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The disturbance of vegetation in the lake Baikal basin map

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Vegetation disturbance

A cartographic evaluation of the anthropogenic disturbance of vegetation is the most effective method for solving numerous issues of environmental protection and the rational use of biotic resources in the Baikal basin. It was carried out taking into account the major changes in the floristic composition and cenotic structure of vegetation, which is developing mainly under the influence of anthropogenic factors. The degree of anthropogenic disturbance of the vegetation was determined by deviation criteria of the composition and structure of plant communities from their native state.

The evaluation is based on a modern universal map “Vegetation of the Baikal basin” 1:4, 000,000, which is created on the principles of a structural-dynamic classification of vegetation taking into account its main regional-typological features and dynamic processes caused by human and natural factors. Thus, invariants of epistructures of plant communities were established and thereby the base (zero) estimation level was defined, which was the starting point for the countdown of actual spontaneous and human-induced changes in the vegetation cover.

Besides the universal geobotanic map, basic cartographic sources were used in assessing the vegetation disturbances. These sources provide information about the boundaries of arable land and farmland and forests damaged by technogenesis, recreation, and harmful insects, burnt sites and regenerated cutover stands. Forest and land use management materials and Google 2013 surveying satellite images were used.

The disturbance of vegetation of the Baikal basin is determined primarily by its use as an industrial and agricultural resource, which is based on forests, grasslands and steppes.

Industrial logging leads to a change of indigenous coniferous stands to small-leaved, less valuable for the economy. Abandoned semi-subsistence raw materials on slashes increase forest fire debris and entomological danger. Light coniferous forests located in the riversides, especially on fertile soils used for agriculture, are often cut.

Besides logging, the forests in Irkutsk oblast, the Republic of Buryatia, Zabaikalsky krai, as well as in Mongolia are annually exposed to forest fire. Fire damages not only the forest but also the community of other vegetation types - mountain tundra, subalpine elfin cedar thickets, yerniks, steppes and others. That leads to the accumulation of large burnt areas, replacing native forests derivatives.

Negative impact on the steppe vegetation is also caused by plowing and irrational use of grazing territory. As for the pastural digression of vegetation, it has completely or partially changed the floristic composition and structure of many steppe and meadow communities.

In Mongolia, grazing currently remains the main type of agriculture. Here they raise cattle, sheep, camels, goats and horses, as well as Mongolian yaks and reindeer. Alpine pastures are even mountain-tundra, cryophyte steppe, marshy meadow and steppe. Vegetation communities of middle mountain, foothill, lowland areas and basins are widely used for pasture. Vegetation communities of floodplains and lakeshores with forest, meadow, prairie and wetland vegetation are especially strongly disturbed [Banzragch, et al, 1990].

In general, in Mongolia, as well as in Irkutsk oblast, the Republic of Buryatia and Zabaikalsky krai in the remote and undeveloped alpine areas, where there is no human activities, undisturbed (indigenous) vegetation is provisionally preserved. According to the development and availability of the areas, the assessment of vegetation disturbance is changing.

As a result of the analysis and assessment of vegetation communities, five categories of vegetation disturbance are identified on the map – conditionally drastic, weakly, moderately, and strongly disturbed and reformed.

 

References

Banzragch, D., Beckett, U., Buyan-Orshih, H., Munkhbayar, S., & Tsedendash, T. (1990). The map: Types of pastures. Scale 1:3,000,000. National atlas of the Mongolian People’s Republic. Moscow-Ulaanbaatar. p 102-103.

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The quality of surface water map

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Quality of surface waters

The quality of surface water depends on the combination of natural properties, conditions of self-purification of water bodies, and the input of contaminants from ambient environments. Hydrochemical and hydrobiological parameters are the main characteristics for water quality assessment. They are measured at the network of observations sites in accordance to a standard procedure, as well as by sanitary-epidemiological organizations and appropriate agencies.

Water quality is one of the main parameters of human activity, and it is strictly regulated in Russia and other countries. Exploitation of water bodies for different economic purposes is stipulated by several standards defining the list of chemical and biological elements in the water and their permissible concentrations. The water designated for household and recreational purposes has the strictest requirements to the water quality. The standards for water bodies designated for fisheries are less strict and used in comparative assessments of the quality of natural waters.

Qualitative characteristics of surface water summarised from the territorial reports are presented in the form of a map “Quality of surface water”, whose scale and information fullness are determined by the size of the lake’s catchment area. The original information for this map was taken from the governmental reports “On the state of Lake Baikal and measures for its protection” of the Republic of Buryatia and Irkutsk oblast, “Annual report on the quality of surface waters of the Russian Federation”, and the data provided by Mongolian scientists [National …, 2012, 2013; National …, 2013; Annual …, 2012]. To assess the state of water bodies, a specific index of water pollution (SIWP) was calculated from the most common contaminants of surface waters (see Methodology Instructions RD 52.24 643-2002). Water quality was assessed using SIWP and, as a result, five classes (categories) of water quality were identified in the examined water objects.

The water quality in the basin of the Selenga (the largest tributary of Lake Baikal) on the territory of Mongolia was classified according to the procedure similar to the Russian one. The main list and standards of chemical elements (dissolved oxygen, suspended particles, acidity, etc.) are almost identical for both countries [The harmonised monitoring program…, 2012]. The final classification of water bodies of the Selenga basin on the Mongolian territory was based on the calculated values of the water pollution index [Davaa, http://fofj.org] and brought into conformity with Russian classification.

On the map, the water quality classes of water bodies are depicted by colored lines and supplemented by marks showing the places where samples of chemical elements that were the main pollutants for the given segment of the water body were taken. In the lake’s catchment area, the integral characteristic of the quality of surface water varies over a wide range from “conditionally clean” to “dirty” preeminently due to the different levels of economic development of the region.

The major part of the lake catchment area belongs to the Selenga basin; the upper and central parts of the river are in Mongolia. The Selenga and a number of its large tributaries mainly cross underdeveloped territories and are not subject to significant pollution. The main large rivers of this area (the Delger-Muren, Ider, Orkhon, and Selenga) are characterized by high environmental indicators and practically pure (Class 1). The water in some areas of the hydrographic network of these streams that are adjacent to developed regions and subject to anthropogenic effect belong to Class 2 (“slightly polluted”). The Tuul river experiencing a severe anthropogenic impact (around Ulaanbaatar) significantly differs from other streams on the Mongolian territory: its surface water quality is classified as Class 4 (“dirty”). The main pollutants of this river are ammonium and nitrite nitrogen, phosphate, and sulphate. However, due to its self-purification processes occurring in the mouth area at the confluence with the Orkhon river the Tuul river water recovers to Class 1. The water in the Khiagt river on the northern border of Mongolia is also of low quality. This river brings its Class 4 waters to the territory of Buryatia (the Kyakhtinka river). Relatively low characteristics of the water quality (Classes 2 and 3) are recorded in some developed areas – in the Khangol (the town of Erdenet) and Orkhon (the town of Sukhbaatar) rivers.

Up to the confluence with the Orkhon, the water quality of the Selenga in Mongolia is regarded as Classes 1 and 2. Further, below Sukhbaatar and the Orkhon’s mouth, the Selenga crosses the border to Russia. In Buryatia, its water quality is classified as Class 3 (“polluted”). The main pollutants of the river at the cross-section of Naushki are compounds of aluminium, iron and copper, the values of which exceed maximum permissible concentrations. Furtheron, the Dzhida river (together with the Modonkul river – Class 4) and the Kyakhtinka river (Class 4) join the Selenga. The first one is affected by the discharges of mine and drainage waters from the non-functional company JSC “Dzhida Combine”, while the second one contains elevated maximum permissible concentrations of 11 elements due to the transboundary transfer (the Khiagt river).

Large tributaries of the Selenga joining this river downstream bring polluted waters of Class 3. The most unfavourable situation is observed at some sites of the rivers Kuitunka, Chikoy, Khilok, and Uda, whose water quality is regarded as “polluted”. The main pollutants are different forms of nitrogen, organic substances, and phenol. The water in the lower Selenga is characterised as Class 3.

The quality of surface water in other largest tributaries of Lake Baikal is also low. Such large rivers as the Upper Angara, Barguzin and Turka have polluted waters of Class 3, whilst the water in smaller rivers such as the Tiya, Kholodnaya, Kika, Snezhnaya, Utulik, Buguldeika, and other are of Class 2. Phenols in combination with oil products, zinc, copper, and organic substances are typical contaminants of these rivers.

There is a scarce information on water quality in the lakes located on the examined territory as no monitoring has been conducted there. The exception is Lake Gusinoe, whose water quality is of Class 3 (“polluted”). The main pollutants of this lake are phenols, oil products, copper, and other substances. Moreover, the lake is subject to thermal pollution from the Gusinoozerskaya Thermal Power Plant. Another water body, Lake Kotokel, located within the Baikal basin has a very low water quality. The use of its water is prohibited for any purposes, except for technical use, which is confirmed by Decree No. 4 “On the Initiation of Restrictive Measures at Lake Kotokel” of the Chief Sanitary Inspector of the Republic of Buryatia, dated June 6, 2009, [On the state of …, 2013].

It should be noted that against the backdrop of the increased water discharge into water bodies of this territory in 2012, there is a trend of significant improvement of surface water quality of the Baikal basin. The water quality indicators in the majority of water bodies have been improved by 1-2 classes as compared to 2011 and previous years (On the state of …, 2012, 2013; Annual report …, 2012).

 

References

Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation. (2012). On the state of Lake Baikal and measures for its protection in 2011: State report. Moscow. Retrieved from http://www.mnr.gov.ru

Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation. (2013). On the state of Lake Baikal and measures for its protection in 2012: State report. Moscow. Retrieved from http://www.mnr.gov.ru

The Sochava Institute of Geography SB RAS. (2013). On the state and conservation of the environment in Irkutsk oblast in 2012: State report. Irkutsk: The Sochava Institute of Geography SB RAS. p 337.

Hydrochemical Institute. (2012). Annual report on the quality of surface waters of the Russian Federation in 2012. Retrieved from http://www.ghi.aaanet.ru

Methodology Instructions. Method for a comprehensive assessment of pollution of surface waters using hydrochemical parameters. RD 52.24.643-2002. Retrieved from www.OpenGost.ru

The Baikal Basin Information Center. (2012). The harmonised monitoring program of water quality in the Selenga river basin. Retrieved from http://baikal.iwlearn.org/

Davaa, G., Oyunbaatar, D., & Sugita. M. Surface water of Mongolia. Retrieved from http://fofj.org/

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Timber stock of the main groups of forest forming tree species map

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Forest resources and their use

The Baikal basin is a truly enormous treasury of "green gold." As of January 1, 2011 the forest area is 32103.6 thousand hectares in the Russian part of the basin and 10354.3 thousand hectares in Mongolia. Total timber reserves in the Russian part of the basin are 2,795,800,000 m3, with a stock of the conifers 2.443.000.000 m3 (87.4 %). In Mongolia the total timber reserves is 1.373.100.000 m3.

The basic map shows the forests of nature conservation and other preservation patterns, as well as merchantable and other forests, suitable for commercial use, and reserved forests. It should be said that the division of forest lands into protected, merchantable and reserved is characteristic only of the Russian Federation. However, in the territory of Mongolia forests of special importance and in need of protection are distinguished, such as forest areas up to 100 hectares, forests on the slopes of the mountain areas of more than 30 degrees, etc.

Protected forests in Russia include forests subject to reclamation in order to maintain environmental, water protection, safety, sanitation, health and other useful features while using these forests providing compatibility with their intended purpose. Within the Baikal basin there is a high proportion of protected forests, due their ecosystemic, environment protection and water protection functions, as well as the important ecological role of montane forests. Merchantable forests are those which should be developed for the purposes of sustainable, maximum-efficiency rate production of high quality wood and other forest resources, as well as their conversion products ensuring the preservation of beneficial functions of forests. As far as the reserved forests are concerned, those are the forests not planned for logging for next twenty years. These forests are mostly located in the northern part of the region, in the permafrost zone, off-road area and are unattractive for development.

The insert map "Timber reserves by groups of the major forest forming species" shows the average reserves of softwood and hardwood forests (m3) per hectare of land covered by them. The average stand of timber per unit of the covered area is one of the indicators characterizing the productivity of forests, depending on growing conditions of stands, their species, and stands sparsity. The average stand of conifers and deciduous trees per hectare in the Russian part of the Baikal basin is 132.5 m3 (the global average is 100 m3/ha ), and it is fluctuating from 79-82 m3/ha (mostly in the steppe regions of Zabaikalsky krai, the Republic of Buryatia (Zaigraevsky, Chita districts) to 160 -170 m3/ha and up in the mid- and north areas (Uletovsky district of Transbaikalia, Kabansky and Severobaikalsky districts of the Republic of Buryatia, Irkutsky and Slyudyansky districts of Irkutsk oblast). Within the Mongolian part of the basin the average reserve of coniferous and deciduous tree stands is 126.6 m3 per one hectare with fluctuations in the aimaks from 81 to 205 m3 per ha. The highest average stand of timber per unit of forest area is characteristic of the northern mountainous areas of Mongolia.

Also this map shows the distribution of the total stand of timber by major groups of forest forming species (in million m3) with the method of cartodiagram. This index demonstrates forest-resource security area, which varies significantly in the districts of the Russian part of the basin and Mongolian aimaks (from 1.5 to 481 million m3). For correct depiction of the amount of total stand of timber within municipalities a conventional stepped scale for the circular cartodiagram was worked out, which enables to judge about the stands of timber for each group using the percentage between the major groups of forest forming species (coniferous, deciduous and shrubs).

Forest use is determined by the activities that have priority development within the forest vegetation areas. Timber harvesting is most developed among all kinds of forest utilization in the Russian part of the Baikal basin regulated by allowable cutting rates. Forests are actively used for recreation, hunting activities, etc.

In the analysis of forest utilization the following trends for all forests of the Baikal basin are revealed in recent years. They are reduction of coniferous stands, mostly maturing and mature stands; replacement of coniferous species by deciduous ones; widespread illegal logging, reduction of forested area due to fires, forest damage by pests, deforestation, and insufficient reforestation.

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