Special thank to Dr. Cris Guppy (Quesnel, Canada) who kindly corrected many spelling and other lingustic errors.
THE ASIAN RUSSIA
The territory of the Asian part of Russia extends for 6000 km from the west to the east and for 4000 km from the north to the south, occupying an area of 13,300,000 square kilometers. The main watershed of the ranges of Ural is considered as its western boundary, the coasts of the Arctic and Pacific oceans and their seas are, respectively, its northern and eastern boundaries, the southern boundary coincides with the Russian frontier with Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, and North Korea.
This territory lies within the temperate and subarctic climatic zones. The average temperatures of January are below zero throughout: from -4 degrees Centigrade on the Kurile islands to -44 degrees in the headwaters of the Yana River in NE. Siberia; those of July vary from + 2 degrees Centigrade on the northern Taymyr Peninsula to + 23 degrees at the town Kyakhta in South Zabaikalye. As to humidity, the territory can be subdivided into the regions of continental (Ural, W. Siberia, the mountains of S. Siberia), sharply continental (Tuva, Zabaikalye, East and, partly, Middle Siberia), maritime (Kamchatka, the coastal regions of the northern Far East), and monsoon (the southern Far East, except for the upper Amur basin) climates. The precipitation varies from 100 mm in the intermontane hollows of Tuva to 2000 mm in some mountain regions of Central Altai and the Far East.
About 65% of the territory of the Asian Russia is covered with forests, mostly larch forests, while dark-needle, pine, small-leafed (birch and asp), broad-leaved, and mixed coniferous/broad-leafed forest types occupy smaller areas. Tundras form a wide belt in the north of the territory and, in combination with stone screes, are common in highlands at lower latitudes. The northern part of the forest-steppe zone, and forest-steppen landscapes on piedmonts are used mostly as pastures or for haying and so are still little affected by human activity. The southern forest-steppes and steppes are mostly ploughed up, the settlements and other man-affected landscapes occupying a considerable area in their zones. Native steppen flora and fauna, however, still can be found in shelters at the edges and glades of birch groves, pine woods, raised bogs locally called "ryams", lake banks, and in the regions with rough relief.
URAL is a mountain country situated between the Russian and West Siberian Lowlands, extending from Kazakhstan in the south to the Arctic Ocean in the north. Subpolar Ural is its most elevated section (with the maximum altitude being 1895 m), many of its ranges are crowned with sharp crests and are deeply and densely incised with river valleys. The relief of Polar and North Ural is characterized by smooth plateau-like elevations of 900-1200 m altitudes. Middle Ural is relatively low, while South Ural is composed of numerous short ranges, mostly meridionally directed, of various heights (up to 1640 m). Altitudinal zonality of the mountains of Polar Ural forms on the background of zonal tundra and forest-tundra of the adjacent lowlands, that of Subpolar, North, and Middle Ural - of different taiga subzones, that of South Ural - of forest- steppe and steppe. In the forest belt of Middle Ural and northwards the dark-needle trees, namely, the spruce, fir, and Siberian stone pine predominate, which are replaced by the birch in felled and burnt-over areas. The western slope of Polar Ural is covered with larch forests, the western slopes of the ranges of South Ural - by broad-leaved (mostly lime) and mixed coniferous/broad-leafed forests. The tree line is formed: on South and Middle Ural - by the spruce at 1000-12000 m, on North Ural - mostly by birch elfin wood at 200-600 m, on Polar Ural - by larch forests, with the understory of the alder and dwarf birch, at 200- 600 m. In the tree line vicinity, especially on the western principal slope, the long-forb meadows of a subalpine type are common; the smooth highlands are covered with fruticose, fruticulose, and sedge-lichen tundras alternating with large-stoned screes "kurumy".
WEST SIBERIA, here considered without Altai and the Kuznetskoe Nagorye upland, coincides with one of the largest lowlands in the world - the West Siberian Lowland, which embraces the basins of the Ob' and, in part, the Yenisey Rivers and occupies an area of more than two million square kilometers. The altitudes of its northern and central parts do not exceed 50-150 m above sea level, slight elevations (up to 200-300 m) appearing only on its western, southern, and eastern margins. These vast lowland territories exhibit a classical example of latitudinal zonality, which is, however, much influenced by bogging. Raised peat-moss bogs, with the dwarf birch and the Ericaceae shrubs, often cover great areas of watershed plains that are comparable with the areas of European countries. The fruticose, fruticulose, and moss tundras are developed on the Yamal, Tazovskiy and Gydan Peninsulas. All the three subzones of taiga (northern, middle, and southern) are expressed between 56 degrees 50 minutes and 65 degrees 50 minutes of northern latitude. While the watersheds are mostly bogged up, spruce/Siberian stone pine and Siberian stone pine/fur forests predominate along river valleys, dry pine woods with the lichen ground layer are developed on sandy banks, the bog margins are covered with open pine/birch forests with the peat-moss in the ground layer, locally called "sogra". Southwards of the 56 degrees 50 minutes of northern latitude the forests are replaced by a forest-steppen landscape, or the grove belt, characterized by birch or birch/asp groves throughout Siberia called "kolki" or "okolki" situated in very slight relief depressions or, less frequently, pine woods [Russ. "bory"] on sandy soils, the open space between which, formerly occupied by meadows and meadowy steppe, are to a great extent ploughed up. Instead of bogs, which became smaller and sparse as we proceed southwards, this area is set with numerous very shallow lakes of different size, which sometime are salty. At the very south of West Siberia the groves become very sparse manifesting transition to the steppe, numerous salty lakes and solonchakssalinas being a peculiar feature of the landscapes.
MIDDLE SIBERIA extends from the Yenisey River in the west to the Lena River in the east. It is much more heterogeneous as to its relief than West Siberia.
The North Siberian Lowland occupies the polar margins of Middle Siberia, including the large Taymyr peninsula. Its relief is characterized by smooth and flat ridges of 100-200 m altitude extended to north-east direction through vast bogged up depressions with numerous lakes. The north of the Taymyr Peninsula is occupied by two massifs of the Byrranga mountains (up to 1146 m). In the northern half of the lowland a lichen-fruticulose tundra predominates, in the southern half it is mostly replaced by a bush tundra, on the southern margin of the lowland there are found larch forest- tundras.
The Srednesibirskoe [Middle Siberian] Plateau occupies the largest part of Middle Siberia, extending southwards to the East Sayan. Two conspicuous elevations of its southern part should be mentioned: Yeniseyskiy Kryazh [the Yenisey ridge] (up to 1104 m) at the Yenisey right bank and the Angarskiy Kryazh [the Angara ridge] (up to 946 m) crossed by the Angara River in its middle flow. The plateau is characterized by smooth relief with peculiar table mountains with flat tops of 700-900 m altitudes. It is situated in the larch forest zone; the pine forests are common in the Angara basin; the dark-needle taiga - at the Yenisey right bank. The "islands" of forest-steppes are found in the Kansk and Irkutsk-Cheremukhovsk depressions and in the basin of the Kuda River. The highlands in the northern half of the plateau are mostly occupied by screes and "stone fields."
The Putorana Plateau is the most elevated (up to 1664 m) north-western part of the Srednesibirskoe Plateau. Its is a tableland deeply (to 500-900 m) cut through by rivers and chains of lakes. The spruce/birch/larch forests of its western part eastwards are replaced by bushy larch parklands. With altitude, the belt of the dwarf birch/willow bushes is replaced by large- stoned screes with small patches of fruticose, fruticulose, and lichen tundras.
EAST SIBERIA (considered as including the western Ochot coast) is situated north of Pribaicalye and Zabaikalye and east of the Lena River.
The Prilenskoe [Russ. "at the Lena"] Plateau consists of flattened areas in the middle Lena basin. At the low flow of the Aldan and Vilyuy Rivers it is lowered to 50-150 m above sea level, the altitudes growing southwards to 400-500 m in the main part of the plateau. The Lena River, crossing the plateau, incises a precipitous valley about 300 m deep. The plateau is covered throughout with larch forests which are bogged up in relief lowerings. The "islands" of steppes or steppefied meadows occur on southern slopes of river terraces, the steppe-like vegetation is also found at the edges of bogged up depressions, called "alasy".
The Yano-Indigiro-Kolymskaya Lowland [the lowland of the Yana, Indigirka, and the Kolyma Rivers] occupies the northern margin of East Siberia. It is a boggy lowland with numerous lakes and solitary rocky hills. Open and bogged up larch woods predominate in the southern part, and tussock sedge and fruticulose tundras in the northern part.
The mountains of the north of East Siberia include the complicated systems of the Verkhoyanskiy (up to 2389 m), Suntar-Khayata (up to 2959 m), Cherskogo (up to 3147 m), and Kolymskiy (up to 2389 m) mountain ranges. The watershed ridges of these ranges are characterized by steep slopes, sharp crests, and deeply incised rocky valleys. In the headwaters of the Yana, Indigirka, and the Kolyma Rivers the gentle Yuano-Oymyakonskoe and Verkhnekolymskoe uplands with altitudes of 500-700 m are situated, they embrace numerous short and flattened ranges and solitary dome-like massifs. Three altitudinal belts can be isolated: that of open larch taiga, with the understory of the dwarf pine (Pinus pumila) at the tree line (at 600-100 m above sea level), that of detritus/lichen and fruticulose tundras, and that of montane rocky deserts. Within the Yano-Oymyakon upland the extreme northern on the continent islands of steppen communities are scattered on southern slopes, dry saddles, and piedmont plateau. Riparian poplar woods are found in some river valleys.
The Stanovoe Nagorye upland extends from the northern extreme of Lake Baikal eastwards. It is composed of rocky ranges of 1500-2000 m altitudes (with the maximum of 2999 m) alternating with intermontane hollows lying at the altitudes of 500-1000 m. Montane larch forests and parklands predominate in the forest belt, but the west of Severbaikal'skoe Nagoryethe [North Baikal upland] and Patomskoe [Nagoryethe Patom upland] are covered mostly with dark-needle spruce/fir taiga. A belt of the Siberian dwarf pine elfin wood is well expressed at the tree-line at 1400-1600 m, higher altitudes are the kingdom of screes, with patches of meadows of subalpine types in the bottom of upper parts of river valleys.
The Aldanskoe Nagorye upland is situated between the Aldan River and the Stanovoy (up to 2412 m) and Dzhugdzhur (up to 1906 m) mountain ranges, which form the watershed of the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. Flat and bogged up interfluves with the average altitudes of 800-1000 m are common for this upland, with isolated mountain massifs with smooth outlines and short mountain ranges of 1400-2000 m altitudes (with the maximum of 2306 m) elevating over the main surface. The larch taiga predominates all over the upland, but on dry places the pine appears. The intermontane hollows are covered with larch parklands with the ground layer formed by the peat-moss and sedges. The dwarf pine/larch parklands are developed from altitudes of 1000-1300, on higher elevations they undergo transition to impermeable pure dwarf pine elfin woods which, in turn, are replaced by vast screes with small patches of moss and lichen tundras.
THE MOUNTAINS OF SOUTH SIBERIA reside as a contiguous latitudinal belt mostly along the Mongolian frontier.
Altai is a complicated mountain system shared by the territories of Russia (North and Central Altai), Kazakhstan (West Altai), West China, and Mongolia (South or Mongolian Altai). It consists of many ranges forming the watersheds of various tributaries of the Ob', Irtysh, and the basins of Central Asia without outflow. The ranges of Central Altai are mostly latitudinally directed and elevated at 2500-4000 m (with the maximum of the Belukha mountain, 4506 m), they are characterized by the relief of an alpine type, with precipitous slopes and sharp crests. Meridionally and submeridionally directed elevations of 1500-2500 m, with smooth surfaces but steep slopes, are common in North Altai. Piedmonts, low mountain slopes, and wide intermontane hollows of Altai are predominantly occupied by meadow steppes and steppefied meadows, those situated on rather flat surfaces being mostly ploughed up. The forest belt is represented by montane larch forests on the main territory or by dark-needle taiga in the regions with high humidity. The south-exposed slopes are often barren and steppefied even within the forest belt. On the south-east of Central Altai** the forest belt is fragmentarily expressed so that above 2300 m the montane steppes undergo smooth transition to the highland tundras (at 2500-3000 m altitudes). The tree line rises from 1900 in the west to 2500 m in the east and is formed by larch woods, with the dwarf birch in the understory, or by Siberian stone pine woods alternating with long-forb subalpine meadows. At 200-2300 m above sea level, mostly in cirques giving rise to brooks, there appear alpine meadows with a great variety of luxuriantly flowering plants. Bushy (Betula rotundifolia), Dryas oxyodonta, lichen, moss, and detritus tundras occupy flattened places at the altitudes above 2300 m. Locally the meadowy Festuca tundras are developed, and in the basins of the Chuya and Argut there are common the arid tundra-steppe associations with the dominance of Kobresia. Above 2600 m the short forb alpine meadows and sparse specific scree vegetation are scattered among large-stoned screes ["kurumy"] and rocks.
The Kuznetskoe Nagorye upland is represented by a meridionally oriented mountain range called the Kuznetskiy Alatau, situated north of Altai, between the Kuznetskaya and Minusinskaya Hollows, and, south-west of the former, a mountain massif Gornaya Shoriya. These mountains have smooth outline, rather steep western and gentle eastern slopes. Their average altitude of ridges is 100-1200 m with the maximum of 2178 m. The fir overwhelmingly predominates in the forest belt except for its upper part where, at the tree line (1300-1900 m), the stone pine becomes a dominant. The highlands are occupied mostly by vast large-stoned screes, and also by patches of subalpine meadows and, on some southern mountain massifs, of bushy, lichen and moss tundras. The basin of the Kondoma River in Gornaya Shoriya is remarkable for the lime-tree woods which are thought to be the relics of a pre-Pleistocene nemoral vegetation of Siberia. All over the upland the forest openings are occupied by long forb forest meadows.
The West Sayan is a mountain system bordered by the Minusinskaya Hollow in the north and the Tuvinskaya and Todzhinskaya Hollows in the south. At the junction with Altai it is characterized by an alpine mesorelief with the altitudes of peaks of 2800-3000 m (with the maximum of 3121 m). Eastwards of the gorge of the Yenisey, which breaks through the range, the watershed ranges are lowered to 2000-2200 m and the relief become more mild. On the northern piedmonts the pine/larch forests predominate, with admixture of the birch, asp, bird cherry and openings with long forb forest meadows. At 800- 900 m above sea level the dark-needle taiga appears, being replaced by the stone pine and larch parklands above 1600 m. Further upwards there are screes with patches of alpine meadows and montane tundras. The valley bottoms in highland are covered with subalpine meadows. In the lower parts of slopes facing Tuva a steppen belt is expressed, with altitude it is subsequently replaced by larch forests at 1000-1800 m, the stone pine/larch subalpine parklands, and, again, screes and rocks with spots of fruticulose and lichen montane tundras.
The East Sayan is a mountain system extending for more than 1000 km from the Yenisey almost to the southern bank of Lake Baikal. The ranges of its western parts are moderately elevated, but after junction with the West Sayan the ranges reach the altitude of 2600-2800 m (with the maximum of 3491 m). Alpine forms of relief alternate here with plateau-like elevations. Steppes and larch forest-steppes on southern slopes rise up to 1400-1600 m. The stone pine/larch taiga covers the ranges to altitudes of 1500-1700 m. The belt of subalpine parklands goes up to 2100 m above sea level, alternating with the dwarf birch thickets; the highlands, as usual, are covered with bushy-moss-lichen tundras and screes, alpine meadow patches being found in brook headwaters.
The mountains of Tuva are situated eastwards of Altai and southwards of the West Sayan. They are a complicated system of woody ranges and plateau separated by steppen and semidesert hollows. In the south they are represented by the latitudinally oriented joint ranges of West and East Tannu-Ola (up to 3970 m), in the eastern half of Tuva - by Vostochnotuvinskoe Nagoryethe [East-Tuvinian upland] (up to 3351 m) and the Sangilen upland (up to 3276 m). The relief of wide valleys and plateau-like top surfaces is smooth, but the slopes are often very precipitous. The hollows and southern slopes are covered with steppe or larch forest-steppe. The belt of larch parklands reaches there the maximum elevation on the territory of Asian Russia - 2500-2700 m, on the southern slopes of Tannu-Ola it is missing in many places, in this cases the steppe transits immediately into the tundra. On northern slopes the upper half of the forest belt is represented by fir/stone pine forests. The highlands of the Mongun-Taiga massif are covered predominantly with steppefied short-forb alpine meadows, on the more eastern mountains - mostly by dwarf birch or fruticulose tundras.
The mountains of Pribaikalye (up to 2841 m) margin Lake Baikal and the neighbouring intermontane hollows. Alpine relief, represented by cirques, steep ridges and peaks, is met only on the highest parts of the ranges which are in average moderately elevated. The hollows are occupied by steppes, forest-steppes, or bogged up meadows. The mountain slopes are covered with dense dark-needle/larch taiga replaced by pine forests on southern slopes. The tree line (at 1200-1400 m) is accompanied with the thickets of the Siberian dwarf pine (Pinus pumila) and the Rhododendron species, the watersheds bear tundras and screes. On the Baikal-facing high slopes of the Khamar-Daban and Barguzinskiy mountain ranges there appear alpine meadows.
Zabaikalye [Transbaikalia, Transbaikalien] is situated between the ranges of Pribaikalye in the west and the meridian of the junction of the Shilka and Argun' Rivers in the east. There predominate wide and flat elevations with the average altitudes of 1200-1500 m with slightly expressed dome-like mountains (up to 2519 m). In the south of the area the relief is of a "Gobi-type", characterized by steppen hollows with temporary lakes and a sophisticated network of dry valleys. The hills of the southern Selenginskaya Dauria [Dahuria], Priargunyethe [Argun' basin], and the Aginsko-Ononskiy region are covered with forb steppes, mostly with domination of Tanacetum. Except for the extreme southern areas, northern slopes, just from the hollow bottoms, are covered with larch taiga with Betula middendorffii and Rhododendron in the understory. Southern slopes are, as a rule, occupied by steppes and only in the north and west by open grassy pine woods or small-leafed forests with the legume-forb ground layer. At the tree-line the belt of larch parklands with the understory of dwarf birch and dwarf pine can be isolated. Pure dwarf pine elfin woods and screes are found above 2000 m.
THE FAR EAST OF RUSSIA is considered here as containing of two regions at the extreme east of the continent, the northern and southern. The northern one embraces Chukotka and Kamchatka:
Chukotka is considered here as the territory east of the Omolon, Oloy, and Penzhina Rivers, including the Chukotka Peninsula. Its relief is mountainous, containing three uplands: the Anadyrskoe Plateau (with the maximum altitude of 1853 m), the Chukotskoe Nagorye (up to 1843 m), and Koryakskoe Nagorye (up to 2562 m), which are separated by boggy plains in the valleys of the Anadyr', Mayna, and Penzhina Rivers. The mountains of the Chukotka Peninsula are mostly solitary dome-shaped elevations of 500-1000 m above sea level, while Koryakskoe Nagorye is characterized by sharp crests, deep gorges, and precipitous slopes which locally are entirely covered with moving "stone rivers". Dry montane tundras are developed on the elevations, the lowlands are covered by lichen, moss, and sedge tussock tundras with sparse vegetation. On the sandy and shingle banks of the Anadyr' River there are riparian stripe woods of Populus suaveolens, Chosenia arbutifolia, and bushy willows. On southern slopes and brook banks one finds the thickets of Rhododendron, Pentaphylloides fruticosa, Spirea, and, sometimes, herb meadows.
The Kamchatka Peninsula is separated from the continent by a narrow (about 100 km) neck at the southern end of Koryakskoe Nagorye. The Sredinnyy [Medial] and Vostochnyy [Eastern] mountain ranges extend along the peninsula, with average altitudes of 1200-1400 m, an alpine mesorelief, and numerous extinct and active volcanoes and volcanic plateau. Many volcanoes (especially in the southern part) form massifs independent of the ranges, such as the volcano group including one of the highest active volcanoes in the world and the highest summit in the Asian Russia - Klyuchevskaya Sopka (4750 m). These elevations border the Central Kamchatic Lowland. The western regions of the peninsula are low and flat. The coastal regions are covered with fruticose, fruticulose and moss tundras and, on the western coasts, vast marshes. In the mountains two altitudinal belts are well expressed: parklands of the stone birch (Betula ermani), with a peculiar tall herbage, and dense thickets of the dwarf alder (Dusheckia fruticosa) or the dwarf pine (Pinus pumila). At the altitudes above 1000 m there appear the tundra belt. In the central regions of the peninsula on lower parts of slopes and in interfluves there are distributed the woods of the Ayan spruce (Picea ajanensis) and larch. Poplar strip woods usually border river banks.
The southern Far East is situated within a vast basin of the Amur River.
Bureinskie Gorythe Mountains of Bureya [within the Bureya River basin] occupy a considerable area of the Russian part of the Amur basin. It includes the mountains of Bureya proper (up 10 2374 m) and the Dzhagdy mountain range, lying eastwards of it. The ranges are characterized by flat top surfaces, which are 400-800 m higher than the adjacent valleys, and steep slopes. Wide intermontane hollows and gentle lower parts of slopes are covered with peat-moss bogs with larch forests "islands" called "mary". The dark-needle taiga goes as low as only to 500-800 m in the lower Amur basin, but in western regions it rises to 1100 m. The subalpine parklands of the Ayan spruce or stone birch have a dense understory of the dwarf pine, dwarf alder, and Rhododendron. In highlands (usually called "goltsy" in Siberia and the Far East) the dwarf pine thickets alternate with screes. The lower part of the taiga belt, at 200-600 m, is enriched with broad-leaved trees. Open oak woods and maple/lime-tree woods are found locally on dry slopes.
Priamurye Amurland is considered here as the Amur valley and the adjacent plains. The Upper Priamurye, from the junction of the Shilka and Argun' Rivers to the Zeya River, is rather plateau-like and includes the Amursko-Zeyskoe Plateau [the Plateau of the Amur and Zeya] in the east. The Zeysko-Bureinskaya Plain [The Plain of the Zeya and Bureya] and a part of the Amur Lowland, separated with spurs of the Malyy [Minor] Khingan Mts, are attributed to Middle Priamurye. Lower Priamurye, from the city Khabarovsk to the Amur mouth, includes the eastern, most bogged up, part of the Amur Lowland. Downstream of the city Komsomol'sk-na-Amure [Komsomol'sk-upon-Amur] the Amur flows in rather a narrow valley between separate mountainous elevations. The Amusko-Zeyskoe Plateau is mostly covered by larch, pine, and birch forests. On the Zeysko-Bureinskaya Plain the peculiar landscapes of a damp forest-steppe are widespread, where groups of the oak, elm, or the Dahurian birch are scattered over reach forb meadows. Oak woods are connected with smooth ridges and watersheds, they mostly replace the burnt out pine or larch woods. The Amur Lowland is covered with larch forests with peat-moss and grassy bogs.
Primorye [Primorie] includes the system of moderately elevated mountains of the Sikhote-Alin' (with the maximum altitude of 2078 m), and, in the west, the valley of the Ussuri River and the Prikhankayskaya Lowland [The Lowland of Hanka]. The vegetation here is extremely diverse. Dark-needle and larch forests concentrate in the northern part, the southern part is occupied by multi-layer forests of the Manchurian type with domination of broad-leaved trees and abundance of lianes. The landscapes of a damp forest- steppe, with separate oak forests, are distributed in the Prikhankayskaya Lowland. The full spectrum of altitudinal zonation is displayed by some areas in the southern Sikhote-Alin'. The broad-leaved forests form an independent layer beneath 600 m altitude, on burnt-over areas they are replaced by oak woods. The altitudes between 600 m and 1200 m are occupied by fir/spruce forests. Above 1000 m the stone birch woods appear, usually with the dwarf pine in the understory, the latter forming an independent belt above 1200 m. Montane tundras and stone fields are found on summits exceeding 1400 m.
The Sakhalin is an island situated east of Primorye, which is extended meridionally for almost 1000 km. Its northern one-third is low, the central and southern parts are mountainous (up to 1609 m). A sparse larch taiga occupies the northern part, southwards of the latitude of 52 degrees 50 minutes it is mostly replaced by the Ayan spruce forests, in the south-west the role of broad-leaved trees becoming substantial. The upper montane belt is characterized by the stone birch woods with the bush layer of the dwarf birch. The Kurile bamboo (Sasa kurilense), a peculiar element of local vegetation, grows abundantly under the forest canopy and on the glades, the famous tall herbage is another remarkable vegetation type widely represented in the southern Sakhalin.
The Kurile Islands form an even arch from the southern extreme of Kamchatka to the eastern coast of the Japanese island Hokkaido. By the two widest straits they are divided into the northern, central, and southern groups. As being of a volcanic origin, the relief of islands is mountainous, with average altitudes of 500-1000 m, only some islands of the northern group are lowlands. Larger islands are dissected by numerous rivers and bear many lakes. The vegetation of North and Central Kuriles resembles that of Kamchatka by the presence of dwarf alder (Sorbus sambucifolia) or stone birch elfin woods, the thickets of the dwarf pine, coastal Empetrum tundras. The spruce/fir forests appear on the South Kuriles, and the broad-leaved forests with lianes, floristically similar to forests of Hokkaido, are found locally on the Kunashir island. In open tree stands and on glades the Kurile bamboo forms impermeable thickets, while the river valleys are grown up tall herbage (up to 3 m and higher).
* A Translator's note: there is a considerable difficulty with Siberian toponyms. In western literature some of the places acquired the traditional names which deviate from the Russian names (for instance, "Yablonoy Mts." or "Apfelbergen" instead of the Yablonovyy mountain range). Others can be more easily translated than transliterated (e.g. Srednesibirskoe Ploskogorye, that means the Middle Siberian Plateau). The third problem is varying transliteration, such as the use of the letters "y", "j", or "i" for replacing the Russian letter q or, with the letters "a" and "u" for replacing, respectively, "z" and ".". I tried to use transliteration rather than translation or western names where possible, but add them in square brackets if necessary. In the above example of varying spelling I used the letter "y", except for the widely accepted other variants of spelling, such as Lake Baikal rather than Baykal.
** A Translator's note: besides, in Russian tradition the Chuya basin and the Ukok plateau are called SouthEast Altai, although geographically this region is perfectly central with respect to the entire mountain system, not only its Russian part.
A Translator's note: in Russian ecological and geobotanical tradition, the term "steppe" (more precise spelling would be "step'") is used not only in its primary colloquial meaning of a vast arid grassland but also for any arid vegetation, more or less with domination of grasses. Therefore, in Russian special literature one can found "steppefied meadows", "meadowy steppe", and "steppefied slopes", the latter can be rather steep and small, despite of the initial meaning of the word "steppe". A similar situation concerns the word "tundra", some types of tundras, such as fruticulose tundras with the dominance of the Ericaceae plants (but not Erica!) in English tradition would be called "heaths" rather than "tundras". However, while translation the text it seemed better to retain the terminology which is accepted on the territory described.