RUSSIAN JOURNAL OF FOREST SCIENCE, 2021, No. 4, P. 415–425 HISTORY OF THE ARBOREAL AND SHRUB COMMUNITIES OF THE LARGEST RAVINE-GULLY HABITAT COMPLEX OF THE TRANS-VOLGA REGION A. V. Bykov 1 , A. V. Kolesnikov 1 , Yu. D. Nukhimovskaya 2 1 Institute of Forest Science of the Russian Academy of Sciences Sovetskaya st. 21, Uspenskoe, Odintsovsky District, Moscow Oblast, 143030, Russia 2 Severtsov institute of ecology and evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences Leninsky ave. 33, Moscow, 119071, Russia E-mail: wheelwrights@mail.ru Received 05 August 2020 An analysis was performed, covering a century-old history of development of the largest mesophilic ravine-gully community in the Trans-Volga region, on the north-western coast of Lake Elton, dominated by clay soils. It has been shown that modern polydominant tree and shrub communities of gullies are the result of an anthropogenic degradation of ravine forests. The development stages of polydominant plantations, associated with changes in the intensity of pasture load, have been identified. The mechanisms of resistance of polydominant communities to grazing and fires and the conditions for the preservation and reproduction of such communities have been considered. It has been shown that a thick massif of a polydominant community is resistant to fire and can be restored in several years. However, as a result of grazing, it breaks up into fragments. Herbal vegetation penetrates into the plantation, dry grass and dead wood accumulate. In case of a fire, the litter burns out to the mineral layer, and most of the regeneration buds buried in the soil die. Rapid and massive recovery does not occur, and the succession process takes decades. Under such conditions, with continued grazing and repeated fires, a severe soil erosion can develop, leading to irreversible disturbance of the original habitats and thus makes the restoration of the polydominant community impossible. It is noted that the seed renewal of trees and shrubs in existing and new emerging habitats; habitats that, according to soil and plant conditions, are suitable for the growth of polydominant plantations, is still difficult due to the lack of moisture and competition with herbaceous vegetation. Under the changing climate conditions, the restoration of destroyed tree and shrub communities will significantly increase the ecological capacity of the territory, ensure the preservation and restoration of many forest and dendrophilic species of vertebrates, and can serve as an alternative to artificial afforestation on a treeless plain. Key words: lands between Volga and Ural rivers, Lake Elton, polydominant tree and shrub communities, ravine and gully systems. 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