A thorough wildlife survey of the Russian Arctic National Park, sponsored by WWF, will help support the creation of a buffer zone around the park as oil and gas development continues to push north in the Arctic.
The expedition brought Arctic researchers, park staff and WWF experts to the park to study a range of wildlife, from birds to polar bears.
Some of the findings from the expedition:
- The researchers collected a large amount of new information on a rare reindeer subspecies.
- Researchers noted an absence of walrus in areas where the animals had regularly come ashore in the past, which they attributed to the late melting of the ice cover in the Barents and Kara Seas.
- At least five polar bear maternity dens were found, and researchers took tissue samples and measurements from one adult male bear.
- Several species of birds were recorded for the first time in the park. Scientists also collected much-needed updates on the species composition and abundance of seabird colonies on Gemskerk Island.
"The Park needs a protective zone”, says expedition scientist Ivan Mizin. “Thanks to the data collected during the expedition, we will be able to prepare a rationale for its creation".
Encompassing the northern part of Novaya Zemlya and some adjacent marine areas, the Russian Arctic National Park was established in 2009 following an extensive WWF campaign. Despite the park's protected status, offshore oil leases have been granted around its boundaries. An official buffer zone would push future development projects further from the park.