New Flora of Altai

There is one noteworthy peculiarity in the history of floristic revisions covering the whole territory of Russia. In all cases these were preceded by works characterizing the Altai flora. Even the very first, incomplete “Russian Flora” (by P.S. Pallas) was preliminary founded on sound knowledge of Altai flora, based on the of works of I. Gmelin, Pallas himself, his colleagues and followers (P.I. Shangin, J. Sievers, etc.). The first completed work, Ledebour’s “Russian Flora”, could only be published subseqent to the completion of publication of “Flora of Altai” (in four volumes), written by himself and his colleagues C.A. Meyer and A.A. Bunge.
The “Flora of USSR” was initiated only after P.N Krylov, assembled the “Flora of Altai and Tomsk Province”, a compilation of several volumes (second revision on Altai flora), began work on a critical revision “Flora of West Siberia”, the main purpose of which was to review the taxonomy of numerous complicated groups of Altai flora. So, it is not by chance when working together with P.N. Krylov on this fundamental revision, that B.K. Shishkin grew as a florist and taxonomist, who completed work on “Flora of USSR”. In all these cases, the Altai served as a “training range”, where different approaches, applied in floristic revisions on the whole Russia (and USSR), were tested.

It is no wonder therefore, that in connection with the realisation of a project on new (second after Ledebour’s) floristic revision for the entire territory of Russia (in its present form) the idea to make a new critical revision of Altai flora emerged. And strangely enough at first sight, this coincided with the completion of the first floristic revision for the whole of Siberia. Seemingly, this revision, together with other revisions of floras of extensive regions of USSR (first of all East Europe, Caucasus, Russian Far East and Arctic), should lead directly to the elaboration of a conception of future general flora of our country. This was planned by those who conceived and initiated this work. But it was not put into practice. Most of these revisions did not take into account all the taxa described on the basis of types from Russia (and USSR), and in not all the cases was a typification of species (especially intraspecies taxa) made; species volume, accepted in different “floras” (and even in the same ones), was unequal. All these features were peculiar to the “Flora of Siberia”, and these denoted purposes at the outset of its publishing even were non stated. Meanwhile, Altai flora, which has been explored for more than 250 years and was described in two detailed revisions, could and should be characterized much more completely and precisely than it was in the “Flora of Siberia” in respect of taxonomy, characteristics of species variability, geographical distribution, and cenotic affixment (and ecology).

All these facts resulted in the preparation of a new “Flora of Altai”. Since the publication of the works of C. F. Ledebour and P. N. Krylov, “Altai flora” has never been limited to the part of the Altai (Russian Altai), covered by “Flora of Siberia”. Krylov’s “Flora” included both the Russian and Kazakhstanian Altai and also the Zaissan depression; with regard to geographic characteristics of species, it reflected, in particular, their distribution in northern part of the Mongolian Altai, Tuva, Tarbagatai and Saur, and rather often also Western Sayan.

Having made the decision to work out a new critical systematic revision “Flora of Altai” we also determined to limit this territory to the entire Altai Mountain Country (AMC) and the so-called Altaids. This natural territory includes the Russian, Kazakhstanian, Chinese and Mongolian Altai, the mountains of Boundary Dzungaria (Tarbagatai with its branches, Manrak, Semistai and Saur), the Zaissan intermountain depression, the mountains of South-Western Tuva and the main part of the Western Sayan ridges adjacent to the meridional Shapshal range and northwards – to the Abakan range. A part of the eastern border stretches therefore, along the Yenissey (in one case, in the western part of the Borus range it was natural to extend this beyond the Yenissey).

In the far south we take as a border to the Altai Country the Baitak-Bogdo range and the highlands situated to the east together with the mountainous bridge enclosing, in the east, the depression of the “Dzungarian Gobi” (more precisely, the Barun-Khurai depression), also included in our territory (it is practically closed by low highlands in the west), and the Adzh-Bogdo range. But we have not included the Kuznetzky Alatau, the steppe depressions of Khakassia and Western Tuva, the Mongolian Big Lakes depression and the Khan-Khuhay range and, furthermore, the Gobian Altai. The main part of the Dzungarian Gobi to the south of the Ulyungur lake and Urunghu (Ulungur-khe) river latitude are also not taken into considerations.
In these limits of AMC a much higher general endemism of mountain flora (also at the generic level) is revealled, and distinctive originality of floras of different parts of the country, some of which belong to different floristic provinces, is also displayed.

Much more clearly intraspecific variability of widespread species and race differentiation in complex groups, where apomixis or obligatory unpaired polyploidy are developed, or differences in populations caused by introgressive hybridization and genetic drift in small populations of isolated areas, are revealled within this territory.

All these details provide the opportunity to take more correct decisions regarding taxonomic problems in complex groups of plants. This is exactly one of the main purposes of the new “Flora of Altai”.

This “Flora of Altai” will initially be a printed edition. Of course, an electronic version will also be produced, but this will not be more detailed than the printed exemplar. This revision deals with a region covered in depth by existing floristic works and continues the tradition of classic “Floras”, above all, P. N. Krylov’s “Flora of West Siberia”. Different parts of this territory were covered by fundamental descriptive editions such as “Flora of USSR”, “Flora of Kazakhstan”, “Flora of Siberia”, “Flora of RPS”, “Flora of Xinjiang”, and also, currently in press, the “Flora of China”. The only region, lacking in such descriptive flora, is an area situated within Mongolia, although preparation of this flora is now being undertaken by Mongolian botanists. Consequently we considered it necessary to create new floristic revision, not repeating but supplementing them sufficiently.
Firstly, it will be a critical-monographic review reflecting the contemporary system of higher spore, gymnospermous and flowering plants growing in the territory of AMC. It will also reflect the systems of big families (up to tribes) and genera (up to sections but, rarely, subsections), and also the relationship between species.

The principal task of the “Flora” will be a taxonomic revision of all the species ever designated to this area, and also the treatment of extensive recent herbaria material collected in this territory. This is why citations following the species names will be complete and contain all the synonyms concerning our region. All species and main intraspecific taxa will be typificated.

As a rule, descriptions of species yet designated to the territory of AMC in major descriptive floras will not be repeated, with the exception of species indicated for the first time and described here. Therefore, major descriptive revisions will be constantly cited in the work. At the same time, intraspecific taxa will be characterized by main differential peculiarities in detail (first of all, in keys and comments).

Secondly, the purpose of this revision will be to create keys for the identification of all the taxa registered within the territory in question. These keys will in some cases be brief, in anothers – detailed, and not always necessarily dichotomic. IIt is quite probable that in some cases there will be monotomic keys for the direct identification of few (2–5) species of the genus, but sometimes (for some complicated groups) polytomic keys will be employed to enable identification at different stages of ontogenesis.
“Flora of Altai” will be, where possible, abundantly illustrated by both figures of the plants appearance and detailed analytic tables.

The third main task of the floristic revision of the Altai will be a detailed characterisation of distribution of species regarding the territory in question (on typical maps-schemes and with a complete list of all localities, with the exception of those widespread). The base of the map-scheme will be combined with a scheme of botanic-geographic (floristic) provinces and districts. Ecological and phytocenotic characteristics of a species will be given separately in typified schemes of types of ecotops, altitude affixment and types of vegetation.

We also propose to give brief characteristics of main resource species use. The inclusion in Red Data Books of species under protection in different states will be indicated, and species not yet protected but requiring official protection will also be recommended.

R. V. Kamelin

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