This is a land of spectacular beauty, including montane pine forests, waterfalls, caves, craters, grottoes, and rocky beaches. An unusually high number of amphibians for this latitude can be found here, as well as many endemic mollusks and insects. This ecoregion is also rich in endemic plants--between 240 to 300 species can be found in the Crimean Mountains and the northwest flanks of the Caucasus.
This ecoregion enjoys both the vegetation and comfortable climate found in areas around the Mediterranean. No wonder czars and other Russian nobility chose the Crimea as their vacation spot. Crimean maquis forests, or shiblyak, consist of oak, hornbeam, Christ’s thorn, and pyracantha. Pitsundian pine forests occur up to 3,280 feet (1,000 m), with Scot’s pine and eastern beech found at even higher altitudes. Juniper woodlands are also found here. Originally, oak and pistachio woodlands were more widespread, but deforestation has substantially altered the landscape. The beautiful Yalta Range Reserve protects the Crimean pine, a subspecies of European black pine.
Mammals include Caucasian deer, European roe deer, wild boars, and martens. Although Mediterranean monk seals are no longer found on the Crimean coastline, there are now efforts to reintroduce them. Two other interesting creatures are the southern crested newt and Caucasian parsley frog, both regionally endemic. At the Krymskii Preserve, located on the slopes of the Golovnyi range, a large number of swans gather during their molting period. Overhead, griffon vultures soar about eight hours a day, covering up to 300 air miles as they look for carrion.
Cause for Concern
Like most Mediterranean ecosystems, this area has undergone a profound transformation because of agriculture and deforestation. Especially along the coast, tourism has degraded many areas through construction activity, soil compaction, and littering. The over-harvesting of local plants and human-induced forest fires are also problems.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001