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Marine Heritage expedition gets underway

Marine Heritage expedition gets underway

An expedition organized by the Marine Heritage: Studying and Preserving Association set off from Murmansk on July 30. It will conduct biodiversity and ecosystems research in various parts of the Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land archipelagos, the association's press service told arctic.ru.

The expedition was commissioned by the UN Development Program (UNDP). 

A team comprising five crewmembers and six researchers (ecologists, biologists and geographers) set off aboard the Alter Ego yacht from Rybny Berth. It prepared a special program to mark 100 years since the Krasin icebreaker's first Arctic voyage. 

Upon reaching high latitudes, the expedition will perform comprehensive analysis of the biota of two archipelagos, Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land, and continue years-long studies of marine ecosystems, including freshwater ecosystems on remote Arctic islands. Another important task assigned to the team is to describe plant communities and make preparations for long-term monitoring.

Significantly, the team will assess the vulnerability of coastal areas to potential oil and oil products spills, the association said in a press release. All elements of the ecosystems will be studied: microbiota, mushrooms, mosses and lichens, embryophytes, invertebrate and vertebrate animals, as well as key abiotic factors (including geochemistry and hydrochemistry). This complex approach will make it possible to use the research data to restore ecosystems if potential industrial accidents cause an extinction of communities. Subsequent genetic tests on the collected samples will shed light into the evolution of plant and animal species on Arctic archipelagos.

"The historical and cultural heritage linked to the exploration and research of Arctic archipelagos will also be studied. At Cape Norway on Jackson Island, we will monitor the sites connected with Fridtjof Nansen's unprecedented wintering during his famous expedition aboard the Fram ship in 1895-1896," the report says.