Some Observations on the Vegetation of The South Crimea Coast, Ukraine
Robert J. Liebermann, May 1994, for independent study in Geography, Central Michigan University


The Crimean Peninsula extends southward from the Ukrainian coast into the Black Sea. Historically, this "continent in miniature" has been controlled to various degrees by the Greeks, Kievan Rus, the Tatars, Russia, the Soviet Union, and now Ukraine. The association most people are likely to make at the present to this area is conflict, and many Westerners may have heard about the current dispute in this area between Russia and Ukraine over nationalities, economics, and the naval base at Sevastopol, though few have seen or heard about the nature of the Crimea.
The unique natural features of this area, including its climate, topography, soils, relief and others make the Crimean Peninsula (aka Crimea) an environment special to Europe and the world. Of particular interest to the phytogeographer is the occurrence of a large and diverse number of clearly defined vegetation communities within a relatively small, compact, and geographically distinct area.
In this paper, I will offer some observations and interpretations on the vegetation of several of these distinctly Crimean landscapes, made during visits to the Crimea in 1992 and 1993. In the context of these, some of the geographic influences on the formation and maintenance of these interesting areas will be discussed.

Purpose of paper

The purpose of this paper is not to give a thorough or complete description of any aspect of the area, but rather to describe the general associations of vegetation, climate, topography, and other factors representative of the following areas of the Crimean Peninsula visited by the author:

  • Mys' Martyan Nature Reserve
  • the area between the south coast and the Crimean Mountains
  • some low and middle elevation forests of the Crimean Mountain Range.
  • Mount Ayu-Dag
  • a yaila (mountain plateau)
  • the Baidar Valley
  • the interior plains

In addition, I will examine some of the phytogeographical influences responsible. In doing so, it is hoped that the unique natural character and value of the Crimea will be shown to be more important than its political, economic, or military associations. The study is not intended to give a comprehensive view of all vegetation communities found in the area, but rather to show only some general aspects of those actually visited by the author.

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The Crimean peninsula is a unique area. In traveling less than three hours in any direction from my base at Yalta by vehicle or foot I could experience the Black Sea, alpine meadows, mountain forests of pine or mixed wood, plateaus, steppes, coastal forests, seashores, quiet inland deciduous forests, orchards, wheat fields, vineyards, and a number of other varied environments. The area has one of the most comfortable climates in Europe, though still (and hopefully forever) unmarred by the large-scale commercial resorts so common in other parts of the world. The visitor or resident can, in addition to enjoying the nature, learn much about biogeography by observing the varied plants and animals of the Crimea and where they occur; the Crimean Peninsula is a giant field station for students of the natural sciences.
These qualities of the Crimea are rare in the world and, unlike the current political, economic, and social crises, are not ephemeral phenomena. However, they are also fragile, and once lost cannot be recovered.
The future is unknown for the Crimea. Will it once again come under Russian control? Will it become an area of separatist terrorism such as in Northern Ireland or Kashmir? Will it suffer the construction of large high-priced "developments" over the once-beautiful landscape? Will there be military conflict or civil war, like nearby Georgia, Abkhazia, Osetia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan?
It is hoped that the unique nature of the Crimean Peninsula, whatever the outcome, will be spared.


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