Kara Sea

Great Arctic Nature Reserve, great estuaries, and great gas fields

I. Map boundaries: 70 to 80 degrees North; 60 to 90 degrees East

II. Country: Russia (Archangel Oblast: Nenetsia Autonomous Region-Vaygach Island and Archangel Oblast-Novaya Zemlya, Krasnoyarsk Oblast, and Tyumen Oblast: Yamilia Autonomous Region)

III. Overview

High arctic tundra surrounds the Kara Sea, and the sea itself is notable for its extensive area of shallow continental shelf. To the west of the Kara Sea is Novaya Zemyla, and the north island (Severny) is shown on the map. Cape Zhelaniya at the tip of the north island is considered to the northeast tip of Europe. To the south and east are the high arctic islands of Russia, the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas, and the Pyasina Delta and islands. The Yenisei River and Bay represents a biogeographical boundary between the western and eastern Siberian floras. Sibiryakova Island and the Gydan Peninsula are part of the western area and the mainland just to the east in the Pyasina watershed is part of the eastern flora area.

The Ob River estuary (Ob Gulf) is the longest in the world. The river itself is the world’s 5th longest. Also on the map is the estuary of the Yenesey River, which is the 6th longest river. Two large Ramsar sites, wetlands of international importance, have been designated along the Yenisei River and along the Pura River. The largest nature reserve in Europe, the Great Arctic, extends along many of the coastal and island areas in the eastern part of the map area. The reserve includes the Willem Barents Biological Station, a joint Russian-Dutch research station for the study of lemmings and nesting birds in the Arctic.

The Bovanenkovo Production Zone being developed on the Yamal Peninsula is one of the newest and northernmost gas fields being developed. A railroad to Bovanenkovo was completed in 2009. The Arctic continental shelves are a major future prospective area for oil and gas. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the shallow continental shelves of the Kara Sea are estimated to contain more than 10 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and more than 100 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered gas.

Novaya Zemlya (New Land) has a history of nuclear impacts. From 1954 to 1990, it was used as a nuclear test site. From 1965 to 1988, six nuclear submarine reactors and ten nuclear reactors were dumped in its fjords.

IV. Ecoregions and Provinces/Political Subdivisions of the Palearctic (PA) Biome


1101, Arctic Desert. Found in Novaya Zemlya (Severny Island), and Vize Island of Krasnoyarsk. The most northern and isolated tundra landscape includes isolated islands in the Arctic Ocean.

1108, Northwest Russian-Novaya Zemlya tundra. Found on Vaygach Island of Nenetsia. Low wet tundra on flat coastal plain.

1111, Taimyr-Central Siberian tundra. Found east of Yenesey River in Krasnoyarsk and on nearby islands in Kara Sea. Also found on outlying Kara Sea islands including Uyedineniya, Sergey Kirov, Arctic Institute, and Sverdrup islands. Noted as a very boggy tundra of sedge, cottongrass, heather, and willow.

1114, Yamalagydanskaja tundra. Found on Yamal and Gydan peninsulas and in Krasnoyarsk to the west of the Yenesey River; also found on southern Kara Sea Islands including Bely and Oleni of Yamalia and Sibiryakova of Krasnoyarsk.

V. Freshwater Ecoregions of the World

Polar freshwater in habitat type

Europe and Middle East Region

407. Barents Sea Drainages. Includes Vaygach Island and Severny Island of Novaya Zemlya (New Land) on map.

Northern Asia Region

602, Ob. Includes Yamal Peninsula and Gyda Peninsula on map. Fifth largest drainage basin in the world, includes southern and eastern parts of map area. Fish species include arctic migratory species such as tugan, peled, muksun, and char and boreal river species of pike, dace, and perch.

605. Yenisey. The sixth longest river in the world, with the largest in volume in Russia.

607. Taimyr. Includes Pyasina drainage on map area and Khariton Laptev coast. The extensive lowlands of the Khariton Laptev coast grade into the Byrranga Mountains just to the south.

VI. Marine Ecoregions of the World (MEOW)

Arctic Realm

17. Kara Sea. Includes all of map area except to the north of Novaya Zemlya.

18. North and East Barents Sea. Includes area to the north of Severny Island (Novaya Zemlya)

VII. Ramsar Sites

Brekhovsky Islands in Yenisey Estuary. Also an important bird area. Found in Krasnoyarsk. A network of rivers, streams, and islands with meadows, willows, and alders in a shrub tundra noted for breeding red-breasted goose and swans. Ecoregions 1111, 1114 and MEOW 17.

Purinsky Reserve. Also an important bird area. Found in Krasnoyarsk. A hilly area bordered by the Pura, Pyasina, Agapa, and Mokoritto rivers with an extensive network of rivers, streams and lakes, creating diverse Arctic tundra habitats for breeding waterbirds and red-breasted goose. Also a refuge for wild reindeer. Ecoregion 1114.

VIII. Other Sites

Arkhangelskaya Bay, Archangel. Important Bird Area and breeding area for Little Auk. Proposed for inclusion in the Willem Barents Memorial Park, which would include the northern areas of Severny Island within the map area. Ecoregions PA 1101 and Marine Ecoregion 18.

Franz Joseph Land Nature Reserve. Occupies waters in northwest part of map area. Marine Ecoregion 18.

Great Arctic Nature Reserve, Krasnoyarsk. Large nature reserve established to preserve nesting birds to east and north of Yenisey River gulf. The Dixon-Sibiryakovsky section includes Sibiryakova Island (an important bird area) and adjoining islands and a mainland section around the Willem Barents Biological Station. The Kara Sea Islands section includes the Serguey Kirov islands, Voronina Island (to east of map area), Izvestiy Tsik Islands (an important bird area), Arctic Institute Islands, Sverdrup Island, and Uedineniya Island. The Pyasinsky section includes the delta of the Pyasina River (also an important bird area), eastern Pyasinsky Bay, and the Khariton Lapitev Coast. Ecoregions PA 1111 and PA 1114.

Gydansky Nature Reserve, Yamalia. Includes diverse terrain of northern Gydan Peninsula, preserving waterfowl nesting areas, polar bear, and walrus. Includes Oleni Island and Yuratsky Bay, an Important Bird Area, and Vilkitsky, Neupokoyeva, and Shokalsky islands to the north of the peninsula. Ecoregion PA1114.

Vaygach Island, Nenetsia. A large tundra island used by nesting geese and swans. Ecoregion PA 1108.

IX. References

Abell, Robin et al. 2008. Freshwater Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Biogeographic Units for Freshwater Biodiversity Conservation. Bioscience 58:403-414.

BirdLife International. 2008. BirdLife’s Online World Bird Database. Accessed 29/12/2008 at www.birdlife.org

Boere, Gerard and Bart Fokkens. 2007. Fifteen Years of Cooperation on Environmental Protection Between Russia and the Netherlands, 1991 to 2006. Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (Netherlands) and Ministry of Natural Resources (Russian Federation. www.verkeerenwaerstaat.nl/kennisplein/3/6/362401/15-jaar-Rusland.pdf (accessed 6/20/2010).

Center for Russian Nature Conservation, Washington, DC. www.wild-russia.org (accessed October 18, 2009).

Ebbings, Barwolt S. 2000. Dark-bellied goose research on Taimyr: practical experience and links to conservation. In Perspectives for Russian Arctic Conservation in a Circumpolar Context. International Biological Station Lena-Nordenskiold, Russia, 22-29 July 2000. Workshop Summary. World Wildlife Fund Arctic Programme, Oslo, Norway. http://assets.panda.org/downloads/lenadeltareportv2.pdf (accessed 6/20/2010).

Gautier, Donald L., Kenneth J. Bird, Ronald R. Charpentier, Arthur Grantz, David W. Houseknecht, Timothy R. Klett, Thomas E. Moore, Janet K. Pitman, Christopher J. Schenk, John H. Schuenemeyer, Kai Sorensen, Marilyn E. Tennyson, Zenon C. Valin, and Craig J. Wandrey. 2009. Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas in the Arctic. Science 324:1175-1179.

Great Arctic Nature Reserve. http://www.bigarctic.ru (accessed 7/3/2010).

Nikiforov, Viktor and Vasilisa Mescherskaya. 1999. Protected Areas Across the Russian Arctic. World Wildlife Fund Arctic Bulletin No. 4-99, pp. 12-14 http://www.ngo.grida.no/wwfap/pdf/ab0499.pdf (accessed 7/3/2010).

Nikiforov,Victor. 1997. The Gydan Peninsula Protected as Russia Creates Its 96th Strict Nature Reserve. World Wildlife Fund Arctic Bulletin No. 1, p. 15.

Olson et al., 2001. Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Life on Earth. BioScience 51:933-938. WildWorld map: www.nationalgeographic.com/wildworld

Protected Areas of Russia. Franz Josef Land Reserve. http://oopt.info/index.php?oopt=716 (Accessed 7/5/2010).

Ramsar Secretariat. www.ramsar.wetlands.org

Russian Academy of Sciences, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution. www.sevin.ru/natreserves (accessed October 18, 2009).

Russians Admit Reactor Dumping. Science 259:1119 (1993).

Spalding, Mark D. et al. 2007. Marine Ecoregions of the World: A Bioregionalization of Coastal and Shelf Areas. BioScience 57:573-583.