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Forests of the Khibiny tundra

Coniferous and mixed forests cover gorges and river valleys, they grow at the foot of the Khibiny mountains. Their reign comes to the end at an altitude of 500 meters above the sea level, giving way to forest-tundra birch brushwood. Forest area takes at least a third of the highlands. The most common coniferous-deciduous forests, especially fir-birch forest are found the most often. Depending on the land vegetation, there are lichen, shrubs and herbaceous Khibiny forests.

Dwarf birch

Lichen forests have weak influence on the aboveground vegetation because of its density. Due to the lack of light, there are no plants at all in dense fir-groves with interlocking crowns. They are known as dead-cover fir-groves. Bushes, small shrubs and moss occupy the space under the birches and between them. It does not differ from tundra’s set of plants. In fir and birch forests the land mostly covered with a moss-shrub cover. In forests and undergrowth the ground is covered not only by moss but also some species of shrubs. There grow in abundance such plants as blueberry, wild rosemary, blackberry, cranberry, crowberry and other shrubs.

The most part of the forest zone is occupied by fir-groves with a shrub cover. Relatively low density of trees allows the sunbeams to come out. It creates suitable conditions for certain species of grass and shrub growing. There you can find such herbaceous plants as oak fern, blue phyllodoce, Lapland goldenrod and wavy hair grass. The representatives of local shrub plants are blueberry, crowberry and blackberry. The forest itself consists of the dash of Siberian spruce and mountain birch. Subarctic birch is met quite rarely. Deciduous trees are often prevail over coniferous trees. Among the firs of 20 meters heights you can meet not only birches, but also bird cherry tree, aspen and mountain ash.

Spruce forests of grassy type grow in places with the most favorable soil moisture. They are need of the territory well-protected from the cold wind. So grassy fir-groves grow at the foot of the mountains. You can also find there alders, bird cherry trees, birches, mountain ashes, aspens and willow trees. Dense grass cover covers the ground. You can meet there red baneberry, crowberry and other species of grass growing only in the Khibiny.

In spite of fir-groves, you can find at the foot of the slopes growing groups of alder. They form small brushwood in separate parts of the forest. Most often alders grow on the river banks and in the valleys. Also in the forest zone you can run into marshy areas, meadows, tundra vegetation and rocky terrain cover. The upper part of the forest zone has an interesting feature: the shrub-shaped fir grows there. Branches of puffy bottom «skirts» sprout roots and grow up. On the one side it looks like a group of small firs around the big one. In fact, it’s the same tree, effuse and sprouting additional roots. The relationship between the main trunk and its deep-rooted branches remains relevant for a long time, giving the impression of several trees.

470 meters above sea level forests are replaced by birch elfin woodland. It is an intermediate zone between the thick forest cover and high-altitude tundra. The width of the birch zone does not exceed 150 meters, occupying a twentieth of the whole area of the mountains.

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