Development of biodiversity components monitoring program on Bely island in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug

Development of biodiversity components monitoring program on Bely island in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug
Long-tailed duck. Photo by D. Nizovtsev

The tundra-covered Bely island in the Kara sea is the northernmost point of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. It's latitude is 73˚20′ N. The nature in the most parts of the island has not been strongly affected by human activities. There is no domestic reindeer husbandry, only a small number of wild reindeer, which ensures the completeness of tundra biological community components in the area. Since 1933 M.V. Popov hydrometeorological polar station has been operating on Bely island. In recent years the island became an object of close attention of climatologists, studying climate change in northern latitudes measuring greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 

But to ensure comprehensive monitoring it is necessary to observe biodiversity including birds. 

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Steller's eider

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Sabine's gull
Foto by D. Nizovtsev
The main objective of the BirdsRussia project was to develop a framework for monitoring biodiversity components of Bely island and to start work on a new program. In July 2014, participants of ornithological expedition established three monitoring sites and conducted first counts. About 13 square kilometers of tundra were observed during a seven-day excursion to Polar station and another 27 square kilometers — during ten-day trip to the eastern coast of the island. The total number of encountered bird species was 43, out of 61 species ever encountered on the island. Groups of reindeer up to 35 individuals were encountered daily and a polar bear was spotted twice.  

White-fronted and brent geese fly though the Bely island and during the work on the project two types of their migration were identified, both in the eastern direction. In the first part of June spring overflight to the nesting sites occurs and a bit later from the beginning of July to approximately July, 20 geese fly over to the Taimyr peninsula in Pyasina river delta where a unique place of mass molting is located, recognised as a Key ornithological territory. These features of migration have to be taken into account when organizing ornithological monitoring. 

There are also geese breeding colonies on Bely island. Brent geese nest in the north-western part of the island where we found 17 nests, and white-fronted geese are scattered throughout the island. In total we counted 155 nests during our work. Geese begin eggs laying on June 23-27. Sandpipers breed everywhere on the island; we counted 15 species, seven of which were nesting. For the first time nesting of Sabine's gulls — small-numbered Arctic species — was registered on the island. 7 species of passerine birds were encountered, the most widespread of which was snow bunting. 

Biodiversity components monitoring program on Bely island is an action plan aimed at adequate estimation of current status of animal populations, change of this status in time and space, estimation of human impact on the environment, sustainable use of natural resources (for example, ecological tourism in the north) or climate change in the region.  


The project managers is the vice-president of BirdsRussia, Doctor of Biological Sciences Segei Pavlovich Kharitonov (serpkh @

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