Kamchatka Taiga & Grasslands

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Kamchatka, Siberia, Russian Federation.
© WWF-Canon / Darren JEW

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 3 terrestrial ecoregions: Kamchatka-Kurile meadows and sparse forests; Kamchatka-Kurile taiga; and Kamchatka Mountain tundra and forest tundra.

Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tidal waves continually modify the dynamic landscape, while a mosaic of tundra and taiga habitats support 29 species of rare and endemic plants, as well as many birds and large mammals.

The Kamchatka Peninsula supports the largest population of brown bears - estimated at 20,000 - in the world. Karaginsky Island is particularly popular with harlequin ducks, which form some of the largest breeding colonies in the Russian Far East.

Often called Conifer Island, Kamchatka-Kurile taiga is located along the Kamchatka River in the central valley of the Kamchatka Peninsula. It holds the Kamchatka Peninsula’s most significant expanses of forest and is the easternmost example of Siberian taiga forest.

Size:
281,000 sq. km (108,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Boreal Forests/Taiga

Geographic Location:
Russia: easternmost Pacific coast

Conservation Status:
Relatively Stable/Intact
Local Species
Widespread are forests of Erman's birch (Betula ermanii), Japanese stone pine (Pinus pumila), and Dahurian larch (Larix dahurica).

There are also stands of Kamchatka larch (Larix kamtscatica), mixed with Aspen (Populus tremula), and Yeddo spruce (Picea jezoensis). The peninsula is famous for its population of the Kamchatka brown bear (Ursus arctos beringianus) - the largest bear in Eurasia.

Other mammal species include Kamchatka marmot (Marmota kamtschatica), Okhotsk subspecies of wild reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), and Kamchatka subspecies of sable (Martes zebillina). Two of many bird species of interest are Steller's sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) and tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata).

Kamchatka rivers contain prodigious concentrations of Salmon, including Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), Chum (O. keta), Pink (O. gorbuscha), Coho (O. kisutch), and Kamchatka (Salmo penshinensis).

Kamchatka-Kurile taiga holds 400 to 700 species of vegetation, 120 to 150 species of nesting birds, and 40 to 50 species of mammals.
 / ©: WWF / Yuri DARMAN
Steller's sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus), Siberia, Russian Federation.
© WWF / Yuri DARMAN

Featured species

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Hartmut JUNGIUS
Kamchatka brown bear (Ursus arctos beringianus), Blue Lake Nature Reserve, Kamchatka, Siberia, Russian Federation.
© WWF-Canon / Hartmut JUNGIUS
Kamchatka brown bear (Ursus arctos beringianus)

These giant bears are very similar to Kodiak bears of Alaska, but tend to be darker. Head and body length is up to 275 cm (9 ft), and shoulder height is 127-135 cm (50-53 in). As with the Alaska brown bear, the Kamchatka brown bear grows large because of its abundant and protein-rich diet of spawning salmon and other fish in the coastal rivers, and from the comparatively mild climate that permits a shorter period of hibernation. It is a very large, dark bear with a massive skull. The forehead is broad and rather steeply elevated over the relatively short nose. The coat is long, dense and soft. The color varies from pale yellow to blackish-brown and dull black, but dark individuals predominate. The claws are dark brown, sometimes with light yellowish streaks at the tips, and are up to 1 cm (4 in) in length. The largest specimens are found in Kamchatka and on the Shantar islands, weighing from 200 – 1,000 kg.

During the salmon spawning season, great numbers of the bears gather along the Kamchatka Rivers. The animals are hunted heavily, chiefly for their fur and gallbladder, with an estimated 555 bears killed illegally each year.

Read more:
Threats
Habitats in this region are relatively intact and undeveloped due to low human population density. However, overfishing of salmon and steelhead and mismanagement of fisheries are major threats to the continued survival of these populations and wildlife that depend on them as a food source, such as brown bears. Big-game hunting and poaching of brown bears threaten one of the world's most intact populations of this species.

An increase in mining, oil exploration and gas drilling is also a potential threat. As in other parts of eastern Russia, fires caused by humans’ damage the region’s forests enormously and lead to the growth of tree species that are different from those originally found here.
WWF’s work
WWF’s goal in Kamchatka is to preserve the natural ecosystems and habitats of the unique peninsula and adjacent seas.

WWF contributed to the creation of Koryaksky zapovednik (strict nature reserve), Klyuchevsky Nature Park, Golubyie Ozera Nature Park. Just a few years after WWF established a presence in the region, the territory of specially protected nature territories reached one third of Kamchatka! WWF developed and applied a system of radio contact between remote taiga villages where indigenous peoples live.

To fight sea poaching in the Kamchatka region, WWF supported the creation and improvement of a system of satellite monitoring of fishing which has led to a substantial decrease in the number of fishing violations. WWF is currently working on a project aimed at bringing down the by-catch of sea birds during longline fishing. It also supports Komandorsky Biosphere zapovednik (strict nature reserve), promotes the ecological certification for fisheries, and works on the re-introduction of the Canada goose.

The most recent WWF project of Kamchatka is aimed at preserving the salmonid fishes and their habitats. WWF also wants the economic development of the region to be based on the traditional use of biological resources rather than on oil extraction.

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