Ecology of Vegetative Complexes

Conservation of natural ecosystems, biological and landscape diversity are of priority interest for the Republic of Belarus in ecology and also a priority direction in state policy. One of the support mechanisms for the systems functioning is the system of specially protected natural areas, which serve centers for gene pool conservation and reproduction of flora and fauna species. In compliance with Decree by the President of the Republic of Belarus #41, dated 21 January 2013, About Polesye State Radiation-Ecological Reserve apart from protection of the exclusion zone from unauthorized penetration to prevent excessive radioactive exposure of citizens and implementation of preventive measures on radionuclide transfer onto adjacent territories, the reserves nature protective function is specifically emphasized and defined, which equates the given territory status with other specially protected natural areas of the country. Within the boundaries of specially protected areas of Belarus habitation of 80% of rare and endangered plant species and about 30% of their known growing sites, as well as about 90% of rare and endangered wild animal species and over 50% of their known habitation sites are established.

State Environmental Research Institution Polesye State Radiation-Ecological Reserve is the largest among the reserves and nation parks of Belarus. Even by now according to the results of yet incomplete research works, the reserve ranks with the Berezinskiy Biosphere Reserve and national parks in flora richness. In terms of flora species diversity, the exclusion zone lands are listed as key botanical territories of Belarus. Corresponding to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) concept, the reserves territory is referred to as forests of nature-protective value due to the growth of rare, unique and phytocoenoticly valuable (etalon) plants.

Flora biodiversity evaluation in the exclusion zone has a significant importance as it constitutes national wealth of any country that requires studying and protection. In this respect, the territory status proves its importance in accomplishing the reserves key mission to support natural development of wildlife.

Studying plant associations of the exclusion zone territory of Polesye State Radiation-Ecological Reserve is the functioning objective of the Scientific Department for Ecology of Vegetative Complexes (SDEVC).


General lines of research:

SDEVC scientific objectives for 2016-2020

In 2016 - 2020 the general operation line of SDEVC is the research conduct The state of biogeocenoeses in the conditions of anthropogenic load removal, and redioecological environment, determined by radioactive fallout, including transuranium elements, in the Chernobyl NPP near zone.

Section Forest-forming processes on the reserve lands

Research objectives:

studying forest-forming processes on forest and non-forest lands, natural forest recovery, growth of forest cultures in the Belorussian sector of the Chernobyl NPP exclusion zone;

studying the biodiversity of the reserve vegetation communities as one of key botanical territories of Belarus.

Research tasks for 2016:

- determine 137Cs and 90Sr radionuclides uptake in wood species, regrowth and undergrowth, ground cover in the system soil- forest component based on forest typology;

- assess and update the obtained results for their further application in radiation-ecological monitoring;

- study forest natural regeneration in pine and common alder stands;

- determine the efficiency of forest coniferous plantings on former agricultural lands in post Chernobyl period (type, method and means of formation, preservation, area, composition, charts of pine forest cultures mixing);

- develop routes for floristic studies of the reserve territory based on cartographic materials of forest management in 2012;

- proceed with the reserve flora studies, register new habitation sites of rare and protected plant species, and confirm the previously identified;

- extend the herbarium collection with new plant species and add new pictures into the herbarium electronic version;

- proceed with mapping and extend the growing sites registration data base with new rare plant species listed in The Red Book;

- determine 241Am uptake in agricultural crops by the examples of oats and apicultural products on the lands selected for experimental and research activities.

Research objects:

preliminary second growth of middle aged, medium-density forest ranges of pine and common alder formations of dominating forest types in the exclusion zone;

components of pine forest ranges;

conifer forest cultures;

crop production and apicultural products;

flora of the reserve.

Expected results and their potential application

In the first phase of the project the following results are expected:

radioecological monitoring of forest ecosystems

uptake and distribution of 137Cs and 90Sr in structural components of a stand (tree vegetation, regrowth, undergrowth, live ground cover) determined;

forest forming processes on the reserve lands

successfulness of preliminary second growth under the crown layer of dominating forest types of pine and common alder formations defined;

integrity of pine forest cultures, developed in post Chernobyl period on former agricultural lands will be estimated;

floristic research

herbarium collection extended with new plant species;

electronic version of the herbarium collection extended;

new growing sites of rare and protected plant species registered, and the previously identified confirmed;

mapping new growing sites of rare plant species listed in The Red Book continued;

science based experimental activity

241Am uptake rate in the components of agricultural crops (by the example of oats) and wild vegetation under varying soil contamination density determined;

241Am uptake rate in the components of bee plants and apicultural products determined for the purpose of ordered series formation.

Recent 5-year research showed that the majority of 137Cs and 90Sr in forest range soils is accumulated in forest litter and in the upper 5 cm mineral soil layer. The uptake of 137Cs and 90Sr in forest litter increases. 137Cs and 90Sr uptake in mineral soil layers drops with the depth. 90Sr distributes more evenly within soil profile and penetrates deeper compared to 137Cs. Depending on the forest type and stand composition with the depth of 5-15cm and over, the penetration of 90Sr exceeds that of 137Cs. As opposed to 137Cs, 90Sr concentration grows with soil humidity increase.

In pine and birch stands 137Cs and 90Sr specific activity loss is registered in the row of organs and tissues: routes>cortex>wood. In common alder stands maximum accumulation of 90Sr is registered in cortex, declining in roots and wood. Soil conditions have major impact on 137Cs uptake in forest site components, compared to 90Sr.

Out of the complex of abiotic factors, the soil moistening level is determining in 137Cs and 90Sr accumulation in regrowth and undergrowth species. With soil water supply increase the coefficients of 137Cs transition into the components of regrowth and undergrowth species grow and those of 90Sr drop. The influence of stands species composition on radionuclides uptake is mainly determined by their habitat. 137Cs transition coefficients into common plant species of regrowth and undergrowth of mixed stands are higher than in pure pine, birch and common alder stands.

Live ground cover plants in mixed birch-pine forests on automorphic and semi hydromorphic soils accumulate more 137Cs compared to pure stands of the same species. Accumulation of 90Sr in live ground cover on semi hydromorphic and hydromorphic soils of mixed stands is more intensive than in pure stands as opposed to automorphic soils, where 90Sr uptake is more intensive in pure stands.

Soil pollution density in pine and birch stands does not influence the uptake in live ground cover plants.Theres a close affinity between soil radioactive contamination densities in common alder stands and radionuclides transition coefficients into live ground cover vegetation.

Floristic research

In the course of a 5-year research 52 taxa of vascular plants were discovered. As of 2015, vascular plants flora of the reserve is represented by 1022 species and 6 cross-species hybrids, referring to 483 genera and 128 families. Among them 4 species Lycopodiophyta, 7 species - Equisetophyta, 15 species Polypodiophyta, 10 species Pinophyta and 986 species Magnoliophyta, among them 219 species Liliopsida and 767 species Magnoliopsida.

The reserve flora counts 138 species of woody plants, among them 52 trees, 67 shrubs, 8 subshrubs, 7 undershrubs, 4 lianas.


Systematic structure of the reserves vascular plants flora

The list of vascular plants registered in the Red Book of the Republic of Belarus has been extended with 7 new species:

1. Aldrovanda vesiculosa L.- Vascular aldrovand;

2. Peucedanum cervaria (L.) Lapeyr. - Much-good;

3. Lithospermum officinale L.- Gromwell;

4. Polypodium vulgare L.- Sweet fern;

5. Botrychium multifidum (S.G. Gmel.) Rupr.- Multifid grape-fern;

6. Trifolium rubens L.- Foxtail clover;

7. Angelica palustris (Bess.) Hoffm. (Ostericum palustre (Bess.) Bess.) - Swamped angelica.

As of this date, the list of protected plants includes 45 vascular plant species registered in the Red Book of the Republic of Belarus, among them 14 species are of international nature protection significance. Out of the protected taxa of the reserve, 42% are accounted for as potentially vulnerable, 38% - as vulnerable, 11% - as endangered, and 9% - as critically endangered.

The reserve territory is the habitation site for 42 vascular plant species, listed as wild plants and fungus requiring preventive protection in the Republic of Belarus.

Owing to the 2015 research, the list of vascular plants has been extended with 13 new species:

1. Linum usitatissimum L. Common flax;

2. Tulipa x hybrida hort. Hybrid tulip;

3. Scilla siberica Haw. Siberian bluebell;

4. Equisetum variegatum Schleich. ex Web. et Mohr (Hippochaete variegata (Schleich. ex Web. et Mohr) Bruhin) Variegated horsetail;

5. Anthyllis vulneraria L. s. str. Healing woundwort;

6. Salix x sepulcralis Simonk (S. Alba s.l. x S. babylonica L., S. babylonica auct.non L., S. x vitellina auct. non. L.);

7. Padus serotina (Ehrh.) Borkh. (Prunus serotina Ehrh., nom. conserv. prop.) Black cherry;

8. Rubus allegheniensis Porter (R. fruticosus auct. p.p. non L.) Mountain blackberry;

9. Fraxinus juglandifolia Lam.(F. americana aut. non L.) American ash;

10. Gnaphalium sylvestris L. Forest cudweed;

11. Secale cereale L. Rye;

12. Myosotis nemorosa Bess. Nemorose forget-me-not;

13. Galanthus nivalis L. Snowdrop.

Lichenobiota. Lichens studies in the reserve are relatively recent. Since 2010, 63 lichen taxa from the cup fungus (Ascomycota) division, including 61 species and 2 subspecies (Cladonia arbuscula (Wallr.) Flot subsp. arbuscula, Cladonia cervicornis subsp.verticillata (Hoffm.) Ahti), appurtenant to 2 classes (Euronimycetes, Lecanoromycetes), 3 subclasses (Mycocaliciomycetidae, Ostropomycetidae, Lecanoromycedae), 5 orders (Mycocaliciales, Agyrales, Lecanorales, Peltigerales, Teloschistales), have been discovered. The Euronimycetes class is represented by one species - Mycocalicium subtile (Pers.) Szatala. Among the representatives of the class Lecanoromycetes, the most numerous in families is the order Lecanorales (Cladoniaceae, Lecanoraceae, Parmeliaceae, Pilocarpaceae, Ramalinaceae, Stereocaulaceae). Following are: the order Agyriales (Agyriaceae, Graphidaceae, Phlyctidaceae, Pertusaria), the order Teloschistales (Physciaceae, Teloschistaceae) and the order Peltigerales (Peltigeraceae).

Protected lichen species. The most remarkable species here are: the Caespitose Cladonia (Pers.) Flörke), registered in the Red Book of the Republic of Belarus and referring to protection category 1, and Pleurosticta Acetabulum (Neck.) Elix & Lumbsch) of the LC status, put on the list of wild plants and fungus requiring preventive protection in Belarus.

Protected fungus species. On the reserve territory there are 2 fungus species, registered in the Red Book of the Republic of Belarus: Giant Calvatia - Calvatia Gigantea (Batsch: Pers.) Lloyd (protecton category 4), and Fistulina Hepatica FR (protection category 2).

Brioflora. To date the reserves brioflora counts 19 moss species, referring to the leafy moss class (Musci) and two subclasses: Bryidae and Sphagnidae. The former subclass includes 18 species out of 17 genera and 11 families, the latter 1 species out of 1 gene and 1 family.

Building-up the reserves herbarium. Herbarium is a means of evidence for plant species growing in a conservation area. The reserves herbarium was initiated in 1993. From 2011 to 2015 800 herbarium pages were processed including 526 pages of vascular plants, 244 (19 of unidentified species) lichen and 30 moss species.

Besides the above listed plants, the herbarium keeps 126 dried plants with defined species composition, registered in the electronic database, and 104 vascular plants collected in 2015. At the end of 2015 the reserves herbarium collection inventory was taken. Following its results, an actualized vascular plants list was drawn up including storage of 3898 herbarium pages of vascular plants, 263 lichen samples and 42 moss samples.


Below are the pictures of some rare and endangered plant species growing on the territory of Polesye State Radiation-Ecological Reserve.




































Head of the Scientific Department for Ecology of Vegetative Complexes

Candidate Of Agricultural Sciences

Maxim Kudin

-mail: max.kudin@mail.ru