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Nature Reserves of Siberia. Part 3

The chapter is about how a living "Chronicles of Nature" is kept in Siberia and how its reference areas are protected...

Today, there are fewer and fewer untouched places in the world where wildlife has been preserved. Among the main functions of nature reserves are nature conservation and research: Scientists collect monthly data on the state of flora, animal numbers, seasonal migrations, and yields in order to use them to solve environmental problems. Nature reserves also conduct ecological and educational work, helping to foster respect for the gifts of nature and create conditions for ecological and educational tourism. And we continue our virtual tour of the reserves of Siberia...

The smallest and one of the youngest reserves in Siberia, Tigireksky, is located in the southwestern part of the Altai Territory (total area 41,505.5 hectares). It is famous for its natural diversity, mountainous landscapes with domed peaks and caves, indicating traces of distant eras. There are many natural monuments in the Reserve: Silur open-cast "Tigirek" on the right bank of the Inya River, a large cave complex in Semipeschernaya Mountain. Among the famous caves: the Terrible and the Great Hanharinskaya – unique archaeological sites; the Hyena's Lair Cave, where scientific research of bone remains was carried out; Yashchur Karst Cave. The Razrabotnaya Mount, impressive for its beauty, was the first to receive scientific recognition: Aquamarine and rose quartz were mined in its depths in the XIX century. Among the valuable inhabitants of the Reserve are bears, foxes, marals, stoats, moose, badgers.

In 1999, the Khakasski Nature Reserve was established in the picturesque regions of Southern Siberia to protect the mountain and steppe ecosystems of the Minusinsk Basin and the Western Sayan. The Reserve consists of 9 separate territories with a total area of 274,565 hectares, and each has its own natural and historical attractions. For example, on the site "Lake Itkul" there are burial mounds more than 2.5 thousand years old, and on the site "Oglakhty" – in one of the most picturesque places of the Reserve – a Neolithic settlement with rock paintings was discovered, and today an open-air ethnographic exposition is installed here. There are many caves on the territory of the protected area, as well as the famous and legendary Lake Bele. The most protected animals are red wolves, Altai argali, snow leopards, beavers, while rare birds include the steppe eagles, red-breasted geese, Bewick's swans, and demoiselle cranes.

In the south of Central Siberia there is the only Kuznetsk Alatau Nature Reserve in the Kemerovo Oblast, which preserves 5% of the area of Kuzbass in its original form. The biosphere Reserve has a difficult history of creation, but thanks to the efforts of scientists, it has been successfully operating since 1989. The Reserve is named after the ridge of the same name, which is a complex system of mountain ranges separated by river valleys. The Reserve area includes many rivers, lakes, and mountain swamps. Many rare plants grow here – rhodiola rosea, maral root, lady's slipper, and about 58 species of mammals live under protection, including brown bears, moose, foxes, otters, badgers, as well as the rarest forest reindeer – the symbol of the Reserve with a population of 200 individuals. Special routes have been developed for tourists in the Reserve.

The Tunguska Nature Reserve in the central part of the Central Siberian Plateau on the territory of the Evenkiysky district of the Krasnoyarsk Territory was established in 1995. It is interesting that it is the zone that covers the area of the Tunguska meteorite fall in 1908 – a phenomenon that still of scientists matter. The territory of the modern Reserve can be divided into two parts: The one that was exposed to explosive effects where the consequences of the disaster are studied; and the second which serves as a reference for studying natural sites and comparing them. The "telegraph-pole forest" is the site of the fall of the alleged meteorite, the explosion from which destroyed forests within a radius of 40 km. Today, guests can also visit Kulik Lodges, a historical site and the expedition base of L.A. Kulik, the scientist who first began studying the phenomenon. It is worth going to the Churgim waterfall, where crystal-clear water falls from a height of 10 m into a lake in which you can swim.

The first Vitim Nature Reserve in the Irkutsk Region, established in 1982, is located on the right bank of the Vitim River and covers an area of 585,000 hectares. The Reserve impresses with high sharp ridges and valleys, crystal-clear lakes and waterfalls. Rare plants such as Dahurian larch, Colorado blue columbine, Dracocephalum peregrinum "Blue Dragon", dryad, Papaver pseudocanescens Popov grow on the territory of the protected area. The Reserve has become a haven for 35 species of mammals and more than 200 species of birds, including the red book – black stork, white-tailed eagle, peregrine falcon. The bighorn sheep and the black-capped marmot are under special protection here. The main natural attraction is Lake Oron with crystal-clear water, which is called the younger brother of Lake Baikal.

The Azas Nature Reserve with an area of 300,390 hectares is located in the central part of the Todzha basin in the Republic of Tuva. It was established in 1985 in order to study the unique ecosystems of the basin and preserve the nature of Southern Siberia. The Reserve impresses with high-altitude landscapes and numerous lakes. 70% of the Reserve area is occupied by taiga, the rest is tundra, swamps, steppes. Berry bushes, Siberian mountain ash, Spiraea media, Siberian-tea, and prickly wild rose grow here in rich soil. The Reserve is home to over 50 species of mammals, including the Red Book Tuvan beaver. Marals, moose, brown bears, sables and wolves can be found here. There are many sacred places on the territory, which are worshipped by the indigenous population – Tuvinians. Arjaans, natural springs known for their healing power, are popular with tourists.

One of the youngest nature reserves in Russia, the Uvs Lake Basin, is located on the border of the Republic of Tuva and Mongolia. Visually, it resembles a bowl surrounded by mountains, with large Uvs Lake at the bottom and rivers running down from mountain ranges. Established in 1993, today the Reserve includes 9 ecosites; the entire area is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Its peculiarity is that almost all the natural zones of Eurasia are gathered here – tundra, taiga, steppe, desert and semi-desert. More than a thousand species of plants grow on the territory, 40 of which are considered relict. Cedars, larches, and pine are popular among the trees. Here deer, snow leopards and argali coexist with wolves, camels and bears; hares, chipmunks, weasels, wild boars, sables, lynxes are found here. Tourists are allowed to visit the Reserve as part of sightseeing routes: Hiking, car-hiking or double canoe rafting.

No matter how much we talk about the reserves of Siberia, all their power and beauty cannot be described in words or captured on film – you need to see and sense it firsthand. So, let's go!