Ural Mountains Taiga

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Bashkortostan (Bashkir Republic), European & Central Russia, Russian Federation.
© WWF-Canon / Hartmut JUNGIUS

About the Area

The Ural Mountains extend through western Asia, running in a north-south direction from the Arctic Ocean almost to the Aral Sea.

The Ural Mountains are also the meeting point for 2 main vegetation zones in the far north - taiga and tundra.

Low temperatures, poor soils, and periods of low precipitation combine to favor coniferous trees. This ecoregion supports a unique mixture of European and Asian species. Amid a rich mosaic of plant species live many animals adapted to mountain environments.

Size:
174,000 sq. km (67,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Boreal Forests/Taiga

Geographic Location:
Eurasia: entirely within Russia, these mountains are often used as the dividing line between Europe and Asia

Conservation Status:
Vulnerable
Local Species
Dominant tree species include the Siberian spruce (Picea obovata), Siberian larch (L. russica), Larix sukaczewii, and Siberian fir (Abies sibirica).

There are many examples of Siberian species such as reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) and sable (Martes zibellina), as well as European species such as the hare (Lepus Europaeus), polecat (Mustela putorius), and mink (Mustela lutreola).

Most birds are not specific to the Urals, but may be found in the European or Siberian taigas. These include the Eurasian dipper (Cinclus cinclus), Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), Eurasian dotterel (Charadrius morinellus), Northern black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), and the Ural owl (Strix uralensis).

Once extinct in this ecoregion, the European beaver was reintroduced in 1949 and has made such a strong comeback that it is now common.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Hartmut JUNGIUS
Larch tree (Larix), Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Siberia, Russian Federation.
© WWF-Canon / Hartmut JUNGIUS

Featured species

The sable (Martes zibellina) is a small mammal ranging from about 32 to 50 cm (13 to 20 in) long, excluding the 13–18 cm tail, and weighs 0.9–1.8 kg. Sables are diurnal carnivores, using their sense of smell and hearing to hunt for small prey. They have been observed to hide in their dens for days during periods such as snow storms, or when they are being hunted by humans. In the wild they are potentially vicious

They are mostly terrestrial, hunting and constructing dens on the forest floor. They feed on chipmunks, squirrels, mice, small birds and fish. When primary sources are scarce they eat berries, vegetation, and pine nuts. The name sable appears to be Slavonic in origin.

The sable was previously hunted heavily for its fur and is now protected in some regions.

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Threats
Centuries of resource exploitation, logging, mining, processing of metals and chemicals, and heavy industry have caused extensive habitat loss and degradation in some locations.

Mountain tundra is significantly altered throughout the ecoregion, except in certain protected areas. Middle and southern-area taiga zones are also heavily altered but northern taiga landscapes are still relatively well preserved.
WWF’s work
WWF’s Ural office was established in Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, where WWF helps enlarge and further develop the system of protected areas. This project, funded by the Government of Switzerland, is implemented in accordance with the Bashkortostan Presidential Gift to the Earth made in 1999 as part of the WWF Living Planet Campaign.

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