Daurian Steppes


Daurian Steppes

Region of the Russian Federation: Zabaikalsky Kray

Status of Territories composing the Property: Daursky State Nature Biosphere Reserve

Area: 209 320 ha

Status: inscribed in the Tentative List of the Russian Federation in 2005

The Daurian steppes are located at the juncture of the Mongolian, Russian and Chinese state borders. In 1994 an intergovernmental agreement was signed which established the International Nature Reserve "Dauria". It includes the existing Daursky Nature Reserves (Russia), Mongol Daguur (Mongolia), and Lake Dalai (China).

The climate in the area is sharply continental; hot in summer and dry and cold in winter. The distinctive feature of the climate is the amplitude of variation in temperature, daily and annually.

The Russian Daursky Nature Reserve was created to conserve the unique nature ecosystems habitats of the Torey Lakes (Barun-Torey and Zun-Torey), the largest landscapes in the steppes of Transbaikalia. The Torey Lakes are remnants of a great ancient lake that covered the whole territory of the Torey-Borzinsky watershed. The lakes have an unsteady water regime; the periodicity of its change is mostly determined by climate: during the last 200-220 years, the lakes have dried and have filled many times (four times in just the 20th century).

The Torey Lakes are included in the list of water and marshlands of international significance. They are also recognized as a key ornithological territory in Asia. The Torey Lakes are the narrow spot (bottle neck) of the largest East-Australian flyway of waterfowl and passerine birds. The territory is the habitat of 314 bird species and 47 mammal species. Thirty-seven of these bird species are inscribed in the Red Data Book of Russia, and 25 of them are included in the IUCN Red Data Book. Among them are the nesting White-napped crane and Japanese crane as well as the great White crane and the Hooded crane, both of which fly by and winter there. The Swan Goose can also be found here. The Lakes are the only nesting site for the Relic Gull in the Russian Federation. The Russian Red Data Book lists mammal species in the reserve, including the Black-Tailed Gazelle (the only permanent habitat and breeding ground in Russia), Pallas' Cat, Daurian Hedgehog, Tarbagan (Mongolian Marmot).

Various grass and grain species prevail in the vegetation of the nature reserve. There are strips of feather-grass steppes in low valleys, between hills, and along lake shores. In river mouths and along gulfs, there is meadow and marshland vegetation. The distinctive feature of the nature reserve is a wide variety of vegetation concentrated in a relatively small area. The Tsasucheisky Bor Federal Preserve - an area included in the territory of the reserve - has forest strips of a unique subspecies of pine (Krylov pine). Buryats have long inhabited the Daurian steppes. Most of the local population observes the customs and traditions of their ancestors; this can be seen in ceremonial constructions: obos, where ceremonies are performed, stone pyramids devoted to the "master of the land", historical and cultural monuments, etc. There are burial places that are 2,000 and even 4,000 years old. Traditions of horseracing and national wrestling competitions are being restored. Traditional farming is being restored as well. Steppe farmers resumed breeding camels - a traditional animal for the local population - and horses, which are vitally important to Buryats.