Originally it was established as botanical in order to preserve a unique community of steppe plants, growing within a small area called Doly. Today the reserve is a research institution of federal importance aimed at nature protection, the study of natural processes and phenomena, the preservation of definite species and plant and animal communities as well as the preservation of typical and unique ecological systems.
The reserve got its name due to the proximity to the Oka and terrace-like steps of the relief, which was formed 10 thousand years ago by the surf of the former Oka. For the floodplain and the first terrace above the floodplain huge sandy swells of dunes are typical. Some of them reach over 10 m in height and have their own names: Turetsky, Ponikovsky. The reserve’s area is characterised by gently sloping elevation northward from the Oka – from 120 m above sea level in the southern part to 180 m in the north.
Flora and Fauna
The Oka River is a border between two natural zones — forest and steppe. That is why flora of the reserve is very diverse. More than 950 plants are found there, including some listed in the Red Book: Lady’s Slipper, Military and Dwarf Orchids, Russian Slender, Russian Cotoneaster.
The most beautiful forests within the reserve — pure pine ones — are spread across the southern part. In the south-eastern part, spots of oak forests grow. Small sites of upper bogs are located in the northern part. Sphagnum moss that covers the surface like a carpet, Bog Bilberry, Cranberry and little spots of Sundew as well as stunted pines create a specific picture there. The very northern in the European part of Russia unique steppe spot is called Doly. It is an old Russian word (all Russians remember A. Pushkin’s line «There dol and forest full of visions…») means a relief depression with a plain bottom between banks, hills. Dolys still exist and attract people with unusual for middle Russia flowers, bushes and waves of Feather-grass. Fauna of the reserve is rich and diverse. 50 mammal species inhabit the area. 132 bird species were noted during migrations and nesting season. Their record includes species, listed in the Red Book: Osprey, Eagle-owl, Rough-legged Buzzard, King Fisher, Hoopoe, Gray Heron. Also 5 reptile and 10 amphibian species are found within the reserve. Steppe flora determines species contents of invertebrates. Some of them, such as Italian Stink Bug and Sulfur Butterfly live in areas far to the south. A Bison is the largest mammal in Europe. This strong and impressive animal can reach 1200 kg and almost does not have enemies in nature. Even wolves and bears do not dare to hunt it. Long ago Bison used to inhabit broad-leaved European forests from Atlantic Ocean to the Volga. Calm and peaceful in nature Bison appeared defenseless in front of men. Hunting and destroying of natural habitats – forest cutting, ploughing of meadows gradually led to the disappearance of this wild animal. The last 1500 Bison survived by the beginning of the 20th century only in protected areas: tsars’ hunting site in Belovezhskaya Pushcha (Belarus’) and grand princes’ hunting site in the north-western Caucasus. World War I and the following Civil War left only 48 animals in several European Zoos by 1927. In the wilderness the Bison was destroyed completely.