubescens, Juniperus excelsa and Juniperus oxycedrus L., Jasminum fruticans, Ruscus ponticus at the lower slopes. Undergrowth shrubs may sometimes form dense chapparels, which includes Juniperus oxycedrus, Cotinus coggygria, Rosa spinosissima.
There are only Quercus pubescens and Juniperus oxycedrus grow within pine stands with increasing of altitude. Pinus nigra varpallasiana reaches highest productivity in the middle of the zone. It grows together with Pinus kochiana, Quercus petraea and Quercus pubescens. Shrub layer is formed by the same species; its height is about 1 m. Grass cover is 70-80% and the height can reach up to 0.5 m.
Carpinus betulus, Acer stevenii, Malus domestica, Sorbus torminalis occur in forest composition with increasing of altitude. Carpinus betulus and Fagus silvatica on more deep soils or Pinus kochiana on rocky soils replace Pinus nigra var pallasiana.
Above 900-950 m above sea level Fagus silvatica and Carpinus betulus have replaced Pinus nigra var pallasiana stands. Undergrowth sometimes well developed and covers 80%ground in forests. Grass cover in average 35-40% of area under stands.
Chronicle of Nature (1998, 2001, 2003) indicate that wildfire is the main factor of ecosystem disturbance of the Yalta MFNR. Ground fires destroy brush layer and changing forest into the simple, poor association of Pinetum brachypodosium (Rupeste) with a relatively weak cover of herbaceous plants. Crown fire usually completely destroys forest stands and leads to change of plant association.