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Established: 1980
Size: 41,615 ha (416 km2)
Buffer Zone:

Contact information:
Belyanin, Vladimir Nikolaevich, Director

Russia, 187710, Leningrad oblast, Lodeinoye Pole, ul. Pravy bereg r. Svir, 1

Tel: (7-812-64) 2-63-61
Email: orlan@orlan.spb.su

© 2001 Anatoly Smirnov

The chilly waters of Lake Ladoga lap at the shores of Nizhnesvirsky Zapovednik, which protects Svir Cove on its southeastern coast, as well as the mosaic of taiga forests, sphagnum swamps, and muskeg bogs beyond. Less than a five-hour drive from the major city of St. Petersburg, large predators like bears, wolves, and lynx find sanctity is this nature reserve’s secluded forests. Most importantly, Nizhnesvirsky Zapovednik, named for the Svir River along its southern boundary, protects critical stopover areas for migratory birds along the North Atlantic flyway, which travel each year from wintering areas in the south to nesting areas in northern Russia.

Nizhnesvirsky Zapovednik Images

Nizhnesvirsky Zapovednik Facts

Nizhnesvirsky Zapovednik in Russian Conservation News journal:


Images of Nizhnesvirsky Zapovednik
Click on each photo to see a large version.

© 2001 Anatoly Smirnov

Moose migrate along the coast of Lake Ladoga seasonally.

© 2001 Igor Shpilenok

Swamps cover a third of the reserve's territory.

© 2001 Anatoly Smirnov

The call of the whimbrel consists of staccato chirping.

© 2001 Anatoly Smirnov

Purple flowers of goslings emerge as soon as the snow melts.

Igor Shpilenok

Beavers alter forest ecosystems and create wetland habitats.


© 2001 Anatoly Smirnov

Capercailles gather at leks to put on elaborate mating displays.

© 2001 Anatoly Smirnov

Brown bear is one of the 13 predatory mammals in the reserve.

© 2001 Anatoly Smirnov

Beavers fell large trees to get to the succulent buds on top.


Zapovednik Facts:


The patchwork of wetlands and forests that fronts Lake Ladoga is home to 13 species of predatory mammals, including such large carnivores as wolves (Canis lupus), brown bear (Ursus arctos), and lynx (Felix lynx). Badgers (Meles meles) and foxes (Vulpes vulpes) dig out burrows on spits of earth to raise their young. Ermine (Mustela erminea), weasel (M. nivalis), European mink (M. lutreola), and pine marten (Martes martes), all members of the Mustelidae family, are smaller predators that thrive on rodents, birds, and other prey. American mink (M. vision) and raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procynonoides) were acclimated to European Russia from the 1930s to the 1960s and are now widespread. The raccoon dog is the most numerous among canines in the reserve, especially along the coast of Lake Ladoga. The American mink occupied the niche of its native cousin, causing it to become rare. Wolverines (Gulo gulo) intermittently wander into the reserve, and the Ladoga seal (Phoca hispida) can occasionally be seen splashing in the waves of Svir Cove.

Among the 29 other mammals that live in Nizhnesvirsky Zapovednik, moose (Alces alces) are perhaps the most notable. Moose migrate through the reserve seasonally, and the population fluctuates from about 150 to 250 during wintertime. Mountain hare (Lepus timidus) concentrate in overgrown clearcuts and along the banks of the Svir and Lakhtinsky coves in winter, where they nibble on shoots of willow (Salix spp.), aspen (Populus tremula), mountain ash (Sorbus spp.), and other thickets and trees.

Of the 14 members of the rodent family in the reserve, none have more impact on native habitats than the busy beaver (Castor fiber). The animals were nearly hunted to extinction at the end of the 19th century, but have made a strong comeback since the 1970s: today, there are more than 30 beaver colonies in the zapovednik. These little "poachers" fell large trees to get at the succulent buds and young shoots at the top and build dams to create small ponds. On the other hand, a number of animals and plants thrive in the wake of the beaver’s ruin, gnawing on the bark and branches of fallen trees, hiding in hollow trunks, and feeding on plentiful fish in the beaver’s pond. Otters (Lutra lutra) might fish in a beaver pond, but red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) are likely to be less than thrilled when one of their favorite trees comes down. Smaller rodents in the zapovednik include the common shrew (Sorex aranues) and bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus), which prefer forest habitats in the reserve. Insectivores include the common mole (Talpa europaea), found in forest meadows, the pygmy and least shrews (Sorex minutis, S. minutis-simus), and the Eurasian shrew (Neomys fodiens). Several species of bats, including Northern bat (Vespertilio nillsoni), are regularly caught in nets set up for catching birds on the coast of Lake Ladoga.

Nizhnesvirsky Zapovednik protects important stopover areas for migratory birds along routes that cross the White and Baltic seas on the North Atlantic flyway. Each year, tens of thousands of ducks, swans, geese and waders stop in the Svir Cove of Lake Ladoga to refuel before flying north to their nesting areas. A number of birds stay in the reserve to nest. Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) and green-winged teals (A. crecca) are the most numerous ducks on Lake Ladoga. Mew gull (Larus canus) and little gull (L. minutus) are two of the many gull species that nest here along with smaller terns (Chlidonias niger and Sterna hirundo). Green and wood sandpipers (Tringa ochropus, T. glareola), greater greenshank (T. nebularia), common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), and ruff (Philomachus pugnax) are some of the other waders that can be seen probing Ladoga’s shores. Male ruffs have strikingly colorful green and purple breeding plumage on their backs. The great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus), with its pointed headdress, is common in Lake Ladoga and in lakes in the Svir River floodplain. Wetland birds include common crane (Grus grus), and whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus), with its slender, long, curved beak.

In all, 261 birds have been noted in the zapovednik. The large number is due to the diversity of habitats suitable for forest-dwelling, swamp, and meadow bird species. While the lake and other freshwater habitats attract a multitude of birds, most of the bird species in the zapovednik are found in taiga communities. Forest-dwelling birds include Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), Northern goshawk (A. gentilis), Northern hobby (Falco subbuteo), and grouses — Northern black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), Northern hazelhen (Tetrastes bonasia), and capercaille (Tetro urogallus). Eurasian woodcock (Scolopax rusticola), wood pigeon (Columba palumbrus), and many species of owls, woodpeckers, and sparrows also thrive in the reserve’s protected forests.

White-tailed sea-eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), osprey (Pandion haliaetus), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), and black stork (Ciconia nigra) are some of the rare and endangered bird species protected in the reserve. The white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) is rare for northwestern Europe.

A representative array of amphibians and reptiles is protected in the reserve: of the seven species of amphibians and five species of reptiles recorded in Leningrad Oblast, four of each are found in Nizhnesvirksy Zapovednik. Common toad (Bufo bufo) and moor frog (Rana terrestris) are common amphibians, while northern viper (Vipera berus) and slow worm (Anguis fragilis) pervade in dry forest stands. More than 30 species of fish are found in the waters of Lake Ladoga and the Svir River. Pike perch (Esox lucius), sander (Stizostedion spp.), bass (Perea fluviatilis), bream (Abramis spp.), and sometimes lake salmon (Salmo salar sebago) spawn in the reserve.


Nizhnesvirsky Zapovednik is located in the southern to central belt of taiga vegetation, in the transition zone between Siberian taiga and European broadleaf forests. Plant communities are typical of boreal forest ecosystems. Forests cover approximately half the territory, while swamps and wetlands cover more than a third of the zapovednik. In addition, 5,000 ha of aquatic habitat in the Svir Cove of Lake Ladoga are protected in the zapovednik. Sandy shores, forest meadows, and abandoned agricultural fields occupy about two percent of the territory.

Dry conifer forests, made up primarily of Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris), thrive on small spits of higher ground in the reserve and sandy ridges that run parallel to Lake Ladoga. The forest floor is covered with spongy lichens, tangy red cowberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), sweet bilberries (V. myrtillus), and small pink flowers of heather (Calluna vulgaris). Norway spruce stands (Picea abies) occupy a small part of the reserve, primarily to the north of Gumbarka River near the shore of Lake Ladoga. White birch (Betula pubescens) and pine trees intermix on areas of moist ground in the northern part of the reserve. Swamps and transitional muskeg bogs with low, sparse trees and sphagnum swamps with thickets are scattered throughout the zapovednik.

More than 520 species of higher plants have been identified in the reserve, although new species continue to be recorded. Common plants found in swamp and bog communities include sheathing cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum), cranberry (Oxycoccus palustris), and the pleasingly aromatic marsh tea (Ledum palustre). Typical shade-tolerant plants found in forests are northern twinflower (Linnaea borealis), May lily (Maianthemum bifolium), and chickweed wintergreen (Trientalis europaea). Meadow vegetation consists of tall buttercup (Ranunculus acris), the medicinal sweet vernal grass (Hierochloe odorata), and others. Very few species of temperate and subarctic zones are found in the reserve. The only widespread representatives of temperate forests are purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea) and lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis). Subartic plants are cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), hagerup (Empetrum hermaphroditum), and dwarf birch (Betula nana).

Rare plant species for northwestern Russia include water chickweed (Montia fontana), mudwort (Limosella aquatica), superb pink (Diantha superbus), Tatar catchfly (Silene tatarica), water-purslane (Peplis portula), rice cutgrass (Leersia oryzoides), and Siberian lettuce (Lactuca sibirica). Twenty-five species are rare for Leningrad Oblast, including all species of orchids, clubmoss, common thyme (Thymus vulgaris), male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas), and others.

Geographical Features

Nizhnesvirsky Zapovednik is located 240 kilometers northeast of St. Petersburg in the northeast of Leningrad Oblast. The reserve and its headquarters are situated in Lodeinopolsky district. The Svir River forms the border of the zapovednik to the south and southeast. The northern border of the reserve follows the administrative boundary between the Karelia and Leningrad regions. The western border of the zapovednik runs through Svir Cove of Lake Ladoga at a distance of one to 3.2 kilometers from the shore. The eastern border of the nature reserve does not run along any natural boundaries but stops 10 to 12 kilometers short of the Lodeinoye Pole — Olonets highway, running nearly parallel to it.

Lake Ladoga, part of which is protected by the zapovednik, is one of the largest lakes in the world, stretching 219 km with an average width of 83 km. The average depth of the lake is 51 meters, while the maximum depth is 230 meters (in the northern part). Waters in Svir Cove, which are protected by the zapovednik, average five meters in depth and contain shallow water ecosystems.

The relief of the reserve is mostly flat, although raised sand ridges stretch along Lake Ladoga’s shore, formed by the shrinking of the lake and glacial movements. The highest parts of the zapovednik are 22-24 meters above sea level. The climate is generally continental. Movement of air masses from different directions influences local climate conditions. Fronts from the Atlantic Ocean cause the weather to change frequently. In the summertime, these air currents often result in cloudy, rainy, and cool weather. Cool temperatures in early summer delay the start of the vegetative season and lower the survival rate of offspring of a number of animals and birds. The average annual temperature is 2.9oC. The coldest temperatures are in January, when the average is -10oC, while July temperatures average 17oC. Rain and snow fall 200 days a year, resulting in an annual average of about 630 mm of precipitation, the majority of which occurs as snow from November to February.

Conservation Status

Nizhnesvirsky Zapovednik was created in 1980 for the preservation and study of natural ecosystems along the southeastern shores of Lake Ladoga, particularly in light of population growth and intensive economic development in and around the city of St. Petersburg.

Unfortunately, at the time of the reserve’s creation, the northern boundary was drawn along administrative lines (the border between Leningrad and Karelia regions), which resulted in the inclusion of only the southern part of the Segezhsky Swamp and Segezhskoye Lake (18 km2) freshwater system in the reserve. The later creation of a zakanik (nature refuge) of regional jurisdiction in Karelia has in part secured the northern portion of this ecosystem, but a higher level of protection would better guarantee long-term conservation.

The reserve has research stations on Lake Ladogda and in the woods. Here zapovednik staff, as well as specialists from St. Petersburg University, the Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and scientists from Finland, Germany, and other countries, come to study plants and animals protected in the reserve. The reserve is especially favored by bird-lovers, in part due to the Gumbaritsy Ornithological Station on Lake Laadoga, which captures and rings thousands of birds each year.


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. Mosow, 1998.

Text prepared by Laura Williams.


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