Geographical Features Conservation
A mountain hare (Lepus timidus) calmly
nibbles grasses in a coastal meadow of a tiny wind-swept island
in Kandalakshsky Bay. Too small to support large predators, the
rocky island provides refuge to hares, bank voles (Clethrionomys
glareolus), and hundreds of birds, which flitter noisily about.
Brown bears (Ursus arctos), however, are not afraid to
get wet and swim from island to island, taking advantage of unwary
prey and undiscovered berry patches. The cunning fox (Vulpes
vulpes) will cross newly formed ice in the fall to sneak up
on imprudent rodents. In all, 54 species of mammals live on the
islands and coastal mainland protected in Kandalakshsky Zapovednik.
The large Veliky Island and Kovdsky Peninsula in Kandalakshsky
Bay have full assemblages of northern boreal species. The ranges
of several forest-dwelling large predators overlap with these
parts of the reserve, and occasionally they come here to hunt
or to raise their young. Wolverine (Gulo gulo), lynx (Felis
lynx), and wolf (Canis lupus) are not uncommon, but
they generally do not reside here permanently. However, two or
three bears do live on Veliky Island and the surrounding area.
Other predators include pine marten (Martes martes), ermine
(Mustela erminea), weasel (M. nivalis), and the
acclimated European mink (M. lutreola). Their numbers depend
on populations of various rodents, but never are they numerous
in the zapovednik. Moose (Alces alces) make seasonal migrations
to the area, thus their numbers here are constantly changing.
Muskrats (Ondatra zibethica) live in lakes with rich vegetation.
The islands of Kandalakshsky Bay and the Barents Sea coast
provide protection to breeding seals, which form rookeries when
the ice begins to melt. Kandalakshsky Bay is home to the bearded
and ringed seals (Erignatus barbatus, Phoca hispida). Several
dozen of the large bearded seals linger in shallow waters of Kandalakshsky
Bay, where they feed on benthic invertebrates. The smaller ringed
seals prefer deeper waters where they hunt for fish. The rare
gray seal (Halichoerus grypus) is found in the zapovednik
only in the Barents Sea. Though whales sometimes swim into the
coastal waters of the reserve, only the white whale (Delphinapterus
leucas) is found in significant numbers several dozen
can reside in Kandalakshsky Bay at any one time, and several hundred
in the Barents Sea. Other marine mammal visitors to the zapovednik
are Greenland seal (Histriophoca groenlandica), white-sided
and white-beaked dolphins (Lagenorhynchus acutus, L. albirostris),
blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus),finback whale
(B. physalus), fish whale (B. borealis), bowhead
whale (Balaena mysticetus), and humpback whale (Megaptera
novaeangliae), most of which are rare in the region.
Perhaps the most important function of the Kandalakshsky Zapovednik
is protecting colonies of nesting sea birds on hundreds of marine
islands and coastal rookeries. Included in the Ramsar List of
Wetlands of International Importance, the zapovednik was created
originally to protect the common eider (Somateria mollissima),
whose prized down was collected and exported during much of the
19th century. The zapovednik has helped eider populations
stabilize in the 20th century: the number of nesting
pairs of eiders fluctuated between 2,500 and 4,500 from 1951 to
1968, and increased to 5-8,000 pairs by the 1980s. Eiders prefer
small islands free of predators. Yet, when eiders are frightened
from their nests, herring gulls (Larus argentatus) quickly
devour their eggs and newborn chicks.
Small islands and coastal areas that lack trees in Kandalakshsky
Bay are heavily populated with noisy bird colonies. Common oystercatcher
(Haematopus ostralegus), arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea),
mew gull (Larus canus), and eiders are the most numerous
species here. Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula) fly noisy
about. White-tailed sea-eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) circle
the islands from above.
On the northern coast of the Kola Peninsula in the Barents
Sea, the Seven Islands (Sem ostrovov) and Ainovy Island archipelagos
teem with avian life. The noise from large concentrations of as
many as 50 species of birds can be deafening. Black-legged kittiwakes
(Rissa tridactyla) and thin- and thick-billed murres (Uria
aalge, U. lomvia) form large, noisy nesting colonies with
tens of thousands of pairs. The birds feces provide nutrients
for plants and aquatic invertebrates. Murres occupy the largest
ledges, while kittiwakes and eiders stay on the outskirts of the
noisy colonies. Razorbills (Alca torda) prefer semi-protected
niches of cliffs. Murres and razorbills dont actually make
nests, but lay only one egg, insulating it between their feet
and their abdomen. Black-legged kittiwakes, on the other hand,
build large, heavy nests, sometimes on impossibly narrow ledges.
On the Ainovy Island Archipelago, gulls are the most numerous
of the 25 species nesting in bird rookeries, in particular the
great black-backed gull (Larus marinus) and mew gull.
Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) and eiders also
nest here in abundance. Some smaller birds nesting on the tundra
islands are snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), Lapland
bunting (Calcarius lapponicus), meadow pipit (Anthus
pratensis), and redwing (Turdus iliacus).
Forest-dwelling birds found in the pine and spruce forests
in the southern sections of the zapovednik include capercaillie
(Tetrao urogallus), black grouse (Tetrao tetrix),
hazel grouse (Bonasa bonasia), and willow grouse (Lagopus
lagopus). The knocking of woodpeckers (Dendrocopos
spp. and others) and piercing cries of ravens and crows (Corvus
spp.) and Siberian jays (Cractes infaustus) are commonly
heard in forests. Willow tit (Parus montanus) is one of
the most numerous inhabitants of winter forests.
In all, there are more than 270 species of birds in the zapovednik.
Rare birds included in the Russia Red Book are: yellow-billed
loon (Gavia adamsi), European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis),
lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus), Bewicks
swan (Cygnus bewickii), white-tailed sea-eagle, osprey
(Pandion haliaetus), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos),
gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus), peregrine falcon (Falco
peregrinus), and eagle owl (Bubo bubo)
Two species of reptiles (Lacerta vivipara, Vipera berus)
and three species of amphibians (Rana temporaria, R. arvalis,
Bufo bufo) are found in the zapovednik, mostly on the mainland
and Veliky Island.
While there are 30 species of fish in Kandalakshsky
Bay, only a few species are numerous: Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua),
Atlantic herring (Cluea harengus), river flounder (Platichthys
flesus), and polar flounder (Pleuronectes platessa).
Numbers of tittlebat (Gasterosteus aculeatus), a small
fish that used to be quite numerous and supported bird and fish
populations, began to decline sharply in the early 1960s and never
recovered. Bulltrout (Salmo trutta) is found in deep lakes
on the islands. Both bulltrout and European smelt (Osmerus
eperlanus) live in salt water but swim into streams and lakes
Acorn barnacles (Semibalanus balanoides)
are abundant marine organisms on the sea bottom, clinging to lime
in the sediments. Ten species of shrimps are found in the coastal
waters along with 558 other species of marine invertebrates.
Kandalakshsky Zapovednik is spread out over more than 350 islands
in Kandalakshsky Bay in the White Sea and the coastal region of
the Barents Sea, thus many different habitat types are represented.
Tundra ecosystems are found on the island archipelagos along the
northern edge of the Kola Peninsula the Ainovy, Gavrilovsky,
and Seven Island (Sem ostrovov) archipelagos. The Kandalakshskie
Shkhery, Porya Cove, and Turiy Cape sections of the reserve are
covered with forests made up primarily of dark coniferous forests.
Northern boreal forest communities occupy 80 percent of the zapovednik,
and most of these are pine forests, such as those on the Kovdsky
Peninsula. Coniferous species are mixed with birch (Betula
spp.), aspen (Populus tremula), and other deciduous
species. The species of pine, referred to as Scotch pine (Pinus
sylvestris) in areas to the south, is sometimes classified
as a different species Lapland or Friza pine (P. friesiana).
This pine has shorter needles than Scotch pine, but the needles
are more numerous and remain on the tree two to three times longer.
These weather-hardy pines can grow in a variety of difficult conditions,
clinging to cracks in cliffs on rocky, wind-swept islands. The
ground cover in pine forests is made up of bilberry (Vaccinium
myrtillus) and cowberry (V. vitis-idae) surrounded
by a thick carpet of mosses, which gives way only as the forest
nears the coast.
Spruce forests occupy about one-fifth of the zapovednik, generally
preferring areas where soils are richer and sufficiently moist.
Spruce stands are generally higher than pines. The Finnish spruce
(Picea fennica) is a hybrid between Norway (Picea abies)
and Siberian spruces (Picea obovata). Mosses and berry
bushes are found in the understory.
Narrow bands of coastal meadows, swatches of
tundra, bare rock, and swamps break up the forest cover on islands
in Kandalakshsky Bay. Lichens grow on rocks, gradually eroding
the rock surface and creating suitable soil conditions for higher
plants, including pines, to take root. Coastal meadows are made
up of grasses such as red fescue (Festuca rubra), vernal
grass (Anthoxantum alpinum), meadow grass (Poa spp.),
buttercup (Ranunculus acris and others), sorrel (Rumex
thyrsiflorus and others), wood geranium (Geranium sylvaticum),
and superb pink (Dianthus superbus). Seaside plantain (Plantago
maritima) and sea aster (Aster tripolium)
grow along the tidemark.
Swamps cover about 12 percent of reserve, usually
found in flat depressions and areas with poor drainage. Sedge
(Carex) and cottongrass (Eriophorum) swamps have
plant communities made up of marsh cinquefoil (Comarum palustre),
bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata), rush (Juncus spp.),
and others. Shrub dominated swamps have heather (Calluna vulgaris),
cranberry (Oxycoccos palustris), and cloudberry (Rubus
chamaemorus). Sphagnum moss (Sphagnum spp.) is prevalent
in swampy areas and marsh tea (Ledum palustre), blueberry
(Vaccinium uliginosum), and bilberry grow on hummocks.
On the Barents Sea coast, many of the islands
are small outcrops of granite. Soft mats of rose-root stone-crop
(Rhodiola rosea) carpet the tundra, tangled with cloudberry
and crowberry (Empetrum hermaphroditum). The delicate pink
flowers of bog rosemary (Andromeda polifolia) and white
blossoms of starflower (Trientalis europaea) color the
tundra. Shrubs and dwarf trees eke out a living in these harsh
conditions. Dry, wind-swept areas are covered with lichens, while
moist areas have mosses and meadow grasses. Creeping trees with
short stalks lie close to the ground like juniper (Juniperus
sibirica), and more rarely pine, spruce, aspen, and birch.
The Lapland cinquefoil (Potentilla lapponica) is an endemic
of Kola Peninsula.
Turiy Cape, where rocky cliffs rise 100 meters
above the crashing sea, harbors unique cliff vegetation. Many
rare species for Murmansk Province are found here as well as narrow
endemics found only on the beaches of the cape Taraxacum
leucoglossum and Helianthemum arcticum. Lungwort (Lobaria
pulmonaria), another endemic to the region, is a leaf shaped
lichen that grows on the bark of deciduous trees and sometimes
on conifers. Sensitive to pollution, it is a good indicator of
air quality. Rare and endangered plants listed in the Russian
Red Book include Carex livida, Cypripedium calceolus, Calypso
bulbosa, and Draba insularis.
The seafloor is covered mainly with algae seaweeds
such as bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculous, F. serratur) and
sweet wrack (Laminaria saccharina) from 10 to 15
meters in depth. A variety of red algae (Rhodophycophyta spp.)
grow in deeper waters from 20 to 25 meters. In all, there are
300 species of lichens, 385 species of fungi, 587 higher plants,
and 200 kinds of aquatic algae in the zapovednik.
Kandalakshsky Zapovednik protects more than 350
islands in Murmansk Province on the coast of the Barents Sea and
in Kankalakshsky Bay of the White Sea. The main sections of the
zapovednik are: Ainovy Islands, Gavrilovsky and Seven Island (Sem
ostrovov) archipelagos on the shore of the Kola Peninsula in the
Barents Sea; Kandalakshskie Shkhery in the northwestern corner
of Kandalakshsky Bay; Kovdsky Peninsula on the southwestern edge
of the bay; and Porya Cove and Turiy Cape on the northern shore
of the Kandalakshsky Bay. Of the 70,500 hectares in the zapovednik,
70 percent is aquatic habitat.
The Kandalakshsky Bay extends from the main basin
of the White Sea towards the northwest and is situated almost
entirely within the Arctic Circle. Depths in the bay exceed 200
m, making it the deepest part of the White Sea. Mountains head
off the bay to the north and boreal forests meet the sea. The
tops of mountains are bare and smooth, evidence of the work of
Rivers and lakes are not numerous in the zapovednik.
The largest lakes, Serkinskoye on Turiy Cape and Big Kumyazhe
on Veliky Island, occupy 33-34 ha, and have a maximum depth of
10 meters. Other lakes are significantly smaller.
Winter is long and severe on the Kola Peninsula,
lasting from October to April and even May. June brings spring,
and summer is quick to follow. Cold winds blow in September and
bring chilly rains. The White Sea begins to freeze over, though
not completely, from October to December. The climate is warmer
than the latitude would suggest due to warm oceanic currents in
the Barents Sea. The average temperature in January is 8oC
on the Barents Sea coast, while July temperatures average +8oC.
About 600 mm of precipitation falls annually. The length of polar
day (when the sun doesnt set) and polar night (when the
sun doesnt rise) varies depending on latitude reaching
two months in the northern sections of the reserve.
The first section of Kandalakshsky Zapovednik was set aside in
1932 to protect nesting colonies of the common eider in the inner
corner of Kandalakshsky Bay. The eiders prized down was
collected for centuries and exported mostly to foreign markets.
Eider populations suffered, because in addition to collecting
down from the nests, people collected eggs and often killed the
birds. Established first as a game reserve in 1932, the territory
was granted federal strictly protected status in 1939. The territory
of the zapovednik began to expand gradually, while protection
measures and scientific monitoring became more systematic. In
1940, Veliky Island, a large island covered with boreal forests,
was included in the zapovednik. In 1951, islands from the Barents
Sea were included in the reserve Ainovy Islands in the
western part of Murmansk Province, and the Seven Islands (Sem
ostrovov), the latter having been a separate zapovednik since
1938. From 1960-1970, a number of other islands in the Kandalakshsky
Bay were granted protected status in the zapovednik, as well as
mainland territories and adjacent marine ecosystems. New sections
were included on the Barents Sea side also during this time.
Scientific research has been carried out in the zapovednik since
the early 1930s. Data has been systematically entered into the
"Chronicles of Nature" since 1939, making this an important
source of information on population dynamics of rare and common
plant and animal species and the state of ecosystems.
Today, the main goal of the zapovednik is to protect and study
natural ecosystems of marine islands and coastal areas, as well
as communities of the marine bottom in the bay. Though there are
few anthropogenic impacts today, large-scale logging and mineral
exploration were carried out on Turiy Cape until the section was
included in the zapovednik in 1977. More than 30 ha of forests
were clearcut, impacting the capes unique and endemic communities.
A striking feature of island shores is the collection of
a mass amount of drift wood lost from floating timber. The timber
litters the shores of almost all the islands and coastal mainland
areas, in some places forming serious obstructions.
Though there have not been any large oil spills, waters in the
upper parts of Kandalakshsky Bay are somewhat polluted with oil
products, impacting some seabirds, mostly eiders, gulls, and black
guillemots (Cepphus grylle). In the 1980s, more than 300
dead birds were collected. Marine invertebrates also suffer from
Human presence in the Kola Peninsula region dates back thousands
of years. Remains of settlements from 2,500 BC were found on the
coast near Seven Islands in the zapovednik.
Sokolov, V.E. and E.E. Syroechkovsky, eds. Zapovedniks of
the USSR: Western European Part of Russia I. Mysl
publishing agency, Moscow, 1988.
Zabelina, N.M, L.S. Isaeva-Petrova, and L.V. Kuleshova. Zapovedniks
and National Parks of Russia. Logata. Moscow, 1998.
Text prepared by Laura
who photographed the common eider above, has worked as a scientist
at Kandalakshsky Zapovednik for 38 years.
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