, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 323-363

Classification and Phytogeography of Larch Forests of Northeast Asia

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Abstract

This study focuses on a phytosociological system of the extensive Larix gmelinii and Larix cajanderi dominated forests and woodlands that span the nemoral, boreal and subarctic zones in northeast Asia in the Russian Far East, Eastern Siberia and northern China, an area that covers more than 5 million km2. A total of 299 relevés representing different parts of the larch forest range were used to classify communities in this area into the boreal Rhytidio rugosi-Laricetea sibiricae and Vaccinio-Piceetea and to the nemoral Querco mongolicae-Betuletea davuricae. The hierarchical system of lower syntaxa of larch forests and woodlands of northeast Asia includes 24 associations and nine subassociations. Nineteen associations and two alliances – Rhododendro aurei-Laricion cajanderi and Rhododendro daurici-Laricion gmelinii – are described for the first time. Two associations were classified into Dictamno dasycarpi-Quercion mongolicae of Lespedezo bicoloris-Quercetalia mongolicae representing the nemoral class Querco mongolicae-Betuletea davuricae. All larch communities in the nemoral zone represent different post-fire-event stages. Eleven associations occurring in humid conditions of the boreal zone and in the areas influenced by the Pacific Ocean are classified into Abieti nephrolepidis-Piceion jezoensis, Piceion jezoensis and Pino pumilae-Piceion jezoensis representing boreal forests of humid maritime regions belonging to the order Abieti veitchii-Piceetalia jezoensis. In this area seral larch communities occupy zonal sites, and primeval larch forests may occur only in edaphic conditions restricting the distribution of zonal dominants, Picea jezoensis and the species of Abies. The area of continuous permafrost within the boreal zone having continental and ultracontinental climate conditions is occupied by primeval larch forests united in Ledo palustris-Laricion cajanderi and Rhododendro aurei-Laricion cajanderi of Ledo palustris-Laricetalia cajanderi, and on sites with dry soils with a deeper frozen horizon in Lathyro humilis-Laricion cajanderi of Lathyro humilis-Laricetalia cajanderi.