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Established: 1932
Size: 40,432 ha (404 km2)

Contact information:
Kotlyar, Andrei Kirillovich, Director

Russia 692519, Primorsky krai,Ussuriisk, ul. Nekrasova, 19

(7-423-41) 2-01-07

"In the past twenty years the Ussurisky Krai has changed drastically," wrote Russian explorer Vladimir Arseniev in his 1930 memoir of his travels through the Russian Far East, "The primeval, virgin forests have burned, and larches, birches, and elms have sprung up in their place. Today steam engines whistle where the tiger once roared. Large Russian towns now stand in place of the isolated dwellings of lonely trappers. The Tuzents people have gone off to the north, and the numbers of wild beasts in the taiga has fallen sharply." But where the low, bald peaks of the spurs of the southern Sikhote-Alin Mountain Range fall westward, a piece of Arseniev’s world lies preserved in Ussurisky Zapovednik. While this nature reserve may lack the breathtaking panoramas of other protected areas in the Primorsky Krai, it holds the largest tract of intact Ussuriskaya taiga, a blend of northern boreal forests and subtropical jungles unique to this part of the world.

Photo © 2000 Konstantin Mikhailov

Zapovednik Images
Zapovednik Facts
Articles featuring this nature reserve in Russian Conservation News journal

Articles featuring this nature reserve in Russian Conservation News journal:

Images of Ussurisky Zapovednik
Click on each photo to see a large version.

© 2000 Konstantin Mikhailov

The Siberian chipmunk is common in the taiga forests of the reserve.

© 2000 Yuri Shibnev

Rare Siberian ginseng bears fruit in the forests of the reserve.

© 2000 Yuri Shibnev

Broadleaf species turn yellow and orange in the fall.

© 2000
Konstantin Mikhailov

Siberian pine intermixes with broadleaf species in the reserve's forests.

© 2000 Konstantin Mikhailov

Ferns and moss thrive in the understory of taiga forests.


© 2000 Konstantin Mikhailov

A baby lynx waits for its mother to return from the hunt.

© 2000 Yuri Shibnev

The collared scops owl is found only in Eastern Asia.

© 2000 Yuri Shibnev

The Papillo maki is the largest species of daytime butterfly in Russia.

Zapovednik Facts:

The old-growth coniferous-broadleaf forests that line the Ussurisky Zapovednik’s two major rivers are among the last remaining intact habitats for the Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), the largest cat in the world. Following a severe decline in the first half of the 20th century, the tiger began to rebound in the 1960s, a change some scientists point to as a reason for the sharp decline in wolves (Canis lupus) that occurred in the zapovednik even as the tiger population was growing. Lynxes (Lynx lynx) are also rare in the reserve. The Amur wildcat (Felis euptilura) population grew considerably following the addition of a new territory in the Artemovka River Valley to the zapovednik.

The primary prey for these large predators are ungulates, such as musk deer (Moschus moschiferus), wild boars (Sus scrofa), and Manchurian wapiti (Cervus elaphus xanthopygus), a relative of the American elk. In the 1950s, a special program to save the endangered sika deer (C. nippon hortulorum), which is not native to the region but is an important prey for the tiger, introduced the deer into the reserve. The deer clustered near an outpost where zapovednik staff set out food, however, and began to hamper the growth of the forest understory. To alleviate this problem, the staff stopped providing food for the deer, encouraging them to spread throughout the reserve instead of congregating in a small part of the forest. Today about 100 sika deer live in the zapovednik, and pose little threat to its ecosystems.

In late summer brown bears (Ursus arctos) enter the zapovednik before heading farther north to hibernate in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains. Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus) and badgers (Meles meles) live in the reserve year-round. Sable (Martes zibellina), Indian martens (M. flavigula), and weasels (Mustela nivalis) were once common in these forests, but after being driven to the brink of extinction in the 1920s, have not recovered to healthy numbers. Mink (Mustela vison) and otters (Lutra lutra) live along the streams in the zapovednik.

The Asian northern birch mouse (Sicista betulina) and the large-toothed redbacked vole (Clethrionomys rutilus) are the most common rodents in the reserve. Siberian chipmunks (Tamias sibiricus), Russian flying squirrels (Pteromys volans), and Manchurian hares (Lepus brachyurus) can often be found scurrying through the forest in search of food. The Ussurisk variety of mole (Talpa europaea) burrows as deep as 70 centimeters into the ground to hibernate during the winter. Scientists have identified a total of six species of shrews (Sorex spp.), the largest of which was described for the first time only in 1937. Endangered and endemic to the Russian Far East, this "giant" shrew grows to a mere seven to ten centimeters in length and weighs about 15 grams.

Early in the spring yellow-throated buntings (Embemza elegans) and Daurian starlings (Sturnia sturnia) return from the south, followed by the colorful dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis), kingfisher (Alcedo athis), and hoopoe (Upupa epops). The woods fill with the song of the endemic short-tailed bush warbler (Urosphena squameiceps). In summer, the leaf warbler (Phylloscopus proregulus), black-and-orange flycatcher (Ficedula mugimaki), hazel grouse (Bonasa bonasia), and Siberian blue robin (Luscinia cyane) live in the zapovednik’s stands of coniferous trees. The brown hawk-owl (Ninox solomonis) uses its needle-like talons to catch its prey, mostly large butterflies and other flying insects.

Two snakes, the Ussurian mamushi (Agkistrodon blomhoffi ussuriensis) and its relative A. intermedius, are the most common reptiles in the zapovednik. Among amphibians, Asiatic grass frogs (Rana chensinensis), Japanese tree frogs (Hyla japonica), and Oriental fire-bellied toads (Bombina orientalis) feed on the reserve’s many insects and spiders. One of the most interesting insects in the zapovednik is the long-horned beetle (Callipogon relictus). The largest insect in the Russian Far East, this bright brown beetle grows up to 10 cm in length in adulthood.



The forest that characterizes the southern reaches of the Russian Far East is so unique that it has its own name: the Ussuriskaya taiga. This mixture of boreal and subtropical forests covers 99 percent of the zapovednik, forming two distinct belts. Coniferous-broadleaf forests span the lower elevations of the reserve, rising to about 600 meters above sea level. Higher up, fir trees dominate the landscape. In all, the zapovednik is home to 825 species of vascular plants.

Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis) forest covers 42 percent of the forested land in the zapovednik, more than any other kind of forest. Many of these stands are both ancient and diverse: a single hectare of forest may be filled with up to 50-60 varied tree species and hundreds of herbaceous plants, and trees 400-500 years old may stretch 45 meters into the sky. Moreover, though Korean pine forests are more characteristic of northern latitudes, the pine stands in Ussurisky Zapovednik include a number of typically southern species, including Manchurian fir (Abies holophylla), heartleaf hornbeam (Carpinus cordata), and many other warm-climate plants, such as the endangered ginseng (Panax ginseng).

Manchurian ash (Fraximus mandschurica), Yeddo spruce (Picea jezoensis), Khingan fir (Abies nephrolepis) and Amur oak tree (Phellodendron amurense) fill the moist forests on south-facing slopes and in river valleys. In these semi-tropical conditions, ordinary shrubs such as the Amur lilac (Syringa amurensis), and Amur choke-cherry (Padus maacki) grow to great heights, reaching up to 18 meters. Many of the Mongolian oaks (Quercus mongolicus) that grow near the headwaters of the zapovednik’s streams are more than 200 years old.

Rocky slopes provide the stage for seasonal changes in flora. Toward the end of April the earliest flowers appear: strawberry cinquefoil (Potentilla fragariformis), and local species of Corydalis and Gagea. In May, day-lilies (Hemerocallis middendorfii), violets (Viola variegata), and lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum) begin to bloom, followed by St. John’s wort (Hypericum sp.), Veronica daurica, Rabdosia serra, and several species of Sedum in June and July. By August this festival of colors calms as Artemesia gmelinii flowers.

The zapovednik’s staff have noted 13 endangered species among flora in the reserve, including trees such as Japanese red pine (Pinus longifolia), Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata), and needle junipers (Juniperus rigida). The small white flowers of Cherry princepia (Princepia sinensis), an endangered shrub, ripen into red berries late in summer. On the forest floor, endangered plants such as lady’s slippers (Cypripedium macranthon, C. calceolus), narrow-leaved helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia), and spurred coral root (Epipgum aphyllum) all grow in the zapovednik.

In addition to vascular plants, 210 species of water plants, 1364 species of fungus, 118 species of lichen, and 252 species of moss grow in the zapovednik.


Geographical Features

Ussurisky Zapovednik is located at the western edge of the southern Sikhote-Alin Mountain Range in the Ussurisky and Shotovsky Regions of the Primorsky Krai, Russia’s Maritime Region. The reserve lies in the basin of two small rivers, the Komarovka and the Artemovka, which eventually empty into the Sea of Japan. Small streams and waterfalls trickle throughout the zapovednik, whose rolling hills rise up to 700 meters above sea level.

As with all regions of the Russian Far East, Ussurisky Zapovednik has a monsoon climate, with heavy August and September rains comprising much of the reserve’s annual rainfall of 800 millimeters. Mountains protect the reserve from winds rising off the sea and the heavy fog that attends them. Year-round, temperatures are cool, ranging from a January average of —17 degrees Celsius to 20 degrees Celsius in August.


Conservation Status

In 1913, when botanist Vladimir Komarov first visited the forests that would later become Ussurisky Zapovednik, the pristine taiga he saw impressed him so much that he recommended the area be placed under special protection. But only in 1932, with the support of the newly founded Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences was a small, 16,679-hectare reserve called Suputinsky Zapovednik founded in the area. Even so, to this day no other reserve in the Russian Far East has so large an area of virgin forest so dense in relic plants and with such a high level of diversity.

Later the reserve was renamed Ussurisky Zapovednik, and nearly 24,000 hectares were added to its territory in 1972. But unlike the old heart of the zapovednik, which contained dense virgin forest, the new region had earlier been part of a local forestry collective. Lumberjacks had logged the forest and replanted trees not native to the region, significantly altering the face of the forest. It was no longer a model of pristine Ussuriskaya taiga.

Nonetheless, there were great advantages to adding this territory to the park. The original forest was simply too small to ensure adequate protection of many species. Even today, the zapovednik is still too small to provide safe habitats for a number of large endangered mammals, but the reserve fills an important function in protecting a number of rare plants, insects, amphibians, and reptiles, and also some birds and mammals. Even though the new territory lacks the intact ecosystems of the older region, it acts as a buffer for the oldest forests. It also serves as an outdoor laboratory for studying forest regeneration for scientists to observe the natural succession of the forest.

In recent years, the zapovednik staff has begun a project to support the dwindling population of Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus), which had fallen from 6,000 in 1970 to 3,000 by 1990. Each year hunting and poaching orphans 17-20 bear cubs in the Primorsky Krai, becoming easy prey for tigers and leopards. In 1999, Ussurisky Zapovednik opened a center for raising orphaned Asiatic black bear cubs. Using methodology developed by Dr. Valentin Pazhetnov of Tsentralno-Lesnoy Zapovednik as a reference, the center took in six cubs two to four months in age in spring of 1999. By autumn, five of these cubs were ready to be released into the wild. Since then, the center’s staff has monitored these and other orphaned cubs using plastic ear tags and radio collars.

Unlike the majority of Russian zapovedniks, which are under the administration of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ussurisky Zapovednik is under the management of the Biology and Soil Studies Institute of the Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.



Arseniev, Vladimir, 1930. Through the Ussurisky Krai. Dersu Uzala. Moscow: Pravda, 1983.

Zapovedniks of the USSR: Zapovedniks of the Far East. Sokolov, V.E., and E.E. Syroechkovsky, Eds. Mysl publishing agency. Moscow, 1985.

Zapovedniks and National Parks of Russia. Zabelina, N.M., L.S. Isaeva-Petrova, and L.V. Kuleshova. Moscow: Logata, 1998.

Additional information provided by zapovednik staff.

Text by Lisa Woodson.

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