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Lukunsky grove - the northernmost forest

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 72.52524 N 105.15061 E
No:14        (list of all attractions)
Category:Ecosystems
Values:Biology
Rank:5
Address:Asia, Russia, Krasnoyarsk Krai, to the south from Khatanga River, southern bank of Lukunsk river
Name in Russian:Лукунский
Area:90.55 km2 (includes other biotopes as well)
Dominating species:Dahurian larch (Larix gmelinii (Rupr.) Rupr.)

The northernmost forested area in the world is Lukunsky grove although often Internet sources announce that Ary-Mas is the northernmost forest of the world. Ary-Mas is located some 6 kilometres further to the south.

Contrary to Ary-Mas Lukunsky is not an isolated island of forest but a northern rim of enormous forest stretching for hundreds of kilometres to the south.

The sturdy Dahurian larch

There is one tree species in Lukunsky grove - Dahurian larch (Larix gmelinii (Rupr.) Kuzen. 1920).

Dahurian larch is met in enormous area and in very diverse forms. Often scientists divide it into several species - such as Larix cajanderi, Larix olgensis and many others.

In less harsh conditions Dahurian larch is a large tree, sometimes more than 45 metres tall and above 1,5 metres in diameter. It is possible that this is the most widespread tree species in the world with the largest number of mature trees (1). Dahurian larch grows in the whole northern Asia, reaching Korea and China in the south. The tree is extremely well adapted to harsh arctic conditions - different investigations have shown excellent adaptations to permafrost, quick regeneration after the frequent fires, unique adaptation to different pests starting from microorganisms and ending with hares.

Wood of the larch is very well adapted also to the needs of northern people. This fragrant and hard wood is very resistant to rotting - thus it serves well for buildings and also for the necessity of Siberian villages - wooden pathways along the streets.

Arctic forest

Winter lasts here for 8 - 9 months, polar night lasts from November to February. -35 - -40 °C are common in winter with wind speeds up to 50 metres per second. In flatter areas the snow is circa 0.4 - 0.6 metres thick while in ravines it can be even 10 metres thick. Snow in most parts disappears in the middle of June but in late September - early October winter starts again.

But the short summer often is generous, although rainy. Polar day lasts more than a month from late June to early August. Medium temperature in July is 12 °C, but frequently it reaches 30 °C.

Only the upper 0.3 - 2 metres of the soil thaw during the summer. Under the forest there is some 200 metres deep layer of permafrost which is -10 - -15 °C cold (2). Nonetheless investigations have shown that biological productivity of the soil here is very high.

Region around Lukunsky grove has been inhabited by several people including Nganasans (more ancient), Evenks and Dolgans (more recent) and now - Russians.

Larches here reach 5 - 7 metres height, trees are sparse. In spite of its extreme location Lukunsky grove is biologically diverse and interesting, although to lesser extent than Ary-Mas. Here are found 268 species of plants, 78 species of birds, 16 species of mammals. Species of northern taiga are prevalent over species of tundra.

Besides the only tree - the larch - here grow bushes of several kinds: up to 1.9 m high Alaska willow (Salix alaxensis Cov.), S. boganidensis Trautv., northern willow (S. glauca L.) and several other willows, few species of dwarf birches and dwarf bush Duschekia fruticosa (Rupr.) Pouzar.

Rivers and numerous lakes are full with fish.

Conservation and studies

Just like Ary-Mas also Lukunsky grove is well studied.

First serious plans to conserve the area appeared in 1939 but were delayed several times up to 1979, when there was established the large state reserve "Taymyrskij" consisting of several separate parts. Main part of the reserve protects genuine tundra south-west from Taymyr Lake, two separate parts protect northernmost forests - Ary-Mas and Lukunskij, later there were established two more parts - Arctic part protecting tundra east from Taymyr Lake and Bykada - project of reintroduction of muskox from America. Area of protected areas here might be extended in near future.

Scientists of Taymyrsky reserve maintain a scientific tradition to produce yearly statements of nature of Taymyr ("Летописи Природы") amounting to many hundreds of pages. Part of this extremely rich scientific material is available (in Russian) at the website of Taymyr reserve.

Map

See Lukunsky grove on the map of Russia!