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Meshchera National Park


Vladimir Region
Meshchera National Park was established in 1992, in the southeast part of the Vladimir region to protect the natural systems of the Meshchera lowlands. A total of about 14 thousand people live in villages and towns situated within the borders of the park. Forests accounts for 86,300 ha (72.6% of the parks total area); wetlands, 2%. Large-scale extraction of peat has led to the disappearance of major wetlands and the plants and animals associated with those areas. One of the parks goal is to preserve the remaining wetlands ecosystems and their flora y fauna.

Geography
Small height variations and gentle grades in the region, the Meshcheras rivers fall very little. This has led to the development of wide wetland areas. The lowlands are located between several rivers of the Oka River Basin, the parks main rivers being the Pol and the Buzha. The lakes Isikhra and Svetloe are unique waterways and are among the parks nature monuments.
The Meshchera lowlands are located in a moderate climatic belt. Moist winds blowing from the Atlantic produce snow and moderate temperatures in winter and wind and lower temperatures in summer.

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Flora and Fauna
The parks rich flora includes examples of the southern taiga and the coniferous-deciduous and deciduous forests. The parks coniferous forests comprise common pine (Pinus sylvestris) and spruce (Picea abies). Pines are the most widespread, covering 59% of the parks forestlands. In all, about 850 varieties of vascular plants are represented in the park.
The list of plants requiring protection number 14 species, including the tender, floating fern Salvinia natans, the pondweed (Potamogeton friesii), few-flowered sedge (Carex pauciflora) and Siberian iris (Iris Sibirica).
About 50 species of mammals, 170 nesting birds, five reptiles and ten amphibians have been registered in the park. The areas vast forestlands provide a home to various large mammals and birds that need individual territories. Common animals include the wolf, racoon dog, ermine, weasel, alpine hare, boar and moose. The park represents the southern border of the geographic range of the brown bear.
The most prized of the Meshcheras mammals is the Russian muskrat (Desmana moschata) that has been registered in the Red Data Book of Russia.
Rare birds found in the park include the Arctic loon (Gavia arctica), the white stork (Ciconia ciconia), gray heron (Anser anser), wigeon (Anas penelope), large spotted eagle (Aquila clanga), merlin (Falco vespertinus), gray crane (Grus grus), marsh sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis), eagle owl (Bubo bubo) and others.

Tourism opportunities
The best known of the parks architectural monuments are the religious sites protected by the government: Troitskaya Church (1812 1825, in the village of Erleks), Ilinskaya church (early 19th century, Palishchi) and Vozdvizhenskaya Church (18th century, Parma).
Most of the towns and villages in the park have preserved their original appearance, reflecting the time and conditions in which they were first built.
The parks waterways offer excellent opportunities for water tourism on the Buzha and Pol rivers and the Svyatoe lake.

based on National Parks of Russia Guidebook 1997
 
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