Research objectives and results
Since about half of the flora and fauna of Central Europe is encountered in the region, it is challengenging to learn about the ecology of different species by contrasting and comparing the environmental conditions in which they occur. The main objectives of the Khonin Nuga research are:
To address some fundamental questions of ecology, using reference studies in an environment largely untouched by civilization.
To evaluate the conservation value of the region including presence of a near-pristine landscape, occurrence of species which are threatened elsewhere, analysis of communities in primeval habitats as reference for the assessment of anthropogenic impact on species communities in Europe.
The project objectives require interdisciplinary and long-term commitment by small groups including one senior scientist and at least one (usually German or Mongolian) junior scientist. Several such teams have been conducting surveys of plants, insects, small mammals, birds and fish.
In the years 2005 and 2006 a DFG-funded project was launched to investigate the eco-physiological causes of the border of forest-steppe (project leader is Mrs Dr Choimaa Dulamsuren).
Preliminary research results
At first efforts were made to obtain inventories of the biodiversity, because the Khentey region had been only poorly studied before. For several taxa we could document a very species rich flora and fauna. Although many species have a low population density, they occur in large populations. About half of the species from most taxa are palearctic, i.e. they are potentially found also in Central Europe. Reasons for the high species richness are the very low human impact, the large extension of habitats without anthropogenic fragmentation and the overlap of boreal, temperate and Mandshurian elements in the region. We could prove that the forest borderline is determined by ecological factors such as water stress on south-facing slopes. Most of the forest dynamics is succession forest, but dark taiga with gap dynamics occurs as well. Small mammals live there on their range border and are dependent on weather conditions, there is no stable cycle in fluctuations. Fire determines the mosaic of succession stages in the forests. Dead wood is not a limited resource for saproxylic organisms. Not snags or damaged big trees but birches function as key resource for cavity nesting birds. The great faunal similarity between different vegetation types indicates a broader habitat use by the species and a greater connectivity of the biotopes than in human dominated landscape. The high conservation value of that landscape comes from the attributes of wilderness, from the high species richness, and from the maintenance of stable populations which are threatened elsewhere
Since 1998 different taxa have been inventoried. Our studies gave evidence of a particularly high biodiversity around the research station (appr. 200 km²):
619 plant species out of 2823 plant species of the Mongolian territory (= 22% of the Mongolian flora)
16 plant species of the Mongolian Red Data Book (in total 100 species are listed)
11 recorded plant species are new for Mongolia
63 plant species were recorded in the Khentey biogeographic region (34.000 km²) for the first time
more than 80 species of dead wood fungi occur, but only 37 species were identified to the species level up to now
up to date about 40 species of dead wood fungi were recorded on Betula-trees, often one Betula-branch sustains four species of dead wood fungi
155 butterfly species were found in the surroundings of the research station (= 60% of the known butterfly fauna of Mongolia)
196 bird species were observed around Khonin Nuga, 142 species are breeding species in our study sites (= 41% of the Mongolian breeding bird species), 12 raptor species are breeding birds
7 woodpecker species occur syntopically in the forests around the research station (the entire potential community)
2 ant species of the genus Myrmica were proved to be new for science, one of them got the new name Myrmica khoninuga
2 species of oribatid mites from Khonin Nuga were described new for science (B. Bayartogtokh 2000a: New oribatid mites of the genus Belba (Acari: Oribatida: Damaeidae) from Mongolia. – Internat. J. Acarol. 26, 297-319. B. Bayartogtokh 2000b: Two species of Damaeid mites (Acari: Oribatida: Damaeidae) from Mongolia, with notes on distribution of the genera Epidamaeus and Dyobelba. – Biogeography 267-79)
50 species of mammals were found in Khonin Nuga
7 species of shrews (Soricidae) are living in Khonin Nuga
the entire big mammal-wildlife, typical for the taiga, is living around Khonin Nuga: brown bear, moose, wolf, fox, wolverine, badger, maral deer, roe deer, musk deer, and wild boar