ISSN 1067-4136, Russian Journal of Ecology, 2008, Vol. 39, No. 5, pp. 318–326. © Pleiades Publishing, Ltd., 2008.
Original Russian Text © V.A. Bakalin, V.P. Vetrova, 2008, published in Ekologiya, 2008, No. 5, pp. 338–346.
Most studies on the vegetation–permafrost relation-
ship have been performed in the zone of continuous
permafrost in northern Eurasia (Tyrtikov, 1995; Abai-
mov et al., 1997). The distribution of frozen-soil phe-
nomena and indicator vegetation types in the zone of
discontinuous and sporadic permafrost have not been
studied sufﬁciently, since studies in thee regions were
aimed primarily at more accurate delimitation of the
permafrost boundary (Kolesnikov, 1939). Thus, the
relationship between the presence of permafrost and
the successional dynamics of vegetation in the sporadic
permafrost zone is poorly known. Permafrost provides
for the development of a speciﬁc type of plant commu-
nities with a deep moss (sphagnum) layer, and these
moist moss phytocenoses, in turn, preserve ice lenses
formed in the underlying soil. These processes in bio-
geocenoses are either cyclic (otherwise, the whole area
would gradually transform into a vast bog on perma-
frost soils) or are limited by certain edaphic and topo-
graphic factors. We addressed this problem in our stud-
ies performed in Kamchatka.
The Kamchatka Peninsula is located in the far north-
east of Russia in the zone of cold oceanic climate (Par-
murzin, 1967). Its characteristic features are mountain
topography, active recent volcanism, and vegetation
pattern characteristic of severe environmental condi-
tions, with prevalence of crooked stone birch forests
and elﬁn-wood formations in the tundra (Khomen-
tovsky, 1995, 2004). According to the scheme of per-
mafrost zoning of the Northern hemisphere, the central
and northern parts of the peninsula are in the zone of
discontinuous and sporadic permafrost (Ives, 1974).
In mountain regions of central Kamchatka, the lower
boundary of discontinuous permafrost on northern
slopes lies at an elevation of about 1000 m; below,
down to 450 m a.s.l., permafrost occurs sporadically
(Sone et al., 2003, 2006). Kazakov (2005) studied the
distribution and characteristics of frozen-soil phenom-
ena depending on topography and soil–plant cover in
the mountain forest–tundra belt of central Kamchatka.
The purpose of our study was to reveal the relationships
between the pattern of vegetation and the presence and
depth of permafrost in the zone of its sporadic distribu-
tion in subalpine open larch forests.
OBJECTS AND METHODS
Studies were performed in the Bystrinskii Nature
Park located in the central part of the Sredinnyi Ridge,
in the Uksichan River valley. This region is character-
ized by a denudation-tectonic landscape with a sharply
dissected topography, formed on Pliocene deposits
(Melekestsev et al., 1974). Slopes along the right bank
of the river are ﬂat or medium steep, covered with open
Vegetation–Permafrost Relationships in the Zone of Sporadic
Permafrost Distribution in the Kamchatka Peninsula
V. A. Bakalin
and V. P. Vetrova
Institute of Biology and Soil Sciences, Far East Division, Russian Academy of Sciences,
pr. Stoletiya Vladivostoka 159g, Vladivostok, 690022 Russia;
Kamchatka Branch, Paciﬁc Institute of Geography, Far East Division, Russian Academy of Sciences,
pr. Rybakov 19a, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii, 683024 Russia
Received January 17, 2007
—Studies on vegetation and permafrost table depth in the zone of sporadic permafrost distribution in
the Uksichan River valley (the central Kamchatka Peninsula) have provided evidence that these components of
biogeocenosis are interrelated and develop coordinately. In open larch forests with green forest mosses domi-
nating in the ground vegetation layer, the permafrost table lies approximately 60 cm below the soil surface.
When the ground vegetation layer is dominated by sphagnums, the permafrost table rises to 40–20 cm. In areas
with a dwarf shrub–lichen ground layer, the soil thaw depth increases. A hypothesis is proposed that cyclic suc-
cessional replacement of plant communities may take place in open larch forests on permafrost soils, including
four consecutive stages with dominance of green mosses, sphagnums, lichens, and dwarf shrubs. In areas dis-
turbed by ﬁres, pioneer moss or herbaceous communities develop in the ground layer.
: permafrost, plant cover, indicator vegetation types, Kamchatka.