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Conserving the Plants of the South-eastern Ukraine: the Role of the Donetsk Botanic Garden

Volume 3 Number 4 - June 2000

A.Z. Gluckov

The Donetsk Botanical Garden, a member-organisation of the National Ukranian Academy of Sciences, is developing theoretical and practical guidelines for the conservation of plant biodiversity in south-east Ukraine, which implements the Territorial complex schemes of nature protection in Donetsk and Lugansk districts: Plant world (Burda, compiler, 1986, 1990, unpublished) and the Programme of plant genofund conservation in the Donetsk Region (Burda, compiler, 1993).

Nature Reserves

Over the past 25 years, the Donetsk Botanical Gardens has been associated with the creation of 94 new nature reserves, which has increased the area of protected territories in the Ukraine tenfold. In 1997, the Garden took part in the creation of the Svyatye Gory (Sacred Mountain) National Nature Reserve in the middle section of the Severski Donets river. The Garden staff have made an inventory of the vegetation of this National Reserve, mapped the habitats of its rare and endangered species, and designated zones for protection. Studies of the distribution of rare and extinct species and the plant communities of the northern Azov Sea coast have been used to prepare a case for the creation of the Meotida National Nature Reserve.

The vegetation of the Lugansk Nature Reserve has been surveyed and proposals for its conservation have been developed. The botanical assessment of 26 protected territories has been carried out in the following areas: their floristic composition and plant communities, the status of populations of protected species, guidelines for the improvement of protection measures and the utilization of plant resources.

Publications, Guidelines and Databases

The Gardens have developed guidelines Programme for the protection of plants, listed in the Red Data book of Ukraine, in the Donetsk and Lugansk districts (Burda, Donetsk Botanical Garden). An Atlas of protected plants was published in 1995 (Burda et al., Kiev: Naukowa dumka). This book gives drawings and photographs of plants from the Red Data Book of the Ukraine, contains maps of their distribution in the region and describes measures taken for their protection. Using the Flora of south-east Ukraine as a prototype, 21 local Floras have been developed for long-term botanical monitoring.

Various topics in the area of biodiversity conservation in the region are treated in a number of monographs: Industrial Botany (Kondratyuck et al., 1980, Kiev: Naukowa dumka), Synopsis of the flora in the Ukrainian south-east (Kondratyuck et al., 1985, Kiev: Naukowa dumka), Anthropogenous transformation of flora (Burda, 1991, Kiev: Naukowa dumka), Feather-grass steppes of Donbass (Kondratyuck and Chuprina, 1992, Kiev: Naukowa dumka). Rare, endemic and relict plants of the Ukrainian south-east in nature and cultivation (Kondratyuck and Ostapko, 1990, Kiev: Naukowa dumka), The Lugansk natural state reserve: Plant world (Kondratyuck et al., 1988) Prodrome of natural vegetation in the south-east of Ukraine (Ostapko, 1995, Kiev: Naukowa dumka).

Computer databases have been developed for monitoring and analysing the state of the regional flora:

  • changes due to human interference;
  • the population structure of species;
  • floristic revision of the database "Leguminous plants of the Northern Eurasia";
  • a standardized evaluation of the state of populations of vascular plants listed in the Red Data Book of Ukraine;
  • the National Park "Svyatie Gory (Sacred Mountain)";
  • the phenetic variation of natural populations in the south-eastern Ukraine.

The Garden

The Garden has a unique regional herbarium (of about 100,000 sheets) which documents the flora of the south-eastern Ukraine. The garden displays examples of the habitats of many rare and endemic species and plant material from the territory of the Donbass.

The Donetsk Botanical Garden grows more than 60 of the species listed in the Red Data Book of the Ukraine and the European Red List, and also more than 200 species of other plants which are rare in the south-eastern Ukraine. This is one way of protecting their gene pools. It also provides a basis for carrying out restoration and reintroduction work. We have a special nine-hectare area in the Garden in which models of different types of steppe vegetation have been set up to serve as a methodical basis for testing different ways of restoring steppe vegetation in places where it has been destroyed. We have used the results derived from this test area in reintroducing vegetation in the Melovski region of the Lugansk district.

The Garden monitors the Ukrainian south-eastern flora, records its composition, analyses its structure and notes changes which occur. New localities of rare and disappearing relict species are found every year.

The Garden investigates the anthropogenous migrations of alien species of plants in Europe. This includes the possibility of predicting and modelling the success of an individual species invading a local protected area, studying the micro-evolutionary process in divergent populations of alien species, causing the formation of new dangerous invasive phenotypes and microspecies in Europe and develop protocols to manage the migration processes of plants to conserve biodiversity. In the last ten years more than 52 alien species have been discovered. Out of them ten are recorded for the first time for the Ukraine.

The Garden also investigates the variability of conifers in relation to their conservation, cultivation and monitoring in the Svyatiye Gory National Nature Park, Jalta's state natural reserve and the Carpathian national natural park. Employing isoenzymes as molecular-genetic markers, staff study the genetic diversity of the rare conifer variant Pinus sylvestris L. var. cretacea Kalenicz. ex Kom (three populations, 75 individuals) is being studied in the national park "Svyatiye Gory". In Jalta's State Nature Reserve marginal populations of P. pallasiana D. Don (325 individuals) and two populations of P.pithyusa Steven (two isolated populations, 46 individuals) and P. kochiana Klotzsch ex C.Koch. (25 individuals) are also being studied. In the Carpathian National Nature Park P.montana Mill. (four populations, 100 individuals), P.sylvestris L. (two populations, 50 individuals) and P.cembra L. (two populations, 50 inidividuals) are being studied. In 1999, population and genetic studies of Abies alba Mill, Picea abies (L.) Karst and Larix polonica Racib are to be carried out in the Ukrainian part of the Carpathian Mountains. Studies on the reproductive function and genetic peculiarities of selected trees are being undertaken for these species.

As a result of the critical environmental problems of the Donbass, investigations of the population and genetic variation of P.sylvestris L. within its natural range in the Ukraine are being conducted. This species is being used as a benchmark species to study the tolerance of conifers to industrial pollution. These studies are being performed on native stands and plantations which are exposed exposed (to differing extents) to emissions from steel works and chemical enterprises. Morphological, reproductive and genetic variability are used as indices for comparison.

The researchers of the Garden also study natural native fodder plants and fodder plants in cultivation; this includes their chemical composition and the improvement of low productive fodder lands.

The Donetsk Botanical Garden has a considerable scientific potential for further studies for populations of rare species and plant communities in the system of national territorial reserves and also for investigating ways of expanding the network of protected territories and restoring humanly-degraded ecosystems. For this work it needs additional support.