|Karte: balatsky.ru||Nikolay Balatsky||Publikationen|
NATURE IN THE NOVOSIBIRSK REGION
A BRIEF GEOGRAPHICAL ACCOUNT
GEOGRAPHIC POSITION, AREA, BORDERS, POPULATION
The Novosibirsk region is situated in the central part of the Eurasian mainland in the South-East of the West-Siberian lowland, one of the greatest lowlands of the world. The area of the region amounts to 178 thousand square kilometres. It can be compared to the area of Austria and Hungary taken together. The length of the region from West to East is about 600 kilometres while from North to South it is up to 400 kilometres. Within only these 400 kilometres three natural zones can be found: from woodland (taiga) to forest-steppes and almost pure steppes. The unique nature of the region in comparison with other areas of West Siberia lies in the limited compression of its natural zones. It can be said that the Novosibirsk region is almost all of West Siberia in miniature.
The administrative borders of the region today have been unchanged since the year 1944. The population amounts to three million people.
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY OF THE REGION,
For hundreds of millions of years most of the territory of our region lay at the bottom of an ancient sea. Proof of this can serve fossils of ancient sea animals. In the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods (100-150 million years ago) both in water and on land ancient reptilians existed. We know them as dinosaurs. However no bones of dinosaurs have been found in the area, because the needed geological layers were disclosed here only at the depth of 1-2 kilometres. In distant geological epochs the climate of this territory was warm, subtropical. Fossils of leaves and stems of ancient warmth-loving plants serve as proof of such climate.
For the last 1-2 million years more than once were there glacial periods over vast areas of the Eurasian mainland. There were no glaciers within the area of the region, still their proximity made the climate cold. The landscape of the region of those times would remind us of the North tundra today. During the days of the glacial epoch mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, cave bears, giant deer and aurochs roamed the Siberian land. All these species of animals died out quite recently only 10-15 thousand years ago. Primitive man was their contemporary in Siberia. He actively hunted down these animals, mammoths in particular.
There is a unique exhibit at the Novosibirsk regional museum of natural sciences which displays the skeleton of a female mammoth found in 1939 washed ashore at one of the rivers of the region. Separate teeth, bones and tusks of mammoths are quite frequently found, but a full skeleton is a rare find. All over Russia about 20 full skeletons of mammoths were found. Only two of them are of females. The skeleton at our museum is of a grown-up animal, but its size is not very large - two and a half meters in height. It is known that mammoths could have been almost four meters high. These ancient elephants were covered with lengthy wool (up to a meter long). They kept together in herds and fed on vegetation. In the North of Asia (Chukot, Taimir Peninsula) from time to time the dead bodies of mammoths are found well-preserved in permafrost.
The greater part of the territory of the Novosibirsk region is situated on the West-Siberian lowland; therefore its surface consists mainly of plains. The valley of the river Ob divides the territory into two parts: the left bank and the right bank. The left side is made up of low plains the average height of which is 120 meters above sea level. The characteristic feature of the left-side Baraba plain is the ribbon-like rises in the relief. They stretch parallel to each other their height being usually 3-10 meters. These “manes” (as Siberians call such rises) are former watersheds of ancient rivers formed after glaciers had melted a few thousand years ago.
The right bank of the region is more elevated and hilly. There rises the Salair ridge - the most Northern and very smoothed spur of the Altai Mountains. On the Salair hills lies the highest point of the region, being 494 meters above sea level.
The territory of the region is not dangerous from a seismological point of view. However in the Eastern part there were a few small earthquakes.
In the Novosibirsk region there are relatively few minerals, altogether about 20 kinds of them. Not all deposits of these minerals are good for industrial utilization. All over the territory different kinds of clay are found in quantities from which bricks and other earthenware are made. In the North, where there are many swamps, an enormous amount of peat can be found but no large deposits of oil and gas. In the hilly East, construction material can be found such as building stones, gravel, sand and also limestone and shale used for producing cement. In the Eastern part of the region there are small deposits of marble. In the East there is also coal, including high quality anthracite. On the Salair ridge, small deposits of gold are found. Of great value are the underground mineral waters (for treatment of patients) and thermal waters (used for heating). In the salt lakes of the South-West, soda and salt are obtained. Certain salt lakes contain curative mud used for medical purposes. For instance, the Karachi salt lake has become a well-known health resort.
SOILS AND AGRICULTURE
The soils of our area are very diverse. Different kinds (about 100 different varieties) of soils are located in mosaic order. This can be explained due to the considerable variety of natural conditions. Among the basic types of soil of the Novosibirsk region the following can be found: podzolic, boggy, grey forest soils, saline soils. In agriculture different kinds of black soil are widely used.
Agriculture lands (arable lands, pastures, and hayfields) take up about half of the territory. The main grain crop is spring and winter wheat. Apart from wheat, oats, barley, rye, peas, millet, buckwheat are grown. Large areas are planted with potatoes and vegetables (carrot, cabbage, and beetroot) and forage crops. It is necessary to mention that the forest-steppes of Siberia belong to the areas with uneven moisture - at times it goes dry with droughts for long, at times it keeps raining for days, therefore the harvests are not very high. Flax is also grown in the region, so are sunflowers and mustard. There are berry gardens where currants, sea-buckthorn, raspberry and apples grow. In the South of the region even watermelons can be grown. Dairy-farms, poultry-farms and also bee-gardens are kept.
THE CLIMATE AND PHENOLOGY
The Novosibirsk region is situated in the centre of Eurasia, far from seas and oceans; therefore, the climate is continental with a long, continuous winter and a short, hot summer. The city of Novosibirsk is on the same latitude as Moscow, Copenhagen, Hamburg. However, the number of sunny days in the Novosibirsk region is 20 % higher than in Europe in the same latitude. During the year the average amount of snow- and rainfall in the region is 30 - 40 centimetres. In our region each of the four seasons can be clearly singled out:
Winter is the lengthiest season of the year. It lasts 5 months from the beginning of November till the end of March. During all these months the ground is covered with snow. In comparison with the European North of Russia the layer of snow is not so high. On the average it is 40 cm. high. The lowest temperature registered throughout the years within the area was – 55°C. Still such frost was exceptional for the region. Usually the thermometer never drops below – 35°C. For the last decades winter has become much warmer; perhaps this can be attributed to global warming. The average temperature in January (the coldest month of the year) is – 19°C. It must be mentioned that in conditions of a continental climate, the air is drier and every person is affected by the frost less than in more wet climate (North of Europe for example). The darkest month of the year is December with only 7 hours of daylight.
Winter is a time of hardship for the animals. Some of them (the brown bear, the badger, the hedgehog, the chipmunk, the marmot) are in hibernation in their burrows. In spite of the severe winter, birds fly to Siberia not only in spring from the South but also in winter from the North. As soon as the cold weather sets in, waxwings, bullfinches, snow buntings and other wandering birds appear in the South of Siberia.
Spring lasts for two months - April and May. In spring there are many sunny days and less rain or snow than at other times of the year. In April the snow rapidly melts, and streams and brooks are seen everywhere. At the beginning of May, grass begins to grow and tiny leaves come out of the buds in the trees.
For the Siberian forest-steppe a characteristic phenomenon is “a naked spring”. It means that after all the snow is gone, grass does not begin to grow immediately, but approximately only for a period of two weeks. There is no snow as it is warm, but no grass is growing. This is how the phenomenon is explained: in winter the ground can freeze about two meters deep, and time is needed for the roots of the plants to melt. However there is no permafrost on the territory of the Novosibirsk region. In spring nature comes alive, and from the South many birds of passage come to Siberia.
Summer sets in at the beginning of June in our area and lasts about three months. Days in June have the most daylight of all the months. The longest day in June is more than 17 hours. The maximum temperature registered in the area of the whole period of observation was 40°C. In June or July there are usually 1-2 weeks when the temperature is about 30 degrees. In summer the Siberian forest-steppe has a thick and diverse plant cover. Animals in this period are very active. Although the Siberian summer is short, it is a full one.
The autumn months in Southern Siberia are September and October. In September it may be still warm (20 to 25°C). This is the time when the attire of the forests is very nice. Towards the end of October it becomes colder, all the foliage falls from the trees. It also rains very often. At the end of October the first snow usually falls. The autumn birds of passage fly to the South, other animals get ready for a lengthy and severe winter.
On the whole, the climatic conditions of the Novosibirsk region is, thanks to the large number of sunny days and relatively little moisture in the air, quite favourable for a person’s health. Despite the long and cold winter, the abundance of light and heat in summer makes it possible to grow the main agricultural cultures.
WATERS OF THE REGION
The Novosibirsk region is rich in water. On its territory there are about 430 rivers, including one of the largest rivers of the world, the Ob. Novosibirsk, as we know, is situated on the Ob. Two main rivers (the Biya and the Katun) forming the Ob take their start from the glaciers of the Altai Mountains, and finally the Ob runs into the Arctic Ocean. In 1956 not far from Novosibirsk a dam was built on the river Ob for a hydroelectric station, as a result of which an artificial man-made reservoir was formed called “the Ob Sea”. Navigation is developing on the Ob River. Of the largest rivers in the region worth mentioning are the Inya (along which many Novosibirsk country houses for its residents are located), the picturesque Berd, the slow flowing rivers Tara, Om, Kargat, Karasuk.
Our region is often called “the lake land” as there are a great number of lakes here. In accordance with various counts there are from three to six thousand lakes. The lakes are mostly found in the Baraba lowland and are rather shallow. Their banks are marshy and covered with reeds. In the South-West there are many salt and bitter salt lakes. Partly salty is the largest lake of West Siberia called Chany. In spite of its extensiveness this lake is shallow, its depth being about two meters. The peculiarities of Lake Chany are that from time to time the area either increases or decreases depending on the nature cycles of many years.
In winter rivers and lakes are covered with ice the thickness of which reaches 1 metre. Little ponds and rivers freeze all the way through to the very bottom.
About 30% of the territory of the region is covered with swamps. Large areas of swamps are situated in the North of the region into which the most extensive system of bogs in the world - Vasyuganiye bogs come forth from the center of West Siberia. The swampy areas in the North are places where few people reside.
VEGETATATION AND VEGETATION ZONES
The flora of the Novosibirsk region on the whole does not differ greatly in accordance with species from the flora of Middle Europe, although pure Siberian species can also be found. Altogether, on the territory of the region about 1200 species of higher wild growing plants have been registered.
Forests take up about 20% of the territory of the region. The most widespread tree to be found is the common birch, then comes the Scotch pine and the aspen. There can also be found such trees as cedar pine, Siberian spruce, Siberian fir, mountain ash, hawthorn and other kinds of trees. Ordinary trees of the Middle European forests such as oak, elm, linden, ash tree do not grow in the Siberian forests. But such trees are successfully planted here for greenery. In forests, trees are felled for timber in moderate amounts.
The plant cover is heterogeneous. Here are the main phytogeographical zones of the area:
In the very North marshy taiga is situated which is made up of Scotch pine, cedar pine, Siberian fir. Then to the South in the forests most common are birches and aspen. In the marshy forests of the North of the area luxuriantly grow various kinds of moss and lichen. Bushes of ledum, ferns and many important berries such as cranberries and cowberries are usual here.
Most widespread and typical of the Novosibirsk region is the forest-steppe landscape where open spaces alternate with not very large round shaped forms of parcels of birch and aspen groves which in Siberia are called “kolki”. The grass vegetation of the forest-steppe is quite diverse. Here one can come across valuable medicinal herbs for instance St. John’s wort, soldier’s woundwort, adonis, lungwort burnet and others. In the Baraba forest-steppe there are many water-meadows and swamps overgrown with long reeds and cane and other moisture-loving grasses.
In the South-West of the region near the border of Kazakhstan there are steppes. It is typical of steppes to have different drought-resisting plants such as wormwoods, feather-grass, and liquorice. On saline soils interesting salt-enduring flora can be found.
In the general landscape of the region, the low-hilled taiga of the Salair ridge stands out. Most of the trees here are firs and aspen. On the moistureous glades of the Salair ridge grass grows as high as a man.
Very characteristic of our area are pine forests (on sandy ground) that stretch along the shores of the river Ob including the outskirts of Novosibirsk. The Ob pine forests are beautiful, rich in berries, mushrooms, medicinal herbs and are favourite recreation spots for the city residents.
Apart from natural vegetation there are vast areas of the region with fields which grow agricultural cultures.
THE ANIMAL WORLD
The animal world of the Novosibirsk region has much in common with the fauna of Middle and Northern Europe. However there are certain differences. On the territory of the region the natural zones of the taiga and the steppe are only 200 km away from each other. Therefore within this comparatively short distance both kinds of species can be found, such as pure Northern taiga species (the reindeer, sable, elk, wood grouse) and such typical of Southern animals (jerboa, pelican, half-desert corsac fox).
The largest arthropod animal of our region is the crayfish. The crayfish live in various rivers, ponds and also in the river Ob. During the end of April, in May and the first half of summer it is a dangerous time to be in the forests of Siberia because of the taiga tick. This parasite is about 3 millimetres only and feeds on the blood of people and animals. It is a carrier of a serious virus disease - Russian tick-born encephalitis. There are also many ticks in the suburban forests of Novosibirsk. In the steppes and the forest-steppes the largest spider of our country is found. It is the tarantula. The bite of the spider is painful, but not dangerous.
It is known that insects are the most numerous animals everywhere. In the Novosibirsk region there are about 10 thousand species of insects. Some of them are harmful for agriculture and forestry. At the beginning of the 20 century the Colorado potato beetle from the USA was brought quite by chance to France. Since then this harmful pest of potatoes is steadily finding its way to the East. During the last 10-15 years it has reached the Novosibirsk region, but has not yet got hold of all the territory. Planned work in combating the penetration of this pest is being carried out in Siberia.
Among the Siberian beetles, the rhinoceros beetle is distinguished by its size and shape. Of interest are the Capricorn beetles, the larva of which live in timber. There are also diving beetles, dung beetles, lady-birds, ground beetles and many others.
In the Novosibirsk region there are about 150 species of butterflies. Among them are the machaon and apollo. These rare butterflies are protected by law and it is forbidden to catch them for collections. Of the numerous night-moth, a few species of elephants can be distinguished.
Very useful are bumblebees which are pollinators of clover. Several species of bumblebees are rare and are in the Red Data Book. In the forests, we often come across anthills which are sometimes almost two meters high. Hill ants are of great importance to forests.
Our region with its numerous lakes and swamps teem with gnats (blood-sucking insects - mosquitoes, biting midges, horseflies). Especially are there many such insects in the marshy forests of the North of the region where in summer nobody can penetrate practically without a mosquito net. At the beginning of the 20th century there were outbursts of malaria in the region. At the present time this ailment carried by a malaria mosquito is not known here.
In the rivers and lakes of the region more than 30 species of fish can be found. The largest being the Ob sturgeon. Its length is over two meters. For the last decades this valuable fish has become rather rare. The sterlet belonging to the sturgeon genus is also found in the river Ob. The other large fish found in the Ob basin are pike, pike-perch, burbot, perch, common bream, carp, Siberian white salmon, taimen trout. The most widespread or common fish in the region are perch and crucian carp.
For many Siberians, summer and winter fishing (under the ice) is a favourite hobby. In the large lakes net-fishing is carried out. Unfortunately in the river Ob and its tributaries different species of the carp-fish are infected with the larva of parasite worm (cat liver fluke). After a meal of such fish badly cooked, a person can fall ill with opisthorchiasis.
Amphibian and reptiles in our region are few. There are only three species of frogs, two species of toads, common newt, two species of lizards and two species of snakes: the grass-snake and the adder (common viper). The adder is the only poisonous snake in West Siberia. Its bite is very unpleasant and painful but as a rule not lethal. These snakes are caught in order to obtain the poison which is made use of in medicine for medication.
In the region more than 350 types of birds which have been registered. This amount is rather numerous and it is due to the diversity of landscapes. Most of the species are birds of passage and wandering birds. However there are birds that have settled here all the year round. Birds of 45 species are allowed to be hunted. Birds of 22 species are considered rare and protected by the law. Among the rare birds worth mentioning are the black stork, osprey, white-tailed eagle, golden eagle, Dalmatian pelican. From time to time the exotic flamingo comes from Kazakhstan.
As the region is rich in lakes, rivers, swamps a characteristic feature of our fauna is the abundance of birds connected with water. These are various species of grebes, geese, ducks, seagulls, snipes, sandpipers. Many of these birds are allowed to be hunted. There are also the bittern, the grey heron, the Arctic loon, and swans. Across the lakes of the Baraba lowland lead the migration ways of many birds of passage; therefore the lake system of Chany is of international importance as a significant spot for the habitat of waterfowls.
The largest bird of the region is the golden eagle. The span of its wings is up to two meters. This large bird of prey can attack foxes and hares. There are ten species of owls here. The largest owl is the great eagle-owl; the smallest is the pygmy owl the size of which is like that of a sparrow. There are also quite a few day birds of prey in the region. Altogether 21 species of falcons, hawks, eagles.
In the forests one can come across gallinaceous birds: wood grouse, hazel grouse, and black grouse. The capercaillie is the largest of the forest fowl, its weight being up to six kilograms. The forest birds are the golden oriole, the cuckoo, six species of woodpeckers, the nightjar and a large number of tiny birds.
On the territory of the Novosibirsk region there are about 80 species of mammals. Among them are many small animals: different species of shrews, mice, voles, ground squirrels, hamsters. There are also two species of hedgehogs, the mole, and some species of bats here. In the forests red squirrels are usual. Once in a while the flying squirrel is also to be seen. Kin of the red squirrel is an animal very typical of the Siberian forests - the Siberian chipmunk. The chipmunk differs from the squirrel in the fact that in winter it hibernates.
In steppe districts the great jerboa can be found. These not very large animals jump like kangaroos. On the dry slopes of the hills one can come across the burrow of a large rodent, the Altaic marmot. The fat of the marmot has medicinal qualities. For the last few years marmots have become scarce in the region and hunting them is banned completely. There are two species of hares in the Novosibirsk region - the mountain (Alpine) hare and the European hare.
Along the banks of shallow forest rivers in the North of the region the largest rodents of our country, the beavers are to be found. These interesting and valuable animals were exterminated here at the end of the 19th century. Once again in the 50’s they were brought here. Almost the same lot fell to the precious fur animal, the sable that had its habitat in the Northern forests of the region. The sable was exterminated and then again its numbers were restored.
Besides the sable in the South of West Siberia different other representatives of the family of the martens: the badger, the ermine, Siberian weasel, the Russian polecat are to be found. The largest of martens is the glutton which chiefly feed on carrion and the tiniest dainty weasel which hunts mice.
There are foxes and wolves all over the territory of the region. For the last number of years wolves have settled in places that never had been their habitat, i.e. in the taiga swamps. Sometimes wolves can be dangerous as they attack cattle and other domestic animals.
The largest beast of prey in South Siberia is the brown bear, the length of its body being about two meters. Within the region bears are found in the Northern forests and in the forests of the Salair ridge. They feed mostly on vegetation but also eat carrion. At times they even attack large animals including cattle. In winter bears go into hibernation. Very seldom do local bears attack people, but the female bear with her cubs or a bear woken in winter can be dangerous.
The only wildcat in our forests is the lynx. The lynx hunts down various animals, but its favourite prey is the hare.
In the Novosibirsk region three species of deer can be found: the roe, the elk and the caribou (reindeer). The elk is the largest animal of local fauna. The length of the body of a grown-up male can be three meters and its weight about 600 kilograms. Elks are to be found in various types of forests. In summer they graze on grass and leaves. In winter they feed on the bark and branches of trees. The male elks have horns while the female has no horns. The roe, unlike the elk, prefers more open spaces of the forest-steppe. The Siberian roe is almost twice as big as the size of the European roe. The caribou is usual for the North of Siberia. However on the territory of our region little groups are seen on the Vasyuganiye swamps. Here they are protected.
Certain mammals were brought to Siberia such as the American mink, the muskrat, and the wild boar.
THE ECOLOGICAL SITUATION AND
THE PROTECTION OF NATURE
The ecological situation in the Novosibirsk region is about the same as in the majority of areas of our planet. Unfortunately it is unfavourable. Concentration of natural zones makes local nature especially vulnerable. Harmful exhaust emitted from industrial enterprises, automobile transport pollutes the atmosphere, the soil and the water near towns and cities. This is harmful for the vegetation and the animal world. It worsens the health of people, too. Nature of the region is suffering also from the extraction of mineral deposits, from reckless land-reclamation, from bad handling of agriculture. Of great importance for the vast territories of our region is the problem of water and wind erosion of the soil.
For the last 50 years the area of valuable cedar pine, spruce, and fir forests was cut down in half. The largest lake in West Siberia, the Chany, is drastically drying up. There are many problems connected with the artificial man-made “sea” on the Ob. During the last 2-3 decades some species of plants and animals have disappeared from the territory of the region.
Still the protection of nature is being paid more attention to from year to year. The corresponding State services are combating poaching and pollution of the environment. They carry out ecological examination of the efficiency of using the land. In the region there are specially-protected natural territories: the Baraba forest-steppe reservation, the national park “Karakan Pine Forest”, nature sanctuaries “Bugotak Hills” and the relict grove of Siberian lime. The unique forests of the Salair ridge are protected too. There is also a system of game-reserves. In the protection of nature of our region, the “Green movement” contributes, too, having various ecological clubs and societies.