Nature of Gorny Altai is diverse and unique. There are hollows with semi-desert landscapes, Alpine peaks, narrow river canyons and broad valleys, highland tundra landscapes and deep natural staffs in the thickness of limestone, cereal steppes and eternal snow and glaciers, stony placers and tracts of forest. Natural zones of the Republic build up a many-storeyed world of mountain landscape.
Water resources are among the most important natural resources of Gorny Altai.
Hydrographic network of the Republic counts more than 20 thousand water courses stretching for more than 60 thousand km and about 7 thousand lakes with the general square of more than 700 square km.
The largest rivers are the Katun and the Biya, which junction forms o ne of the largest Siberian rivers - the Ob River. The hugest lake is the Teletskoye, the area of its water surface is 230,.8 km and maximum depth - 325 m.
Mountain lakes of Altai contain enormous freshwater reserves of the highest quality. only Lake Teletskoye contains more than 40 square km of the purest water.
Potential use of underground water storage is evaluated at 22 mln. cubic meters per day, while the present use constitutes o nly about 44 thousand cubic meters per day. There are mineral springs known in Altai Mountains considered medicinal. Medicinal and prophylactic value of underground water may be explained by the presence of specific components. For a number of springs these components are radon (Buluzgun, Kuraiski, Shirgaitinskiye, Jumalinsliye springs), silver, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, sulphuretted hydrogen, etc.
Altai glaciers contain great amount of fresh water. The general volume of ice of the registered Altai glaciers comes up to 57 cubic km, which constitutes 52 cubic km of water. The whole water stock of glaciers exceeds an average annual effluent of Altai rivers for many years being equal to 43 cubic km per year.
The largest glaciers are: Bolshoi Taldurinskiy - 35 square km, Mensu - 21 square km, Sofiyskiy - 17 square km, Bolshoi Maashei - 16 square km.
Mineral resources of the Altai Republic vary greatly. There are unique reserves of rare metals; a number of ferrous and precious metals deposits have been estimated to various extent. Marble, granite, iron, brown and bituminous coal deposits have been prospected and prepared for operation. Deposits of vollastonite, gypsum, various mineral pigments, mineral and drinkable water and medicinal mud are being explored.
Gold is one of the most important minerals of Gorny Altai. Rare metals such as tungsten, molybdenum, bismuth, cobalt, lithium, tantalum, mercury take the second place. Prospective silver deposits alongside with rich reserves of ferrous and precious metals have been found in the recent years.
Flora. The Regions of Gorny Altai are rich in timber, total area of forests equals 43 000 square km, and forest reserves are estimated at 700 mln. cubic m, including mature and overmature forests, which constitute over 300 mln. cubic m. Pinewood (especially cedar) constitutes 36% of all forest resources, the rest belongs to less valuable coniferous. The cutting area covers more than 2 mln cubic m, woodlands - 50-70%.
The Altai flora is presented by more than 2000 species of supreme vascular plants. Medicinal and food plants are of special significance. Vegetable resources of the region number approximately 200 kinds of plants, found only o n the territory of the Altai Republic (endemic plants), 40 kinds of fruit and berry plants of high gustatory quality, around 100 kinds of medicinal plants. Many relic and endemic plants are entered in the Red Book.
Fauna. Animals' place of habitat is determined by altitude zonality.
Brown bear, elk, maral, deer, wild ram, musk deer, partridge, glutton, lynx, roe-deer, squirrel, chipmunk inhabit the forest zone. Birds - heath-cock, bubo, jay, hasel-grouse. Wild mountain goat, ibex, red wolf, snow leopard, Alpine jackdaw, mountain turkey, golden eagle inhabit the mountain zone.
Gorny Altai is rich in fur-bearing animals, such as sable, mink, fox, Siberian weasel, squirrel. Much importance is given to maral breeding; maral breeding farms are created all over Gorny Altai.
Various types of fish such as perch, pike, burbot, grayling, and others inhabit the rivers of Gorny Altai.
Arachnidas are presented by ticks - encephalitis pathogens.
The animal kingdom of Gorny Altai is presented by 8 kinds of mammals, 300 kinds of birds (including 250 of nesting ones) 44 kinds of fish, 7 kinds of reptiles, 2 kinds of Amphibians, and a large group of invertebrate animals Rare and vanishing animals are entered in the red Book.
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