Botanica Pacifica

In memoriam

Botanica Pacifica. A journal of plant science and conservation 2023. Preprint
Article first published online: 19 MAY 2023 | DOI: 10.17581/bp.2023.12120

Nina Sergeevna PROBATOVA, 2 August 1939 – 3 March 2023

Ivan V. Tatanov 1 ORCID, Marina V. Olonova 2 ORCID, Svetlana V. Ovchinnikova 3 ORCID & Denis A. Krivenko 4 ORCID

1 V.L. Komarov Botanical Institute RAS, Saint Petersburg, Russia
2 National Research Tomsk State University, Tomsk, Russia
3 Central Siberian Botanical Garden SB RAS, Novosibirsk, Russia
4 Siberian Institute of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry SB RAS, Irkutsk, Russia


Nina Probatova (NP) was born August 2, 1939 in Novorossiysk, Krasnodar region in a family of ichthyologists, graduates of the Far Eastern Institute of Fisheries Industry (Vladivostok), who moved immediately after the birth of his daughter to Azerbaijan, Baku, where she lived with her parents until her 16th birthday. She helped her father in the fisheries along the Caspian Sea coast, was interested in ichthyofauna, Caspian Sea flora and urban flora of Baku. She graduated from the Biology and Soil Department of Rostov University in 1961. On student internship went in Priamurye (Amur Region), where she first saw and immediately felt in love with the Far East forever.

After graduation she moved to Khabarovsk, worked for three years as an assistant at the botany department of the Khabarovsk Pedagogical Institute, and in 1964 – to Vladivostok, where she enrolled in graduate school at the Institute of Biology and Soil Science of the Far Eastern Branch of the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences to a wellknown Far Eastern botanist Dmitry Petrovich Vorobyov with the topic of research "Poa L. of the Soviet Far East".

From 1966, she worked as a postgraduate student at the Komarov Botanical Institute of Academy of Sciences of the USSR. There she met Nikolai Nikolaevich Tsvelev (NT), the greatest grass systematist. During the 1965 expedition to Kamchatka and Northern Koryakia she met the Associate Professor of Leningrad University Alexandra Pavlovna Sokolovskaya (AS), a famous cariologist and flora scientist.

These scientists played a decisive role in Nina’s further studies, and the areas of her scientific interests were grass systematics, karyosystematics (chromosome numbers) of different groups of vascular plants (mostly of the Far East), botanical geography and floristics. The original data of karyology, along with the data of the classical morphologicalgeographical method, allowed her to solve complex questions of systematics and phylogeny of bluegrasses of the Far East and in 1970 to defend a PhD thesis in the N.V. Tsitsin Main Botanical Garden of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

Like her real scientific Master for almost half a century, NT, NP attached great importance to the role of hybridization in plant evolution and considered correct a narrower understanding of species, where often "small" species are naturally combined into aggregate species. This approach was taken by NT and NP in their monograph "The Grasses of Russia" (2019). NT was a supporter of a narrow understanding of genera, which was fully shared by NP, whom he immediately invited to participate in the work on this fundamental book.

Almost 60 years NP worked as a Chief Researcher at the Laboratory of Higher Plants of the Federal Research Center for Terrestrial Biota Biodiversity of East Asia, Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences (formerly the Institute of Biology and Soil Science, FEB RAS). She authored more than 500 publications (see: Electronic appendix) and one of the main authors of the 8-volume summary "Vascular plants of the Soviet Far East" (1985–1996). In addition to the most complicated family Poaceae (Vol. 1), for this edition she handled 9 other families (Clusiaceae, Convolvulaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Lamiaceae (except Leonurus and Stachys), Linaceae, Malvaceae (with E.G. Rudyka, ER), Portulacaceae (with ER), Primulaceae, Verbenaceae) in whole or part. The English translation of Vol. 1 with Poaceae is very much in demand among world agrostologists. NP is an author-organizer of Supplements to the 8-volume summary (2006). Co-author of "Vascular Plants of Sakhalin and Kuril Islands" (1974), "Vascular Plants of Kamchatka Region" (1981), "Wild Fodder Grasses of the Far East" (1982). She has worked on expeditions on Kamchatka, in Northern Koryakia, on Commander and Kuril islands, on Sakhalin, in Magadan and Amur Regions, in Primorye Territory, in republics of Central Asia and Caucasus. On excursions she got acquainted with the flora of Karelia, the outskirts of Leningrad (accompanied by NT), the Krasnodar Territory, the Lower Volga, the Altai, the coasts of Lake Baikal.

Since 1965, she has been working for more than 30 years in collaboration with AS on determination of chromosome numbers in grasses of the flora of the USSR and different groups in the flora of the Far East. In the Caucasus they discovered the second (after Zingeria biebersteiniana) in the world and the first (so far the only one) perennial grass with the lowest number of chromosomes 2n = 4 – Colpodium versicolor. The polybasic state in the genus Milium (x = 4, 5, 7, 9) was specially investigated and confirmed. In all her expeditions and excursions NP collected material for cariological research. Her publications on chromosome numbers and karyosystematics of plants, including the monographs "Karyology of Flora of Sakhalin and Kuril Islands. Chromosome Numbers, Taxonomic and Phytogeographic Comments" (2007), "Chromosome numbers of vascular plants of Primorsky Krai (Russian Far East)" (2014), and numerous articles on new taxa, distribution features, and ecology of grasses. These works emphasized the specificity of the agrostoflora and flora of the Far East as a whole and in the mainland-ocean contact zone. She analyzed chromosome numbers in terms of taxonomic and phylogenetic relationships of species and superspecies groups, biogeography, differentiation and evolution of taxa in grasses, as well as in other flora groups of the region.

NP’s spouse was Vitaly Pavlovich Seledets (VS) (1938-2018), a well-known scientist in ecology, geobotany, and vegetation geography. He involved her in the study of ecological ranges of grasses, which resulted in a number of joint publications, including the monographs "Ecological ranges of plant species" (2007) and "Ecological ranges and ecological niches of plant species in the monsoon zone of Pacific Russia" (2012). Considering the ecoreal as a reflection of evolutionary, biogeographic, and phytocenotic positions of species, they established directions of evolution of agrostoflora of the Far East, where the decisive factor of transformation is the global ecotone – transition from the continent to the ocean. They revealed the connection of chromosome numbers and ploidy level in Poaceae family species with their ecoregions in the mainland-ocean contact zone.

NP described two genera of grasses: oligotypic Asian – North American Arctopoa, isolated from Poa, and monotypic Minor Asian Zingeriopsis, isolated from Milium; two more genera of this family – together with NT: Asian-North American Macrohystrix and Asian monotypic Microhystrix. She is the author and co-author of about 200 species and intraspecific taxa new to science and more than 20 new intraspecific taxa (including nomenclatural combinations). New taxa are described by her mainly from the Far East of Russia and from Siberia.

She leaded a number of noticable initiative projects supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR): "Karyology of flora of the southern part of the Russian Far East" (1998-1999), "Grasses of the Russian Far East: biodiversity, biogeography, evolution" (2001-2002), "Vascular plants in the mainland-ocean contact zone (Russian Far East): biodiversity, ecology, phytogeography" (2004-2005), «Grasses (Poaceae) of flora of Russia: taxonomy, numbers of chromosomes, phylogeny, geography, ecology" (2011-2013).

NP paid considerable attention to conservation activities. She is the author of works on preservation in natural habitats of rare species of grasses, sketches for a number of species in the Red Book of the Russian Federation (1988), the Red Book of the Russian Federation (2008), the Red Book of the Irkutsk Region (2020), the Red Book of the Khabarovsk Territory (2008, 2019), the Red Book of Primorye Territory (2008), the Red Book of Sakhalin Region (2005, 2019).

In 2017, NP was awarded the highest prize of the Russian Academy of Sciences in botany – the V.L. Komarov Prize for a series of publications "Grasses of the Russian Far East: Systematics, Karyology, Phytogeography". Twelve species from different families of vascular plants of the flora of Siberia and the Far East are named after her.

Generalization of a vast and, to a great extent, original factual material and elaboration of theoretical questions allows her works to be considered a significant contribution into development of systematics, phylogeny, karyology and phytogeography of grasses not only in North-East Asia, but also in the world agrostology. The relevance of her publications is evidenced by their popularity, recognition and wide citation by the world botanical community.

Memorial bibliography of Nina Probatova, compiled by Denis A. Krivenko, is provided as electronic attachment to this article.

© The Author(s). 2023 Open Access (CC) BY-NC license: