Vegetation Science Group

Department of Botany and Zoology | Faculty of Science | Masaryk University

Ecosystems of Siberia: Diversity and palaeoecological interpretation


Milan Chytrý (

Participants at Masaryk University

Irena Axmanová, Jiří Danihelka, Pavel Dřevojan, Michal Hájek, Ondřej Hájek, Petra Hájková, Michal Horsák, Martin Kočí, Klára Komprdová, Svatava Kubešová, Zdeňka Lososová, Pavel Lustyk, Salza Palpurina, Barbora Pelánková, Libor Petr, Zdenka Preislerová (Otýpková), Jan Roleček, Marcela Řezníčková, Veronika Schenková, Vít Syrovátka, Petr Šmarda, Lubomír Tichý, Viktoria Wagner, David Zelený

Collaborators at other institutions

  • Altai State University: Dmitry German, Aleksandr Shmakov
  • Central Siberian Botanical Garden, Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk: Nikolai Ermakov, Andrei Korolyuk, Nikolai Lashchinskiy, Denis Popov
  • Charles University, Prague: Petr Kuneš, Petr Pokorný
  • Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague: Michal Hejcman, Pavla Hejcmanová, Miroslav Svoboda, Ondřej Sýkora, Volodymyr Trotsiuk
  • Institute for Biological Problems of Cryolithozone, Russian Academy of Sciences, Yakutsk: Mikhail Cherosov
  • Institute of Biology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Ufa: El'vira Baisheva, Vasiliy Martynenko
  • Institute of Biology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Ulan-Ude: Oleg Anenkhonov
  • Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic: Vlasta Jankovská, Helena Svobodová
  • Institute of Botany, Slovak Academy of Sciences: Ivan Pišút, Milan Valachovič
  • North-Eastern Federal University Named After M.K. Ammosov, Yakutsk: Paraskovia Gogoleva
  • University of Graz: Philipp Resl
  • University of New Mexico, Albuquerque: Jeffrey Nekola
  • University of South Bohemia, České Budějovice: Martin Hais, Jan Novák, Věra Pavelková Řičánková, Jan Robovský


  • 2003-2007: Grant Agency of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, project IAA6163303
  • 2008-2010: Ministry of Education of the Czech Republic, project MSM0021622416
  • 2011-2015: Czech Science Foundation, project P504-11-0454

Project aims

The project is focused on diversity of various components of natural ecosystems in different parts of Siberia and the Ural Mountains, with a special focus on plants, molluscs and mammals, i.e. important palaeoecological indicators. The project has two related general aims:

  • to describe patterns of large-scale species diversity in temperate and boreal ecosystems of continental northern Eurasia and reveal the underlying processes of diversity evolution
  • to find potential analogues or relicts of Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene ecosystems that could improve our understanding of ecological processes that may have occurred in vanished ecosystems of northern Eurasia.

Main results

Glacial refugium in the Altai-Sayan Mountains. We discovered that the Altai-Sayan Moutains of Southern Siberia are probably the best preserved refugium of full-glacial biota in Eurasia. This finding was supported by considerable similarity of modern pollen deposition from the Western Sayan Mountains with fossil pollen spectra from the Late Pleistocene deposits in Central Europe (Kuneš et al. 2008, Magyari et al. 2014), by the discovery of the whole community of terrestrial snails typical of the loess deposits from the coldest stages of the Pleistocene in the south-eastern Russian Altai (Horsák et al. 2010b), common occurrence of many glacial relict species of plant and snails in this region (Horsák et al. 2015) and by revealing high similarity between recent mammal assemblages of the south-eastern Altai-Sayan Mountains and the Pleistocene faunas of several regions in northern Eurasia (Pavelková Řičánková et al. 2014). The rate of the mammal extinction in this region between the Last Glacial and the Recent is lowest in northern Eurasia (Pavelková Řičánková et al. 2015).

Southern Ural forests are similar to Central Europan forests of the Early Holocene. We interpreted forests of the Southern Urals as analogues of the Early Holocene forests of Central Europe. Ecology of these forests suggests that the spread of broad-leaved temperate trees may have reduced diversity of herb layer of the open Early Holocene forests, but at the same time it may have increased diversity of their snail communities (Chytrý et al. 2010, Horsák et al. 2010a).

The most species-rich forests in extratropical Eurasia. We discovered that birch-pine hemiboreal forests in the northern Altai Mountains locally contain extremely high numbers of vascular plant species (up to 114 species per 100 m² or 149 species per 1000 m²). These are so far the highest values of fine-scale species richness reported for forests in temperate and boreal Eurasia (Chytrý et al. 2012).

Plant species richness patterns and their determinants. Based on extensive standardized vegetation sampling, we characterized patterns of species richness in different regions of Siberia and the Southern Urals, focusing on the effects of soil pH (Chytrý et al. 2007), climate continentality (Chytrý et al. 2008) and primary productivity (Axmanová et al. 2012, 2013).

Modern pollen deposition in continental landscapes. We identified pollen deposition in moss polsters and litter along landscape transects in the Altai and Western Sayan Mountains and related them to vegetation types (Pelánková et al. 2008, Pelánková & Chytrý 2009). This enabled us to improve the interpretion of full- and last-glacial vegetation of Central Europe based on fossil pollen (Kuneš et al. 2008).

Palaeoecology of southern Siberia. To understand glacial history of the refugial area of the Altai Mountains, we modelled habitat distribution in this region during the Last Glacial Maximum (Hais et al. 2015). Using palaeoanthracological and dendroecological methods, we reconstructed ecological history of Tilia sibirica, a relict temperate species of southern Siberia (Novák et al. 2014).

Ecology of mollusc communities. Pioneering studies of snail faunas, their diversity, ecology and habitat requirements were conducted in the Southern Urals (Bashkortostan) (Horsák et al. 2010a), the Altai (Horsák et al. 2010b, 2015). Central Yakutia (Horsák et al. 2013) and the West Siberian Plain (Horsák & Chytrý 2014).

Vegetation survey. We made detailed phytosociological descriptions of various types of natural vegetation in the northwestern Baikal region (Buryatia) (Chytrý et al. 1993, 1995, Danihelka & Chytrý 1995, Anenkhonov & Chytrý 1998) and scree vegetation in the Altai-Sayan region (Ermakov et al. 2006). We formally established several syntaxa new to science.

New taxa. We described a new species of terrestrial snail, Vertigo botanicorum (Horsák & Pokryszko 2010), and new intersectional hybrid of cinquefoil, Potentilla x nebulosa, both from the Russian Altai (Danihelka & Soják 2012). In addition, we found another cinquefoil, Potentilla turkestanica, as a new species to the flora of Russia (Soják et al. 2011) and three species of mosses (Bryum klinggraeffii, B. rubens and Dicranella staphylina as new species for the Asian part of Russia).

Research papers

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