Russia announced this month the creation of the largest land and marine reserve and second-largest protected area in the country. The “New Siberian Islands” nature reserve was established in Sakha (Yakutia) Republic with the support of WWF-Russia.
The reserve will protect the unique island and marine ecosystems of the Russian Arctic, as well as part of the New Siberian Islands Polynya. Polynyas are areas of water that remain ice-free throughout the year. Thanks to an upwelling of nutrients, they teem with marine life. The New Siberian Islands Polynya is home to bearded seals, beluga whales and feeding and breeding areas for Laptev walrus and polar bears.
“We are very pleased at this long-awaited result, although we had hoped the area would include other highly valuable marine areas currently leased by the oil and gas company Rosneft.” says Irina Onufrenya, head of Arctic projects for WWF-Russia.
Located in the New Siberian Islands archipelago and the adjacent water areas of the Laptev and East Siberian Seas, the reserve covers over six million hectares including almost five million hectares of marine areas.
The reserve has important historical significance as well. The world’s largest mammoth graveyard and other remains of the Pleistocene era are found on the islands. Remains of human habitation from the Stone Age have been discovered on the island of Zhokhov in the New Siberian Islands archipelago, making this the northernmost known long-term encampment of ancient humans.
The use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) will ensure sustainable economic development and environmental safety in the Russian Arctic, says WWF. The Northern Sea Route could become the world's first transcontinental passage where ships use only LNG.
WWF-Russia's annual polar bear monitoring expedition uncovered 14 dens and the tracks of 23 cubs.