Marine Heritage expedition reviews preliminary results
© Vladimir Melnik

Marine Heritage expedition reviews preliminary results

An expedition organized by the Marine Heritage: Studying and Preserving Association on a motor yacht covered 3,500 kilometers on a Murmansk-Novaya Zemlya-Franz Josef Land route, including some 100 kilometers along the northwestern coast of Novaya Zemlya and about 700 km in the Franz Josef Land Archipelago. The crew made 16 landings on 14 islands, the project's organizers told

Also, researchers monitored 12 Atlantic walrus breeding grounds and four ivory gull breeding grounds, plus several seabird colonies.

"The low animal counts at the breeding grounds this season could be the result of the ice to the north of Franz Josef Land and windstorms to the south. Animals prefer to stay on ice or in the open sea under these conditions. Thus, only about 25 animals were found on Apollonov Island, where up to 1,000 walruses can be seen in some years. Another 100 walruses remained in the adjacent waters. Researchers collected 17 walrus biopsy samples for a population genetic test," expedition research head Maria Gavrilo said.

Researchers collected samples of plants, microbiota, invertebrate animals, and zooplankton and benthos from offshore areas during the expedition. The team also conducted botanical research: they selected 16 samples of elevated vegetable mass and root systems, recorded 30 descriptions on sites based on a method to support geobotanical profiles and over 70 route descriptions, and they also collected herbarial specimens.

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. The crew prepared a special program to mark 100 years since the Krasin icebreaker's first Arctic voyage. 

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