In his memoirs of his expeditions in the Russian Far East in
1902-1906, explorer Vladimir Arseniev recounts his first and only
encounter with an Amur leopard (Pantera pardus orientalis),
"an extremely cunning and careful animal" which had
learned to protect itself from hunters by hiding in trees in such
a way that it became almost invisible. Distinguished from other
leopards by softer, thicker fur, the leopard has not been able
to use its stealth to halt the destruction of its habitat. Even
Arseniev noted that the leopards range was already limited
to the southernmost regions of what today is Russias Primorsky
Krai. Moreover, forest fires and intensive hunting of ungulates,
the leopards favored prey, have brought the leopards
numbers to below 40 individuals in the wild today.
In the reserve, the population of ungulates remains healthy,
with plenty of Tatarian roe (Capreolus capreolus pygargus),
wild boars (Sus scrofa), musk deer (Moschus moschiferus)
and sika deer (Cervus nippon). Indeed, even though listed
in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation, the sika deer
grew so numerous in the reserve in the mid-1900s that zapovednik
staff began trapping the deer and releasing them outside the borders
of the park in hopes that they would help the leopard expand its
territory outside the zapovednik.
The zapovednik is a haven for other predators as well, such as
foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and raccoon dogs (Nycterutes procyonoides),
which are common throughout the reserve. The rare Amur wildcat
(Felis euptiluras) preys on many rodents and birds, but
in winter eats mainly Manchurian hares (Lepus brachyurus mandschuricus).
Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus), recognizable by
the white bib of fur about their necks, are comparatively rare.
Badgers (Meles meles), Siberian weasels (Mustela sibirica),
and Indian marten (Martes zibellina) roam through the forests,
while a multitude of otters (Lutra lutra) bathe in the
Japanese moles (Mogera wogura) burrow in valleys
with soft, malleable soil. Shrews (Sorex spp.), Siberian
chipmunks (Tamias sibiricus), squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris),
and Russian flying squirrels (Pteromys volans) are also
common here. The little tube-nosed bat (Murina aurata),
a rare species, makes its home in the zapovedniks forests.
The endangered gray goshawk (Accipiter soloensis) feeds
on many of these abundant rodents. Meanwhile, instead of soaring
through the sky in search of prey, the rare gray-faced buzzard-eagle
(Butastor indicus) waits in a shrub or small tree in oak
forests for the right moment before diving down to catch its favored
prey, amphibians and reptiles, such as the oriental tigersnake
(Rhabdophis tigrina) and red-backed ratsnake (Elaphe
In spring the zapovedniks forests come to life with multiple
species of warblers, including Pallas warbler (Phylloscopus
proregulus), great crowned willow warbler (Ph. occipitalis),
pale-legged willow warbler (Ph. tenellipes), and short-tailed
bush warbler (Cettia squamicepts). Many nuthatches (Sitta
spp.), titmice (Parus palustris, P. ater), Siberian
blue robins (Luscinia cyane), brown flycatchers (Microeca
latirostris), and Tristrams buntings (Emberiza tritrami)
build their nests in Manchurian fir trees.
As in all of the Russian Far East, the coniferous-broadleaf forests
of Kedrovaya Pad Zapovednik combine elements of the northern taiga
and subtropical jungles, but in this nature reserve southern flora
predominates. Early explorers and scientists noted the diversity
of trees and abundance of shrubs, all of which were entangled
in vines of clematis (Clematis spp.), actinidias (Actinidia
arguta, A. kolomicta), magnolia-vine (Schizandra
chinensis), and Konye grapes (Vitis cognetiae). Indeed,
these vines were so thickly woven through trees and bushes that
it was impossible to pass through the taiga without an ax.
The logging that accompanied the influx of settlers to the Russian
Far East, however, significantly altered the face of the zapovednik.
Forests currently cover about 13,000 hectares (73 percent of the
zapovedniks total area), of which over 11,000 hectares is
deciduous. Most of these deciduous forests grew up after the original
coniferous-broadleaf forests were cut or burned. Nonetheless,
the zapovednik has existed under strict protection for so long
that a process of forest regeneration is clearly visible.
Forests of Mongolian oaks (Quercus mongolica) comprise
nearly half of the zapovedniks territory. Though some sparse
oak stands grow indigenously on steep mountain slopes, the majority
of these forests grew up as a direct result of the forestry activity
in the region. Deciduous trees such as the Amur and Manchurian
lindens (Tilia amurensis, T. mandschurica), yellow and
Dahurian birches (Betula lutea, B. dahurica), Mono maple
(Acer mono), and Manchurian elm (Ulmus laciniata)
spring up readily in these young forests, while the ash tree Fraxinus
rhynchophylla dominates the next stage in forest regeneration.
Coniferous-broadleaf forests represent the natural dominant forest
type, but today cover just over ten percent of the reserves
total area. Dominated by Manchurian firs (Abies holophylla),
the tallest tree in the Russian Far East, which grows to 55 meters
in height and two meters in diameter, these forests also incorporate
warmth-loving trees such as Mongolian oaks, maples, ashes,
the locally endangered sand pear (Pyrus ussurensis), and
river and Schmidts birches (Betula nigra, B. schmidtii).
Schmidts birch, an endangered species in Russia, is particularly
unique for its dense wood, which sinks in water.
Rare tracts of forest sprinkled throughout the southern reaches
of the zapovednik incorporate two rare species the Japanese
emperor oak (Quercus dentata) and Rhododendron shlippenbachii
and were listed in the Red Data Book of the
Soviet Union specifically as a community.
In all, 57 rare or endangered plant species grow in the zapovednik.
Many grow at the northern extremities of their ranges here, while
others are endemic to the reserve, found nowhere else on Earth.
The slow-growing Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata) has soft,
flat needles and juicy but astringent berries. The soft purplish-pink
blossoms of Wieglia praecox are particularly beautiful;
the ladys slipper Cypripedium guttatum, three
species of peony (Paeonia oreogeton, P. lactiflora, P. obovata),
and Dahurian lily (Lilium dahuricum) add additional
color to the zapovednik.
Kedrovaya Pad Zapovednik is located in the spurs of the Eastern-Manchurian
Mountains that stretch eastward into Russia from China and North
Korea. Local residents named these rolling hills the Black Mountains,
perhaps because of the dense forests of Manchurian firs that covered
them. The zapovednik, however, derives its name from the Kedrovaya
River and the canyon through which it flows.
Narrow mountain ridges around 400 meters above sea level characterize
the zapovedniks relief. Formed primarily in the Mesozoic
Era some 100-200 million years ago, these mountains are comprised
mostly of multiple layers of sandstone, occasionally interrupted
by igneous rock. Rivers and streams flow through the reserves
multiple terraced canyons, forming systems of waterfalls and pools
as they spill into the Baravashekva River and run towards the
Kedrovaya Pad Zapovednik shares its monsoon climate with other
areas of the Russian Far East, receiving most of its average 900
millimeters of rainfall during the summer. But in contrast to
nearby regions, the reserves location at the southern tip
of the Primorsky Krai places it in the path of warm, humid air
masses from the Philippines. As a result, the frost-free period
stretches an extra two months in comparison with nearby areas.
The mountainous relief of the zapovednik also plays a significant
role in creating microclimates within the reserve. For example,
at the headwaters of the Gakkelevsky Stream, which are protected
from the sea by a mountain ridge, the number of sunny days each
year can be up to three times greater than in the central regions
of the reserve, which are steeped in deep fog in spring and early
summer. For this reason, sun-loving plants like melons and tomatoes
grow well in regions just a few kilometers from areas where they
cannot grow at all.
Brown and yellow-brown soils dominate in the zapovednik. The
latter mountain forest soils, which mark a transition between
the brown soils of the temperate zone and the yellow soils of
the subtropics, are found nowhere else the Russian Far East. Meanwhile,
sandy soils surround the zapovedniks rivers, slowly dissolving
the mountains and carrying them downstream to the Sea of Japan.
The zapovednik is located 20 kilometers from Vladivostok in the
Khasansky District of the Primorsky Krai.
Following the construction of the Transiberian Railroad in the
early 1900s, settlers poured into the Russian Far East, especially
in and around the bustling trading port of Vladivostock. The primeval
forests of the Primorsky Krai became subject to intensive logging
and numerous forest fires. Hunting wild animals especially
seemingly threatening predators like tigers and leopards
was readily encouraged in the interests of taming these wild lands.
But even as human demand for forests and their resources grew,
concern for the ecosystems of the Russian Far East also grew.
Forest preserves (zakazniks) founded as early as 1906 were intended
to prevent the cutting of valuable varieties of trees, as well
as curtail hunting and ginseng gathering. In 1916, one of such
zakazniks was founded on 4,500 hectares now occupied by Kedrovaya
Pad Zapovednik. In 1924, the territory was given the legal status
of a zapovednik, the first in the Russian Far East; two years
later, the zapovedniks area was more than doubled to cover
When it was founded, the reserve was managed by forestry enterprises
directed to establish both nature protection and scientific research
in the park. Perhaps for this reason, the zapovednik staff initially
gave precedence to study of flora instead of fauna. Only in the
1930s, when the administration of the zapovednik was transferred
first to wildlife management services, then to the Russian Academy
of Sciences, did scientists working at the zapovednik begin systematic
studies of the reserves fauna. Birds became a key focus
of the zapovednik, leading Kedrovaya Pad to the forefront of ornithology
in the Russian Far East. Today, recognizing the importance of
saving the Amur leopard from extinction, scientists have placed
special emphasis on studying this highly endangered cat. Zapovednik
staff have participated in two censes conducted in the past five
years both in the reserve and in adjoining parks. All of the cats
that live in Kedrovaya Pad Zapovednik have been fitted with radio
collars so that scientists can track their movements.
Though most zapovedniks are currently under the authority of
the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation, Kedrovaya
Pad Zapovednik remains under the direction of the Biology and
Soil Studies Institute of the Far East Branch of the Russian Academy
of Sciences, the institution that has guided its activity since
Arseniev, Vladimir, 1930. Through the Ussurisky Krai. Dersu
Uzala. Moscow: Pravda, 1983.
Zapovedniks of the USSR: Zapovedniks of the Far East.
Moscow: Mysl, 1985.
Zapovedniks and National Parks of Russia. Zabelina, N.M.,
L.S. Isaeva-Petrova, and L.V. Kuleshova. Moscow: Logata, 1998.
Additional materials provided by staff of Kedrovaya Pad Zapovednik
and the Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Text by Lisa Woodson.
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