Russian Far East Rivers & Wetlands

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Khovd river with larch tree forest on mountain slopes, Altai Mountains, Mongolia.
© WWF-Canon / Hartmut JUNGIUS

About the Area

This is one of the richest freshwater ecoregions in Eurasia, particularly for fish species and ancient river systems.

Headwater streams, floodplain lakes, deltas, and highland lakes are among the diversity of habitats represented here. This freshwater area supports a high fish diversity and globally outstanding populations of salmon and sturgeon.

The mighty Amur river flows for nearly 1,900 miles (3,000 km) from the mountains and down through forests before pouring into the Tartar Strait. When the seasons change in the Russian Far East, the Amur can be hard to recognize. During the summer, monsoon rains flood parts of the river. But for six months in the winter and spring, large portions of the Amur are frozen.
Size:
2,500,000 sq. km (1,000,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Small Rivers

Geographic Location:
Eastern coast of north Asia: China, Mongolia, and Russia

Conservation Status:
Relatively Stable/Intact
Local Species
The Amur River supports more fish species than any other Russian river with over 120 species. Mollusks and crustaceans are especially diverse, comprising a special Far East complex.

In addition, the ecoregion contains some of Asia's most extensive temperate reedbeds and wet meadows. These wetlands support a rich bird fauna, including endangered cranes, along with some endemic and rare plant species.

Sturgeons and migratory salmon include Amur (Acipenser schrenckii), Sakhalin (A. mikadoi) and Kaluga (Huso dauricus) sturgeon, and Chum (Oncorhynchus keta) and Pink (O. gorbuscha) salmon. The threatened Red-crowned (Grus japonensis) and White-naped (G. vipio) cranes are protected in wetland reserves adjacent to the Amur River.

Other inhabitants include soft-skinned Far Eastern turtle (Amyda sinensis), Ussuri soft-shelled turtle (Trionyx sinensis), Amur pike (Esox reichertii), Amur whitefish (Coregonus ussuriensis), the mussel - Middendorffinaia ussuriensis, and Long-tailed clawed salamander (Onychodactylus fischeri).

Featured species

Salamander

The word "salamander" is the name for an entire group, or scientific order, of amphibians that have tails as adults. They have moist, smooth skin like frogs, and long tails like lizards. Most salamanders are small, and few species are more than 6 inches (15 centimeters) long. Their heads are narrow and they have small eyes.

A salamander’s hind legs grow more slowly than its front legs. All four legs on a salamander are so short that its belly drags on the ground. Since salamanders need to stay cool and moist to survive, those that live on land are found in shady forested areas. They spend most of their time staying out of the sun under rocks and logs, up in trees, or in burrows they’ve dug in the damp earth.

All salamanders are carnivores, but they are seldom in a hurry to catch their meals. Because they move more slowly than other meat eaters, salamanders tend to eat slow-moving, soft-bodied creatures such as earthworms, slugs, and snails. Larger species may eat fish, crayfish, and small mammals such as mice and shrews.

Read more:
Threats
Fishing pressure in parts of this ecoregion is intense, including poaching of salmon on breeding grounds for roe, and drift netting for salmon in international waters. In addition to damaging activities such as mining and logging, oil and gas drilling threaten fish habitat through dumping of drilling mud and the potential of oil spills.
WWF’s work

26 Oct 2004
Amur River Basin, Russia - WWF welcomes a Russian Province's decision to sign an agreement that promotes cooperation in managing the Amur River. According to WWF Russia, 50 years of unregulated economic development has lead to a dramatic reduction of the basin's forest, fish, and wildlife resources, including the loss of more than six million hectares of wetlands.

WWF Russia seeks to implement an integrated approach to solve river basin issues and restore the balance of nature and people in the river basins through better governance of water resources, ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation, and environment management through information sharing, demonstration and public participation.

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