Wild Russia Home PageNature Reserve ProfilesWild Russia PhotographersPublicationsAbout CRNCContact Us


Wrangel Island Bioregion 1

Established: 1997
Area: 313,400 ha (3,134 km2)
Buffer Zone: 269,200 ha (2,692 km2)

Mukhortov, Sergei Dmitrievich, Director


ul. Gazovikov, 2, p. Iskatelei, Arkhangelskaya oblast, Nenetsky AO, Russia 176002

+7 (818-53) 4-46-00, 6-12-09


Koryaksky Zapovednik

© 2005 K. Mikhailov

Situated in the Nenetsky Autonomous Okrug, in northwestern Russia , Nenetsky Zapovednik has, since 1997, helped preserve the unique landscapes and biodiversity of the western part of the Russian Arctic. Here, within the strict nature reserve’s borders, the Pechora River empties into the Barents Sea at Pechora Bay , after having wound its way some 2,000 kilometers from the northern Ural Mountains . Nentsky Zapovednik protects important wetland habitat for numerous species of waterfowl including rare species listed in the Russian Red Data Book such as Bewick’s swan, lesser white-fronted goose, and white-billed diver, among many others. The reserve’s extensive protected marine zone protects habitat for marine mammals including the bearded seal, beluga whale, polar bear, and Atlantic walrus.


Nenetsky Zapovednik Images
Nenetsky Zapovednik Facts


Images of Nenetsky Zapovednik

Click on each photo to see a large version.

© 2005 K. Mikhailov

Abundant wetlands in lowland tundra are ideal habitat for waterfowl.


© 2005 K. Mikhailov

The dunlin nests in tundra habitats across the Russian Arctic in summer.


© 2005 K. Mikhailov

The Arctic tern, seen here with a chick, is an important indicator for tundra ecosystems.


© 2005 K. Mikhailov

Arctic terns, which gather in large numbers in summer, are the only terns with circumpolar distribution.


© 2005 K. Mikhailov

A rockfish lies on the sand, stranded by the receding tide in the Barents Sea.



© 2005 K. Mikhailov

Grassy marshes with mazes of waterways conceal geese and ducks.


© 2005 K. Mikhailov

Dwarf cornel blooms in summer in the zapovednik.


© 2005 K. Mikhailov

Endangered Bewick's swans congregate in the zapovednik each summer to raise their young.


Nenetsky Zapovednik Facts:

AnimalsVegetationGeographical FeaturesConservation StatusReferences


Nenetsky Zapovednik is home to both Arctic mammal species and species more typical to the forest zone. Predators such as the Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and wolverine (Gulo gulo) patrol the reserve’s vast tundra areas for unsuspecting prey. Mountain hare (Lepus timidis) frequent willow shrub habitats, where they nibble on grass and sedge shoots in the understory. The southern part of the reserve provides habitat to large mammals such as lumbering brown bear (Ursus arctos), wolf (Canis lupus), moose (Alces alces), and muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus).

Ringed seals (Phoca hispida), bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) and grey seals (Halichoreus grypus) are regular inhabitants of the reserve’s protected coastal waters.

The protected waters of Pechora Bay also provide habitat to Cetaceans such as the beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) and orca (Orcinus orca). A population of about 200 Atlantic walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) also inhabits the reserve, where they have formed rookeries on Matveev and Dolgii islands. Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are regular springtime visitors.

Scientists have identified 120 bird species in Nenetsky Zapovednik, including more than 50 nesting species. The reserve is a very important breeding ground for the waterfowl of northern Europe . Abundant lakes, wetlands, and shallow coastal waters offer excellent nesting grounds for the gray plover (Pluvialis squatarola), golden plover (P. apricaria), red-necked phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus), dunlin (Calidris alpina), king eider (Somateria spectabilis), and common eider (S. mollissima), among others. Several gull, tern, and goose species nest in colonies on the reserve’s territory. Among the most numerous are the Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea), herring gull (Larus argentatus), and glaucous gull (L. hypreboreus), which primarily nest on the small islands. The reserve is located along the White Sea-Baltic Sea migratory route and more than 30 species of waterfowl migrate through the zapovednik’s territory on a mass scale, including rare and endangered species such a Bewick’s swan (Cygnus bewickii), barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis), lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus), and white-billed diver (Gavia adamsii). The reserve’s importance for Bewick’s swan is especially notable; more than half of the birds wintering in Europe spend the summer in the reserve. Additional rare birds of prey occurring in the reserve include the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), gyrfalcon (F. rusticolus), white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos ), and osprey (Pandion haliaetus).

Nenetsky Zapovednik protects feeding, spawning, breeding, wintering, and migratory habitat important to approximately 35 fish species. In the autumn and winter, Atlantic navaga (Eleginus navaga), plaice (Pleuronectes platessa), Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida), and European smelt (Osmerus eperlanus) spawn in the lower reaches of rivers flowing into the Pechora Bay . The reserve’s numerous shallow lakes provide excellent habitat for Cisco fry (Coregonus lavaretus, C. albula, C. autumnalis, and C. nasus). The reserve also protects important habitat for another migratory fish species, the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). The migratory route of the largest population of this important salmon species crosses the southeastern part of the Pechora Sea . The reserve’s coastal waters provide important feeding habitat for the Atlantic salmon and Arctic cisco (Coregonus autumnalis), among other valuable fish species.



Vegetation in Nenetsky Zapovednik features arctic and typical tundra habitats, with a predominance of moss and lichen communities, herb-moss willow forests, and floodplain meadows. Among flora dominants are pendant grass (Arctophila fulva), meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis), smooth meadowgrass (Poa pratensis), rough blue-joint (Calamagrostis langsdorfii), sedges, and forbs.

Tundra vegetation – lichen, grass, shrub, and hypnum moss species – covers the Korovinsky Range in the central and southwestern part of the reserve. Willows (Salix spp.) occupy polygonal-slope areas and lowland areas. They are the most frequently encountered type of shrub tundra, while dwarf birch (Betula nana), which grow on slopes and in shallow depressions, and ledums (Ledum spp.) are less common. Dwarf shrub tundra, represented by crowberry (Empetrum spp.), blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), and bearberry (Arctostaphylos spp.), thrives primarily on elevated areas, although small patches are encountered in bottomland habitats and on elevated parts of hillocks and on hummock-ridge complexes as well. On more open and elevated areas, grass-dwarf shrub tundra becomes sparse and lichen representing the Cetraria and Cladonia genera and the Pertusariaceae family dominate ground cover. Moss tundra develops in moister habitats. A few areas with tall dwarf birch shrubs can be found in the southern part of the reserve, along the banks of lakes and rivers.

The Pechora River Delta, which includes Korovinsk Bay and Russky Zavorot Peninsula , comprises a complex wetland. In the delta’s coastal zone, lower delta marshes dominated by water sedge (Carex aquatilis) cover depressions between permanent streams, oxbows, and younger stream beds, as well as along gully shorelines. Further inland along the floodplain, freshwater marshes with water sedge, marsh cinquefoil (Comarum palustre), water horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile), and mosses (Sphagnum spp.) blanket backswamp depressions and the shores of thermokarst lakes. Shrub species including diamondleaf willow (Salix phylicifolia) and wooly willow (S. lanata) cover up to 25 percent of freshwater shrub marshes. Their participation is far greater in dense shrub and tree/shrub thickets, where herbs, grasses and mosses form the undergrowth layer. On the tops of levees along streams and oxbow lakes, floodplain meadows of graminoids and herbs are prevalent. Dominant species here include pendant grass, meadow foxtail, alpine bistort (Bistorta vivipara), field horsetail (Equisetum arvense), and white hellebore (Veratrum lobelianum).

Coastal dunes cover the northern and western coast of Russkiy Zavorot Peninsula and the Gulyaevskiye Koshki Islands , which extend westward from Cape Russkiy Zavorot between the Barents Sea and Pechora Bay . Although the dune areas are bare in some places, they are partly covered with specialized grass and grass-like plants such as sand ryegrass (Leymus arenarius) and tufted hair grass (Deschampsia caespitosa). Dense stands of sedge may occur along patches of waterlogged quicksands in interior dunes areas.

Among the two hundred and ten vascular plant species that have been recorded in Nenetsky Zapovednik, a number are rare and listed in the Russian Red Data Book including mountain avens (Dryas octopetala), alpine butterwort (Pinguicula alpina), and roseroot (Rhodiola rosea). Known locally as “golden root,” roseroot has medicinal uses as an anti-aging supplement with anti-stress effects similar to ginseng.


Geographical Features

Nenetsky Zapovednik is situated in Nenetsky Autonomous Okrug in northeastern European Russia. The zapovednik occupies the northeastern tip of the Malozemelskaya Tundra, which, together with the Bolshezemelskaya Tundra to the east, encompasses a vast territory of sub-arctic and arctic tundra divided meridianally by the Pechora River . In addition to the Malozemelskaya Tundra, the reserve also includes part of the Pechora Delta, coastal and marine areas of the Barents Sea, as well as numerous islands.

The zapovednik is located on four different territories. The Pechora River Delta section protects the lower reaches of the Pechora River and wetlands along the southern shore of Korovinskaya Bay . The Zakharinskaya Shore unit encompasses the Zakharinskaya Shore of Pechora Bay, where numerous large lakes dot the coastal plain. The Neruta section protects part of the Neruta River Delta, where mires are prevelant, along the southern shore of Bolvanskaya Bay. The reserve’s fourth unit, the Islands, includes the Gulyaevskiye Koshki Islands and Matveev, Golets, Dolgii, Bolshoi Zelenets, and Maliy Zelenets islands.

Nenetsky Zapovednik protects 181,900 hectares of marine habitat. Its protected marine area encompasses two-kilometer-wide marine bands around the aforementioned protected islands and Russky Zavorot Peninsula; the marine areas of Korovinskaya, Srednaya, and Kuznetskaya bays; part of Bolvanskaya Bay; and the ten-kilometer-wide marine zone along the Zakharinskaya Shore. Hillocky and small hillocky swamps, with numerous lakes, channels, and streams are widely distributed throughout the reserve.

Buffer zones have been established around the reserve. These areas limit nature use over 26,400 ha of terrestrial habitats and 242,800 ha of marine areas.

The sub-arctic climate is characterized by year round instability caused by interchanging Atlantic cyclones and Arctic air masses. Winter lasts seven months, extending through late May, while each of the remaining seasons can continue for a month or two, with summer generally beginning in early July. Atlantic cyclone activity is particularly high during the winter months, when the weather is overcast and blizzards and snowstorms are frequent; summer cyclones bring cool rainy weather. In the winter, arctic air masses bring cold, sunny weather, while in the summer they cause frosts and significant decreases in temperature. Seasonal temperature fluctuations are high, with extremes ranging between -40º and +30º C.


Conservation Status

Nenetsky Zapovednik was established to preserve typical landscapes of sub-arctic and arctic tundra; to protect the Pechora River Delta; and to protect and preserve rare species including the polar bear, Bewick’s swan, Atlantic walrus, as well as other marine mammals, waterfowl, and birds of prey. Conservation of local populations of Pechora and white salmon were also an important consideration in the reserve’s establishment.

Three wetland areas located within the zapovednik are listed on the Tentative List of the Ramsar Convention, as are several additional wetlands along the reserve’s borders. Important Bird Areas have also been identified within the reserve.

The increased exploration for and development of the extensive oil and gas reserves in the Pechora Sea region poses a serious threat to the delicate arctic and sub-arctic tundra ecosystems of the reserve. Development of the Prirazlomnoye oil field, located on the Pechora Sea Shelf, sixty kilometers offshore, will soon begin and will be accompanied by an increase in oil transport in the region. A spill or accident could cause irreversible damage to important seabird and marine mammal habitats protected within the reserve, particularly those on Dolgii and Matveev islands.

The zapovednik already bears the scar of past oil and gas activity. More than fifteen abandoned wells blight the reserve’s landscape and a 100-meter-wide reservoir filled with a gelatinous substance rich in hydrocarbons marks the location of a colossal accident that took place at the Kuzhma-9 gas condensate well in 1980. For six and a half years, gas and condensate spewed into the environment from the well and a great flame formed at the site. In an effort to stop gas emission and extinguish the fire by shifting bedrock, Soviet authorities set off an underground nuclear charge in 1982, yet even this extreme measure did not achieve the intended result; the flame would die out independently five years later in 1987. At the site of the accident, a large containment/enclosing dam filled in. As the dam has deteriorated with time, hydrocarbons have begun to seep into surrounding waters, and have been found in increasing quantities in fish tissue samples. Zapovednik staff and conservation organizations, who are very concerned about the potential collapse of the reservoir’s walls and the subsequent contamination of the Pechora River Delta and adjacent marine areas, have been advocating for the urgent repair of the reservoir.



Text prepared by Melissa Mooza.

Gasparyan, N. “Long-Awaited Nenetsky Nature Reserve Established,” WWF Arctic Bulletin, No. 1 (1998): 15. (English)

Glotov, A., “Nenetsky Nature Reserve.” In Field Guide to Protected Areas in the Barents Region. (Svanik , Norway : Svanhovd Environmental Center, 2004). (English)

Kotkin, N. Y., “Development of a Network of Protected Areas in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug.” In Heritage of the Russian Arctic : Research, Conservation, and International Cooperation. (Moscow: Ecopros, 2000). (English)

Larsen, T. and P. Wahl, “ Barents Sea Oil and Gas Development: An Economic and Environmental Gamble,” WWF Arctic Bulletin, No. 3. (2000) 12-13. (English)

Sesei, Maria. “The Ecological Problems of Kuzhma.” Available on the “Hot Spots” section of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia , and Far East of the Russian Federation (RAIPON) website: http://www.raipon.net/russian_site/hot_spots/nenets_kumja.html. (Russian)

Van Eerden, M.R., ed.. Pechora Delta: Structure and Dynamics of the Pechora Delta Ecosystems (1995-1999). (Lelystad, the Netherlands: Institute for Inland Water Management and Waste Water Treatment RIZA, 2000). (English)

Zabelina , N.M. , L.S. Isaeva-Petrova, and L.V. Kuleshova. Zapovedniks and National Parks of Russia. (Moscow: Logata Publishers, 1998). (Russian and English)

Additional materials provided by Nenetsky Zapovednik, including the report “Prirodniye Ekosistemy GPZ ‘Nenetsky’ v Raione Arkticheskikh Ostrovov Barentseva Morya” (Natural Ecosystems of Nenetsky Zapovednik in the Region of the Arctic Islands of the Barents Sea). (Russian)

The website of the Biodiversity Conservation Center has more information in Russian on this reserve at: reserves.biodiversity.ru/nenetszp.

| Top | Home | Zapovednik Tour | Photographers | Publications | About CRNC | Contact Us | Links

Brought to you by the Center for Russian Nature Conservation