Biogeographical Definition and Sub Division of Boreal Species

The species of the boreal zone show a significant diversity of extension and taxonomical structure of ranges. Most boreal taiga-species are widely distributed from the Far East across Siberia to Scandinavia, often without significant geographical variations. They are partly inhabitants of forests but are often connected with peat bogs, e.g. due to the food-plant specialisation (e.g. the butterflies and moths Colias palaeno, Boloria aquilonaris, Plebejus optilete, Anarta cordigera, Arichanna melanaria). Vicarious taxa often occur in Southern Himalayan coniferous forests with dense scrub layer and undergrowth, rich in evergreen plant species (e.g. Rhododendron, Vaccinium spp.). Also, some boreal plant species complexes have a huge Holarctic or Eurasiatic range while their closest relatives are restricted to some Southern mountainous areas, as parts of the Himalaya, Tibet, etc., e.g. the boreal species complex consisting of the circum-boreal Saxifraga hirculus and the related spot-like Central Asiatic species: S. diversifolia, S. przewalskii and further species in Tibet. In other cases, the zonal boreal "taiga" distribution is combined with considerable disjunct ranges in the sub-alpine mixed coniferous forests of the Himalayas (e.g. several small passerine birds as Dumeticola thoracica, Luscinia calliope, Muscicapa sibirica, Phylloscopus proregulus, Tarsiger cyanurus) and/or with several larger or smaller spots in the European mountain coniferous belts, e.g. in many taiga-inhabiting birds, as Tetrao urogallus, Tetrastes bonasia, Strix uralensis, Aegolius funereus, Picoides tridactylus, etc. (Stegmann 1938; Voous 1963).

Such species are most richly represented in the coniferous zone of the South Siberian high mountains.

The number of (nearly) exclusively European boreal and boreo-montane species is relatively low. However, a molecular biogeographical analysis of such species can unravel the European coniferous forest refugia (Schmitt and Haubrich 2008). The existence of European coniferous forest refugia is also supported by the Western-Eastern sub-division of several boreal species with the Western populations obviously having European refugia during the last glaciations, e.g. Picea abies most probably in the mountains of the Balkans and in the Eastern and Southern Carpathians. The North-Eastern part of European Russia was populated from the East by the sister (sub-)species Picea obovata. In the catchment area of the Northern Dvina, a hybrid belt has been formed between them. The European Pinus cembra survived the LGM in Southern Alpine and Carpathian refugia (Willis et al. 2000; Wohlfahrt et al. 2001). Its sister species is the SiberianNorthern Mongolian Pinus sibirica, a dominant species of the light-penetrated mountain taiga, often mixed with Larix sibirica (Walter and Breckle 1986).

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