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Ecosystems and ecoregions
Suifen-Khanka meadows and forest meadows
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In Russia, the mapped ecoregional boundary of the Suifen-Khanka meadows and forest meadows corresponds to the Far Eastern sub-boreal humid lowlands and swamps surrounding Lake Khanka and the Song’acha and Ussuri-Wusuli Rivers.  It also encompasses the flat, low-lying lands south of Lake Khanka in the Suifenhe (Razdolnaya) River basin since this area has a number of Red Book species in common with Lake Khanka to the north.  Within China, the boundary corresponds to the swamp woodlands and grasslands just north of Lake Khanka.  In the north these meadows are separated from the Middle Amur meadow-steppe by the Wanda Mountains.  Lake Khanka is the largest North Asian Lake east of Baikal.  The ecoregion is characterized by deforested or woodland landscapes near Lake Khanka and along the Song’acha and Ussuri-Wusuli Rivers.  It extends downstream to the mouth of the Bikin River in the north. and along the valley of the Razdolnaya (Suifen) River in the south.
The reasons for the lack of forest are still a point of debate among biogeographers.  Although climatic conditions favor forest development, devastating fires have occurred regularly since the appearance of the first civilizations more than 10 centuries ago.  The Bohai and Zhurzhen (Nuzhen) civilizations may have contributed to the formation of fire tolerant meadows and Mongolian oak woodland communities.  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 Khanka Lowlands are also a site of intensive rice cultivation.  Around 80% of lowland wetlands here have been converted to farmlands.  Lake Khanka-Xingkai is also affected by the indirect effects of farming, such as runoff of contaminants from fertilizers, pesticides, and biological waste of animal husbandry.
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.  However, the acreage of protected area does not reflect the quality of habitat.  For example, on the China side fewer than 200 km2 of wetlands remain unaltered by human activities.  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).  These reserves typically protect the whole gradient from forested hilltops to floodplain wetland.  Unfortunately there are no reserves established to protect the Russian half of the valley.


Lotus in oxbow lake of Ussury River floodplain at Dongfanghong. (Photo by E.Simonov)

Map collection: Land cover, ecosystems and ecoregions



Topography of Amur Heilong River Basin

Change in Forest Cover in Amur Heilong River Basin


Terrrestrial ecoregions

Global 200 Ecoregions

Freshwater ecoregions

Major protected areas of Amur-Heilong

Upper Ussury –Lake Khanka.

Khanka Lake international nature reserve


Map collections: Natural vegetation zones change

Species richness



Amur meadows and wetlands – Amur midflow

Khanka Lake and upper Ussury wetlands

Lower Amur wetlands

Waterbirds and bird migrations

Turtle and other relatives of the black dragon


GIS: Land cover/Land use according to satellite imagery


Also look:

Landscape diversity in Amur-Heilong River Basin

Landscape changes throughout recent geological history

Amur-Heilong River Basin Ecoregional zoning

Global 200 ecoregions in Amur-Heilong River Basin

Boreal forests of Amur-Heilong River Basin

Tiger forests - Temperate forests

Global 200 Dauria Steppe

Global 200 Amur Wetlands:

Amur meadow steppe

Wetlands of Lower Amur Mountain Valley Ecoregion


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