1-7 August 2011
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Credit & Copyright: Dr.
Bruce G. Marcot
Explanation: Sometimes conservation can inadvertently benefit from cultural and military tension along international borders.
This week we are visiting a location seldom seen even by locals. This is extreme Far East Russia at the meeting of three international borders. A stone's throw to the west is China and a river's wade to the south is North Korea. We are formally in Khasan Rion ("rion" is roughly the same as a county in the U.S.), in Primorski Krai ("krai" is roughly the same as a state in the U.S.).
I arrived here after 2 day's travel from Vladivostok in southern Primorski Krai. My wonderful Russian hosts, another American team member, and I boarded a large, high-speed, passenger-only ferry out of Vladivostok that cut across Amur Bay -- the ferry can run only on calm seas, because it has a "flying keel" that acts like an airfoil beneath the surface, whereby the entire boat rises up out of the water at speed.
docked across the bay at the marine port town of Slavyanka,
met by Russian team members in the giant Russian
lorry truck, who had to spend a day driving around the Bay to meet us (the
ferry does not take vehicles). We are well past the end point of the
From there, we drove south and west, at one point reaching the extreme tip of Gamov Peninsula to explore a patch of rare and little-studied grave pines (Pinus funebris, sometime denoted as the variety Pinus densiflora var. funebris) along the coastline of the Far-Eastern State Marine Preserve.
and finally down to the Tumen River (Tumanaya Ryeka; "tumen" means
fog, as this area commonly experiences dense, damp fog conditions) along the
border with China in the hills to the west, and the North
Korean border at mid-river. Perhaps the fog has aided the escape of
some North Korean refugees along the Tumen River corridor, as that is a known
tensions run high along these borders, but here persist amazing and extensive
coastal floodplains, wetlands, and woodlands ... in part conserved by the lack
of settlements due to such tensions. It is ironic that, at times,
conservation of native environments is due to such tensions. It is a
precarious situation, but I viewed it as an opportunity for some day
developing international peace parks.
A proposed project will have this region developed as a trade-free zone.
But may this region remain mostly undeveloped, and its fragile landscapes conserved for their rare and incredible plants and animals.
Next week's picture: Water Scavenger Beetle in the Light
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