The Sikhote-Alin mountain range contains one the richest and most unusual temperate forests of the world. In this mixed zone between taiga and subtropics, southern species such as the tiger and Himalayan bear cohabit with northern species such as the brown bear and lynx. The site stretches from the peaks of Sikhote-Alin to the Sea of Japan and is important for the survival of many endangered species such as the Amur tiger.
Justification for Inscription
Criterion (x): The nominated area is representative of one of the world’s most distinctive natural regions. The combination of glacial history, climate and relief has allowed the development of the richest and most unusual temperate forests in the world. Compared to other temperate ecosystems, the level of endemic plants and invertebrates present in the region is extraordinarily high which has resulted in unusual assemblages of plants and animals. For example, subtropical species such as tiger and Himalayan bear share the same habitat with species typical of northern taiga such as brown bear and reindeer. The site is also important for the survival of endangered species such as the scaly-sided (Chinese) merganser, Blakiston’s fish-owl and the Amur tiger.
The site lies within the Sikhote-Alin mountain range in the extreme south-eastern corner of the Russian Federation, a region with a climate and biodiversity entirely different from the rest of the country. The Sikhote-Alin is not a major mountain range (1,100 km in length and up to 1,830 m in altitude) but a vast unmodified temperate forest wilderness lying within northern latitudes. Elsewhere, at these latitudes, the mixed coniferous/deciduous forests of Western Europe and North America have largely been removed or severely modified. Lying between the coastline of the Sea of Japan in the east and the valleys of the Amur and Ussuri rivers in the west, the Sikhote-Alin is subject to both maritime and continental climatic extremes.
The Central Sikhote-Alin site in Primorskii Krai consists of two units separated along the crest of the range by a distance of 70 km:
- The southern unit consists of two protected areas separated from each other by the town of Terney: Sikhote-Alin Nature Preserve on the eastern maritime slopes near the town of Terney (including a marine protected zone, extending 1km out from the coastline), this is a Strict Nature Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve; and Goralij Zoological Preserve, a coastal zone north of Terney.
- The second, northern, unit consists of two contiguous areas located on the Bikin River catchments: upstream of the town of Krasny Yar, Bikin Territory of Traditional Nature Use for the Udege people in the middle Bikin; and Verkhnebikinski Zakaznik, covering the entire upper Bikin catchments above the river junction at Ushaia.
The Sikhote-Alin protected areas are considered to contain the greatest plant and animal diversity on the north-western coastline of the Pacific. The region lies at the junction of the Eurasian continent and the Pacific plate, a biogeographic 'mixing zone' that largely escaped the rejuvenating impacts of the last glaciation and allowed the development of the ancient 'Turgai' biota during the Tertiary and early Quaternary periods. This unique assemblage of biota contains elements from Manchuria, Okhotsk-Kamchatka (Bering), eastern Siberia and Dauria-Mongolia. The unique combination of its severe climatic characteristics, physical isolation, and traditional resource use by the Udege and other indigenous peoples, has meant that 80-90% of the region's vegetation still remains as dense temperate forest and taiga.
The site lies within the 'Primorye' Centre of Plant Diversity; it also lies partly within WWF's 'Russian Far East temperate broadleaf and mixed forest' ecoregion. Forests cover 95% of the site, with alpine tundra, coastal shrublands, meadows and bogs accounting for the rest of the area. More than 180 tree and woody shrub species occur in these forests; the most characteristic large trees are: Korean pine, Jeddo spruce, needle fir, and several species of larch, Manchurian ash, white-barked elm and Mongolian oak. At higher altitudes, the forests have a higher proportion of conifers and small-leaved deciduous trees, typically birches, Koyama spruce and Siberian larch. Along the banks of the Bikin River, there is a preponderance of white-barked elm, Korean pine and Maximovitch poplar. Korean pine is a prolific 'nut' (seed) producer, essential to the survival of at least 30 mammal species, and important as a food source (rich in edible oils) for the indigenous people. In total, almost 1200 vascular plant species are present, including many of medicinal value and importance to the indigenous people; the best-known plants in this category are ginseng and Siberian ginseng.
More than 400 vertebrates have been recorded, including 241 bird species, 65 mammals, seven amphibians, 10 reptiles and 51 fish. The site is renowned in international conservation circles as the largest intact habitat for the extremely rare Siberian (or Amur, or Ussuri) tiger. In addition, it is the habitat of brown bear, Himalayan black bear, lynx, goral, sika deer, yellow-throated marten, Manchurian hare, scaly-sided merganser and other endemic and/or endangered species. Seals are a feature of the Sikhote-Alin coastline. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
People were active in the area in prehistoric times. In the 7th century AD arrivals from Zabaikalie created a new Tungus-language society, the Mukri, who developed under Mongol and Turkish influence. In the mid-19th century, the Ussuri region became part of Russia, and thereafter various "Western" influences affected local culture to some degree. Despite the remoteness, traditional clothing materials, for example, were replaced by woven cloths in the 19th century for everyday use. About 1900 Chinese migrants brought with them naive Taoism to mix with Udege paganism. A further addition was given to local culture by the arrival of Russian Old Believers, devout ultra-orthodox Christians fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in the remote valleys and mountains that were the hunting and collecting territories of the indigenous peoples.
The process of collectivization reached even as far east as Central Sikhote-Alin. In the later 1930s the population in the nominated area was brought together in just two settlements, one of which, Krasny Yar, continues as the main settlement today. In 1993, the Sikhote-Alin Ethnic territory was formalized around the concept of man in relation to the taiga (pine forest) environment, itself representative of the principle, admirably expressed by the nomination, of "the reasonable and sparing use of the nature resources," so characteristic of the indigenous peoples of this area in former times as well as the present. The continuance of the indigenous way of life is now, however, under severe threat, both because of the small size of the population (c 2000) and from external influence. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation