The underwater world of the Dalnevostochny Morskoy Zapovednik
(Far Eastern Marine Reserve), occupying 98 percent of the reserves
territory, is truly spectacular. Peter the Great Bay is the most
biologically productive part of the Sea of Japan and has the highest
level of marine diversity of any sea in Russia. Through the clear
blue-green water, one can spot schools of silver fish ebbing and
flowing with the waves, transparent jellyfish floating in the
current, and the glowing shapes of single-celled organisms rising
in the water column. Each of the numerous stratums from the surface
to about 20 meters below has its own conglomeration of plants
and animals, whose lives are intimately intertwined. Below 20
meters, in the dark world where the suns rays never penetrate,
diversity declines and the sand and silt covered sea floor is
reminiscent of an underwater arctic desert.
There are more than 2,000 species of marine invertebrates in
Peter the Great Bay. Starfish (Asterias amurensis, Distolasterrias
nipon) live on the upper layers of the sea floor, where they
occur in a variety of forms and colors, from deep red to violet
blue. Kamchatka crabs (Paralithodes camtschatica), Japanese
sea cucumbers (Stichopus japonicus), Japanese scallops
(Mizuhopecten yessoensis), prickly sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus
nudus, S. intermedius) and brightly colored sea anemones (Actiniae)
are also found here. Colonies of Grays mussel (Crenomytilus
grayanus) hold fast to rocks free of algae from about 1.5
to 15 meters below sea level. Numerous tiny invertebrates make
their homes in and among the mussels. Sponges (Spongia, Bryozoa),
Hydrozoa, and ascidians (Halocynthis roretzi, H. durantium)
cling to mussel shells. Ascidians are fascinating underwater organisms.
Their reddish-orange sack-like bodies have two openings for filtering
plankton out of the water. The high concentration of vanadium
in their blood &emdash; giving it a green color &emdash; helps
the organisms oxygenate their blood. Mussels, which are highly
productive throughout their extended lifetimes of 100 years or
more, are an important food source for many underwater organisms
such as fish, starfish, seals, marine birds, and others.
Giant octopuses (Octopus dofleini) camouflage themselves
by changing colors to match the rocks and boulders on the sea
floor. They prefer waters where salinity is less than 30 percent.
When disturbed, they eject an ink-like spew and change colors,
quickly darting to a new hideout. Octopuses feed on mollusks,
bottom-dwelling fish, and crabs, catching them with the suction
cups on their arms. In turn, octopuses are hunted by sharks and
seals, which migrate to the waters from the south. Near river
and stream estuaries, where salty seawater is diluted by freshwater,
commercially valuable giant oysters (Crasostrea gigas or
Ostrea laperousi) adhere to rocky
surfaces. Oysters feed mostly on plankton and diatoms (Chrisophita),
which they filter out of the water.
Arctic species of fish dominate the reserves water in wintertime,
including Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus), navaga (Eleginus
gracilis), halibut (Atheresthes reinhardtius), and
tiny capelin (Mallotus villosus). Three-striped and white-edged
rockfish (Sebastes trivittatus, S. taczanowski) are common
inhabitants of the Sea of Japan. In the summer, the seas warm
up and cold-water species retreat to the deep sea, and are replaced
by over 100 warm-water species, such as pacific needle-fish (Strongylura
anastomella). Exotic species like the hammerhead shark (Sphyrna
zygaena), swordfish (Xiphias gladius), and flying fish
(Exocoetus volitans) also appear on occasion.
Benthic, or bottom-dwelling species, such as flounder (Kareius
bicoloratus, Glyptocephalus stelleri), make up 60 percent
of the 278 species of fish identified in Peter the Great Bay.
Marine mammals in the bay include the common porpoise (Phocaenoides
dalli) and common seal (Phoca vitulina). Whales and
other mammals, such as the false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens)
and sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus), migrate into the waters
occasionally. Breeding and haul-out areas for Larga seal (Phoca
largha) are protected on islands in the reserve.
More than 360 species of birds are found in the terrestrial areas
of the reserve, which occupies only two percent of its area. Large
bird colonies along the seashore are inhabited by cormorants (Phalacrocorax
filamentosus, Ph. carbo, Ph. pelagicus), loons (Gavia arctica,
G. stellata), thin- and thick-billed murres (Uria aale,
U. lomvia), Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica),
spectacled guillemot (Cepphus carbo), ancient murrelet
(Synthliboramphus antiquus), and others. More than 40,000
birds nest in colonies on Furugelm Island alone. These birds fly
south in the winter, and are replaced by birds that migrate here
for the winter from more northern climates. The reserve protects
the largest nesting colonies in the world for black-tailed gulls
(Larus crassirostris) and Japanese cormorants. The shelduck (Tadorna
cristrata) and Chinese egret (Egretta eulophotes) are
two of the rare bird species that nest in the reserve.
The handful of terrestrial mammals that inhabit
the coastal islands of the reserve feed on marine
mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish washed ashore
by tidal waves. Only three rodents &emdash; forest
mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), field mouse
(A. agrarius), and field vole
(Microtus), and two carnivores &emdash;
Siberian polecat (Mustela sibirica) and
raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procynooides)
&emdash; are found on the islands of the reserve.
Bats, non-poisonous snakes, toads, and lizards also
inhabit the islands. Sika deer (Cervus
nippon), fox (Vulpes vulpes), and wild
cat (Felis euptilura) are sometimes seen on
along the coast of the mainland territory of the
Eight hundred species of algae have been identified in the rich
waters of the zapovednik. Vegetative zones are divided into narrow
bands, or stratums, found at varying depths of the sea floor.
Starting from the bottom, the first abundantly populated stratum
runs from about 15-17 meters below sea level. Here, large, fan-like
brown algae (Costaria coastat) sway in cold currents, clinging
to underwater boulders. Agarum cribposum grows on smaller
The most biologically rich stratum is from 5-7 meters below sea
level. The vegetative zones become narrower as they approach the
surface. Green sea lettuce (Ulva) and edible sea kelp (Laminaria
saccharina), rich in iodine and bromine, are the most abundant
plant species here. Algal mats are home to fish larvae, hermit
crabs (Dardanu), and crawling mollusks. Rocky areas of
the sea floor are covered with sea grass (Phyllospadix),
which has thick roots and long narrow green leaves.
Terrestrial habitats on the reserves
islands are similar to floral communities in other
parts of the southern Russian Far East. Forests
grow along the lower slopes and plateaus of the
islands. Broadleaf species including Amur cork tree
(Phellodendron amurense) and Mongolian oak
(Quercus mongolica) are mixed with
coniferous rare Japanese yew (Taxus
cucpidata) and Japanese red pine (Pinus
densiflora). Vines (Vitis amurensis,
Actinidia arguta) are laced among tree trunks.
Near the shore, trees are small and grow in densely
packed stands, often resembling thick shrubs.
Farther inland, trees are taller. Under the canopy
rare Shlippenbachs rhododendron
(Rhododendron sclippenbachii) sprouts on the
forest floor. Open areas are overgrown with grasses
and flowers, such as short-stemmed sedge (Carex
humilis), tiger lilies (Lilium
lancifolium), dropwort (Filipendula),
and bedstraw (Galium). In all, 900 species
of terrestrial plants are found in the
The Dalnevostochny Morskoy Zapovednik is located in the extreme
southern part of the Russian Far East, near the border with North
Korea. The reserve protects aquatic habitats, islands, and areas
of coastline of the Peter the Great Bay, in the Sea of Japan.
Covering 64,316 ha (643 km2), the reserve protects
about 10 percent of the bay. Eleven islands are protected in the
The territory of the reserve is located at the convergence of
large faults in the Earths crust where the ocean floor recedes
under the continental plate. The Sikhote-Alin Range, formed as
a result of the uplifting of the Earths crust, descends
steeply into the Sea of Japan. The southern spurs of the ridge,
partly under water, formed large islands &emdash; Great Pelis,
Furugelm, and Stenin &emdash; now protected in the reserve. The
reserves shoreline is rocky and punctuated by a number of
bays, small coves, and harbors. The average depth of the water
in the reserve is not more than 20 meters, although the depth
extends to 50 meters in some of the eastern sections of the reserve.
Tidal processes engulf parts of the coastline twice a day, even
though the difference between low and high tide is less than 50
cm. In summertime, water levels rise more due to monsoon winds.
The unique, biologically-rich sea environment is partly explained
by the climatic conditions. The reserve is located at the meeting
point of warm and cold maritime currents. The terrestrial part
of the reserve is located in the Temperate Zone, at the convergence
of warm monsoon climate patterns and cold masses of northern air.
The mean annual air temperature is 4.8o C. Average
temperatures drop to &emdash; 11o C in January and
rise to 21o C in August. Average annual precipitation
is 800 mm, most of which falls during the late summer monsoon
season. The weather in summertime is warm, but generally cloudy
and foggy, and winters are cold for this latitude.
The reserve is divided into four sections. The eastern section
includes the islands and aquatic area around the Rimsky-Korsakov
Archipelago. Here, the area of protected aquatic habitat is 45,000
ha (450 km2) and islands cover 900 ha (9 km2).
The western section of the zapovednik protects 3,000 ha (30 km2)
of aquatic habitat in the northern part of the Posyet Bay. The
southern section of the reserve is located in the south of Posyet
Bay, off Furugelm Island, where 15,000 ha (150 km2)
of aquatic habitat are protected along with 200 ha (2 km2)
of island habitat. The northern part of the reserve, 216 ha (2
km2) on Popov Island, is open to environmental tourism.
The Dalnevostochny Morskoy Zapovednik was established in March
1978 under the Far Eastern Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences,
and made a division of the Institute for Marine Biology. The reserve
was created as the only marine zapovednik at the time, to protect
the unique natural ecosystems of Peter the Great Bay and the diverse
flora and fauna of the bays littoral islands.
The eastern section of the zapovednik is completely off limits
to human disturbance, while scientific research of marine and
island habitats is permitted in the western and southern sections
of the reserve. Scientists study pectens (Patinopecten yessoensis)
and giant oysters, among other species in Posyet Bay, and carry
out experimental studies on the impacts of marine fishing and
trawling on natural communities.
A buffer zone, extending for three nautical miles in the water
and 500 meters on land, surrounds each of the sections of the
reserve. Fishing, hunting, and collection of plants are prohibited
in the aquatic and coastal buffer zones. Shipping routes are strictly
limited in the areas as well.
The northern section of the reserve has been set
aside for educational purposes. The environmental
education center, restored with funding from WWF
and the US Agency for International Development, is
located at the reserve headquarters on Popov
Island, 25 km southwest of Vladivostok. The center
has permanent displays dedicated to marine flora
and fauna, as well as a botanical garden. A system
of tourist routes has been developed in the reserve
and surrounding waters to demonstrate the unique
beauty of the marine and island habitats.
Text by Laura Williams.
Davydov, M. and V Koshevaya. Nature Reserves in the USSR.
Progress Publishers. Moscow, 1989.
Sokolov, V.E. and E.E. Syroechkovsky, eds. Zapovedniks of
Russia: The Russian Far East. Mysl Publishers. Moscow, 1985.
Zabelina, N.M, L.S. Isaeva-Petrova, and L.V. Kuleshova. Zapovedniks
and National Parks of
Russia. Logata Publishers. Mosow, 1998.
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