Cultural criteria: x
Year of inclusion in the List of World Heritage: 2001
The territory of the Heritage site, situated within the east bound of the temperate zone of Eurasia, covers both east (steeper) and west (more gentle) slopes of the Sikhote Alin mountain system, approximately in its central part. In this place mountains appear in the form of a complicated labyrinth of uniform medium-altitude mountain ranges with numerous ridges, almost completely covered by forests. Here one can see narrow (sometimes canyon-shaped) intermountain valleys and water gaps, where small yet quick rivers run full of rapids; the rising torso mountains (magmatic intrusions); rock glaciers – stone placers; maritime rock precipices (with typical pinnacles-ice ramparts), at times sheer going into blue waters of the Sea of Japan. The maximum mark is 1,598 m on the top of the Glukhomanka Mountain.
Due to damp monsoon climate, dense mixed coniferous-broad-leaved forests formed here, where species predominate such as Korean cedar, Ayan spruce, Khingam fir, Mongolian oak, Japanese elm, fine-leaved maple, Japan poplar, birch (Daurian, yellow, stone). This type of forest is recognized one of the richest and the most original by species composition in the whole northern hemisphere, furthermore, its largest undisturbed massifs remained just in the Far East of Russia. This forest’s floristic richness is impressive: Over 1,000 species of higher vascular plants were registered here.
Peculiarity of Sikhote Alin mixed forests covering almost 99% of the reserve area is their multilayering and mosaicity. Wood species are found in different combinations: these are also pure cedar forests, cedar-oak or cedar-fir forests, or cedar forests with oaks, lime and golden birch. In floodplains elm and poplar are found, a maritime zone of oak-forests stands out alternating with wet meadows. High up in the mountains silver fir-spruce taiga grows, still higher – stone birch and cedar brushwood, which in their turn alter with the mountain tundra. The forest owes its impassability to lianas – vines, actinidia and magnolia-vine, as well as to high ferns and dense variety of grass.
The most amazing property of local flora and fauna is their “synthetic” nature: subtropical (appropriate to South-East Asia) and taiga (Siberian) species mixing that takes place due to the region location on an ancient way of species expansion from north to south along the whole Pacific coast. The first category of plants includes, for example, Amur cork tree, Manchurian walnut, sarsaparilla and Siberian ginseng, the second one – representatives of the Okhotsk flora such as Khingam fir and Ayan spruce. One can cite examples of typical “southerners” among animals too (tiger, Asiatic black bear, Indian marten, Indian cuckoo) and “northerners” (brown bear, lynx, skunk bear, sable, moose deer, Manchurian deer, musk deer, chipmunk, ermine).
In these parts quite a number of rare and endangered species are registered, as well as a lot of endemics and relicts. Among plants Japanese yew, Sikhote and Phori rhododendrons should be noted, enlisted in the Red Book of Russia. Many local animals and birds are inscribed in it too: tiger, goral, Japanese and hooded cranes, fish owl, white-tailed (sea) eagle, Asiatic black bear, black stork, scaly-sided merganser, Siberian grouse, mandarin duck and others. We should also mention inhabitants of the coastal zone – these are sea birds of all kinds, sea calf etc. General statistics of the animal world is the following: mammals – over 60 species, birds – over 370, reptiles and amphibians – ten species each, fishes – over 20.
Among rare animals the Amur tiger ranks first by significance – one of the 5 extant subspecies of this nice, graceful and powerful predator. The Amur subspecies is northernmost, the biggest and the most “fur”. Its modern area is very small – the south of Far East of Russia, plus adjoining areas of China and North Korea. Altogether about 450 animals remained here, furthermore almost all of them “live” on the Russian territory, in Primorye, and in the Sikhote-Alin biosphere reserve there are about 35-40 tigers, which is reckoned a biggest population of this predator. In the International Red Book the Amur tiger figures as an animal “in a critical state”.
Another rare animal is the Amur goral, favorite habitat of which is the inaccessible rocky shore of the Sea of Japan. Though it is found also on the territory of the reserve, a special wildlife preserve is designed for its protection. Total amount of gorals in these places is 170 (according to calculations as of January 1, 2003). In the International Red Book this hoofed animal is inscribed by category “vulnerable species”.