Mongolian Steppe

This extensive formation covering about one million square kilometers extends in a broad band along the edge of the Inner Mongolia Plateau west of the Great Khingan Range covering most of Ninghsia Province and touching the northern boundaries of the Hopeh, Shansi and Shensi provinces. The area is characterized by sand dunes, solonchaks and the so-called neutral or slighly alkaline chestnut soils. Typical steppe grasses include Achnatherum splendens, Agropyron cristatum, Aneurolepidium pseudoagropyrum, Cleistogenes squarrosa, Elymus dahuricus, Koeleria gracilis and many species of Stipa. Shrubs and dwarf trees may also be present. These typically include Artemisia adamsii, A. desertorum, A. frigida, A. halodendron, A. sacrorum, A. sibirica, Caragana microphylla and various species of Atriplex and Ephedra. Also present are various legumes like Astragalus melitotoides, Glycyrrhiza uralensis, Lespedeza dahurica and Thermopsis lanceolata. Shrub diversity, however, increases in the sand dunes areas of the northeast. Here species such as Agriophyllum arenarium, Atraphaxis mandshurica, Crataegus dahurica, Juniperus chinensis, Malus buccata, Oxytropis psammocharis and Ribes diacantha can be found. Trees are largely absent but adjacent to rivers and other water bodies Populus cathayana, P. euphratica, P. simonii, Salix matsudana and Ulmus pumila may occur and Pinus sylvestris var mongolica can be found on stabilized sand dunes. In extreme desert, steppe with short Stipa species predominates including the endemic Stipa gobica (Poaceae). Notable forbs here include Allium mongolicum, Lagochilus ilicifolius, Gypsophila desertorum, Ptilotrichum canescens, Scorzonera divaricata, Tanacetum achilleoides and Rheum nanum.

Mongolian Scrub Steppe

In areas like the basins of the Great Lakes and the Ordos Plateau scrub dominated by species of Caragana (such as C. korshinskii, C. microphylla or C. pygmaea) and / or species of Reumuria (such as R. kaschgarica, R. songarica or R. trigyna). Associated species include Amygdalus pedunculata, Artemisia xerophytica, Atraphaxis frutescens and Oxytropis aciphylla, while endemics or near endemics include Artemisia ordosica (Asteraceae), Asparagus gobicus (Asparagaceae) and Tetraena mongolica (Zygophyllaceae). The Ordos Plateau is surrounded by meanders of the Yellow River in the southern part of Inner Mongolia and forms the northern margin of the Loess Plateau. The shrubby vegetation has been divided in to about 28 community types mostly dominated by endemic or locally endemic plants. In the harshest parts of this steppe desert shrubs species such as Convolvolus tragacanthoides, Oxytropis aciphylla and the endemic Ammopiptanthes mongolicus (Fabaceae), Potaninia mongolica (Rosaceae) and Tetraena mongolica (Zygophyllaceae) predominate. Here both shrubs and herb cover is sparse; perennial herbs are rare but annual species may occur in patches following summer rain. Most of the above species can also be found in the less harsh depressions where higher moisture levels occur, but in addition other shrubs such as Caragana intermedia, C. stenophylla, C. tibetica, Reaumuria soongorica, Zygophyllum xanthoxylon and the endemic Prunus mongolica (Rosaceae) make an appearence. Here shrub cover is more extensive and there is usually a well-developed herb layer. Other endemic shrub species that may be encountered include Artemisia ordosica (Asteraceae).

Mongolian Forest Steppe

This formation extends over the loess highlands of Kansu, Ninghsia, Shansi and Shensi provinces and ranges from the alluvial plains of the Yellow River to the loess plateau. In the remaining natural stands the calcareous soils support a sparse flora which includes Andropogon ischaemum, Cleistogenes serotina, C. squarrosa, Dicranostigma leptopodum, Rosa hugonis, R. xanthina, Stipa bungeana and S. grandis. In the many eroded valleys species such as Lycium chinense, Hippophae rhamnoides, Prinsepia uniflora, Sophora vicifolia and Zizyphus sativa predominate. True forest, on the other hand, only occurs at higher elevations where more humid conditions prevail. Here the forests are deciduous and include tree species such as Acer ginnala, A. mono, Betula chinensis, B. japonica, Corylus heterphylla, Euonymus alata, Lonicera ferdinandii, Populus davidiana, Tilia paucicostata, Ulmus japonica and U. pumila. At even high elevations on the high mountains these forests gave way to various gymnoperms such as Abies orientalis, Biota orientalis, Picea asparata and P. neoveitchii. In Chinese herbalism Biota orientalis is one of the 50-fundemental herbs and is unusual among gymnosperms in undergoing viviparous germination.


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