The important work of the Lena Delta Research Station

Posted on 06 June 2011

Celebrating 50 years of WWF: When it comes to conservation work in the Arctic, it can help to have friends in high places (and we're not just talking about latitude!) In 1995 His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, WWF president from 1981-1996, took part in an event that earmarked the Lena River Delta of the Russian Arctic as a key site for the environmental monitoring of arctic ecosystems.
When it comes to conservation work in the Arctic, it can help to have friends in high places (and we're not just talking about latitude!)

In 1995 His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, WWF president from 1981-1996, took part in an event that earmarked the Lena River Delta of the Russian Arctic as a key site for the environmental monitoring of arctic ecosystems.

Prince Philip officially opened the International Biological Station Lena-Nordenskjold, a scientific facility brought about through a memorandum of understanding between the Republic of Sakha and WWF-Sweden.

The station’s mission is to undertake complex research of arctic ecosystems, observe their biodiversity and conduct ecological monitoring. The IBS was located here because the Lena River Delta is one of the key regions in the Arctic due to its sheer land mass, unique research opportunities, flora, fauna and range of species.

Spanning more than 28,000 square kilometres, the region offers nearly every main type of arctic landscape. Typical northern tundra is found in the northwest of the delta, while to the southwest and the southeast are islands with their own specific landscape. The foothills of the Kharaulahsky mountain range and Chekanovsky chain of hills form complex mountain terrain.

There are numerous bodies of water, river branches and a nearby estuary zone. The flora and fauna in the delta is particularly rich and varied and is a main nesting habitat for migratory birds. Mammals range from tundra, mountain and northern-boreal species.

The Lena River Delta is also a significant accumulator of the polluted substances contained in runoff.

The region contains both protected lands and industrial areas allowing for the study of human influence on the region’s environment and natural biological processes.

The flora and fauna in the delta is particularly rich and varied, boasting 373 plant species, 106 types of moss and 74 lichen species allowing research into geobotanical, ecological and ecological-biochemical aspects.

The Lena River Delta is also a main nesting habitat for migratory birds. The intercontinental ties, flight paths and distances flown by delta birds is quite likely unique in the Arctic. The study of these birds such as Bewick’s Swan, Black Brant, the Snow Goose, Common and Steller’s Elders, Sabine’s and Ross’ Gulls and Peregrine Falcon is of particular interest and value to the type of research undertaken by the IBS Lena-Nordenskjold.

Mammals range from tundra, mountain and northern-boreal species. Caribou and Arctic fox are the most important species from the viewpoint of those Indigenous peoples who rely on them for their own consumption.

There are also five species of sea mammals, including walrus, whose herd populations are under threat. Ongoing studies undertaken by the researchers at the IBS will help to monitor and understand the declines and lay the groundwork for effective conservation actions.

Prince Philip's visit to Khatanga, Taimyr in 1995.
© WWF / Peter Prokosch
The Lena River, some 4,400 kilometres (2,800 miles) long, is one of the largest rivers in the world. The Lena Delta Reserve is the most extensive protected wilderness area in Russia. It is an important refuge and breeding grounds for many species of Siberian wildlife.
© NASA Landsat Project Science Office and USGS National Center for EROS