Lake Khanka is the largest North Asian Lake east of Baikal. Vast wetlands and meadows extend downstream Song'acha River and Ussury River to the mouth of the Bikin River in the north. and along the valley of the Razdolnaya (Suifen) River in the south.
Starting from more than 10 centuries ago Bohai and Zhurzhen (Nuzhen) civilizations may have contributed to the formation of fire tolerant meadows and Mongolian oak woodland communities that persist here. The valley was probably both a refuge and biogeographic "bridge" for many species during the late Pleistocene glaciation. This explains the very high level of species diversity and the presence of floral relics.
The ecoregion supports at least 70 species of fish, as well as endemic crustaceans and mollusks. Many fish are endemic to Lake Khanka-Xingkai. The Ussuri-Wusuli River and Lake Khanka are among the most important sites for migrating birds in all of East Asia. Globally rare cranes and ibises are summer residents here. Birds are well studied on this territory because of the great importance of Lake Khanka-Xingkai in their migration and reproduction. Of the 400 species recorded in the area, 44 species are included in the IUCN Redlist, and more than 80 are recommended for special protection in the Russian Far East. This area is also a biogeographic crossroad: Indian and Chinese species such as Mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) and softshell turtle (Pelodiscus chinensis) inhabit the same Ussuri waters as northern species such as chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta).
The International Nature Reserve uniting Lake Khanka National Nature Reserve in China (2,000 km2) and Khankaisky Zapovednik in Russia (450 km2) is the largest protected area in the region. Another prominent conservation feature is a chain of nature reserves on the west side of the Song’acha and Ussuri River valleys along the international border (including Hutou NR, Zhenbaodao NNR, Dongfanghong Wetland NNR).
Dongfanghong Wetland on Ussury/Wusuli River (Photo by E.Simonov)
Swans on Khanka Lake (Photo by NEFU/WWF)