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Miroshnikov A.Y.,RAS Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | Laverov N.P.,RAS Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | Chernov R.A.,RAS Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | Kudikov A.V.,RAS Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | And 5 more authors.
Oceanology | Year: 2017

Multidisciplinary investigations carried out in the Cape Zhelaniya area and on the Severny ice dome of Severny Island in the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago during cruise 63 of the R/V Akademik Mstislav Keldysh in September 2015 included a study of the environmental radiation level. The landscape‒geochemical and radiation‒glaciological data show that the Severny ice dome serves as a secondary source of radionuclides on the surface of the ice sheet; this source originated from past nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere over the Severnaya Zemlya test site. Some samples taken from the periglacial zone near the edge of the Severny ice dome yielded specific activity levels of radioactive cesium of 450–650 Bq/kg. The study of ice cores obtained by shallow (up to 5.4 m) drilling of three boreholes revealed no significant activity values. At the same time, glaciological investigations made it possible to obtain the first data on the previously unexamined glacier, which indicate that the radioactively contaminated layer is located at a depth of 15‒20 m at the boundary of the glacier alimentation zone. No similar investigations had been conducted earlier either by Russian or international scientific teams. © 2017, Pleiades Publishing, Inc.


Wojczulanis-Jakubas K.,University of Gdansk | Kilikowska A.,University of Gdansk | Fort J.,University of Aarhus | Fort J.,CNRS Coastal and Marine Environment Laboratory | And 3 more authors.
Ibis | Year: 2015

Identifying natural populations that might be considered separate units using morphology, genotype or both is important in understanding the process of speciation and for conservation. We examined the relationships between the only two subspecies of the most numerous Arctic seabird, the Little Auk Alle alle, using both morphological (wing and head-bill lengths) and genetic data (482 base pairs of the mitochondrial control region and seven nuclear microsatellite loci). We found significant morphological differences between the subspecies, A. a. polaris being significantly larger than the nominate A. a. alle. However, we did not find the subspecies to be differentiated at either mitochondrial DNA or at microsatellite loci. Consequently, one evolutionary significant unit is proposed. The similarity of the two subspecies at neutral genetic markers may be due to contemporary gene flow between populations, as well as large population sizes both in the present and in the past, combined with recent post-glacial colonization of the Artic. © 2015 British Ornithologists' Union.


PubMed | Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Russian Arctic National Park, Telemark University College, RAS A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution and University of Aberdeen
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2016

In light of current debates on global climate change it has become important to know more on how large, roaming species have responded to environmental change in the past. Using the highly variable mitochondrial control region, we revisit theories of Rangifer colonization and propose that the High Arctic archipelagos of Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, and Novaia Zemlia were colonized by reindeer from the Eurasian mainland after the last glacial maximum. Comparing mtDNA control region sequences from the three Arctic archipelagos showed a strong genetic connection between the populations, supporting a common origin in the past. A genetic connection between the three archipelagos and two Russian mainland populations was also found, suggesting colonization of the Eurasian high Arctic archipelagos from the Eurasian mainland. The age of the Franz Josef Land material (>2000 years before present) implies that Arctic indigenous reindeer colonized the Eurasian Arctic archipelagos through natural dispersal, before humans approached this region.


News Article | November 7, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

The remains of a secret World War II German base have been rediscovered on an island near the North Pole by a team of Russian researchers. The wartime "Schatzgrabber" ("Treasure Hunter" in German) weather station was built by the German military in 1943 on Alexandra Land, one of the isolated Franz Josef Land islands in the Barents Sea, located more than 680 miles (1,100 kilometers) north of the Russian city of Arkhangelsk. The islands are snowy and ice-bound for much of the year and the site was last visited in the 1980s, the researchers said. But earlier this year, in August, a Russian archaeological team was able to explore and catalog the remains of the wartime weather station for the first time. [See Photos of the Secret World War II German Base] "This summer in the Arctic was very warm, so the entire area of Schatzgrabber was completely free of snow and ice, which made it possible to explore the area fully," team leader Evgeny Ermolov, a senior researcher with the Russian Arctic National Park, which now administers the island, said in a statement. Among the finds are the remains of several German army and naval uniforms, and fragments of weapons and ammunition — including rifle and machine-gun rounds, land mines and hand grenades — that were abandoned when the last of the base's occupants were evacuated by a German U-boat in 1944. About 10 German meteorologists and laborers were stationed on the island from 1943, as part of a secret network of Arctic stations to give advanced warnings of weather conditions over the northern oceans and northern Europe, which the German military considered essential to their strategic operations. Ermolov said the research team recovered more than 600 objects from the remains of the base station buildings, an emergency supply depot near the base station and an emergency aircraft landing strip. These artifacts have been sent to the Arctic National Park museum in Arkhangelsk for further study, the researchers said. Ermolov said the very dry and almost microbe-free environment of Alexandra Land also helped to preserve many wood, leather and cloth objects at the sites, as well as many remains of books and documents, including German naval manuals, meteorology textbooks, astronomical tables, weather records, magazines and a copy of Mark Twain's classic novel "Tom Sawyer." The research team also found supplies of canned food at the base, including sardines from Portugal, curiously labeled in English that they were for sale in America. [Flying Saucers to Mind Control: 7 Declassified Military & CIA Secrets] But sardines weren't the only thing on the wartime menu in Alexandra Land. The waters of the bay beside the weather station began to freeze as the winter approached, and several boats filled with supplies and equipment were crushed by ice, the researchers said. "Some of the supplies and equipment sank, and so the diet for the weather over the winter was rather limited. It is no surprise that they wanted some fresh meat, and so they killed polar bears, because that's all there was," Ermolov said. But he added that the weathermen failed to cook the bear meat properly, and almost everyone who ate it suffered a bout of trichinosis, a painful and unpleasant roundworm infection caused by eating contaminated meat. In response to the medical emergency at Alexandra Land, a daring rescue flight set out from a German air base at Banak, in Norway, in July 1944, to carry a doctor to the island and to bring back the stricken weathermen, according to the German historian Franz Selinger. But the large FW-200 "Condor" aircraft damaged a wheel when it landed and a second aircraft had to be sent from Banak to airdrop a replacement wheel so that the first aircraft could take off with the medical evacuees. Ermolov said the researchers had to search a very large area, but they were fortunate to find traces of the emergency airfield, including the remains of fuel barrels, tents, batteries, crates, smoke bombs and signal flares made in 1941. "Earlier it was only known from written sources, but now we have real proof," Ermolov said. The German base on Alexandra Land was not lost completely to history: after the war, some of the structures were used by the Soviet military until Russia’s Nagurskoye air base was built on the island in the 1950s. A team of German military specialists also visited the islands in the 1980s to remove the minefields that had been planted around the wartime base to protect it from an assault, Ermolov said. But he added that this summer was the first time that the site has been comprehensively studied and recorded since it was abandoned. "We've made a complete description of the station and all the remaining objects, including [the remains] of the bunkhouse, the weather station, a network of fortifications and the landing strip where the staff were evacuated in July 1944," he said. The cryptic name of the weather station, from the German word for Treasure Hunter, has fueled speculation that the secret base on Alexandra Land was used for more than keeping a watch on the Arctic weather. Some theories suggest the base was occupied by a unit of Nazi SS troops and may have had a role in the development of secret weapons, or a search for a mythical "Nordic homeland" in the islands of the Arctic Circle. But polar historian William Barr told Live Science that the base was strictly a scientific base, and one of about 10 German weather stations on the scattered Arctic islands north of Europe (albeit an ill-fated one). "It was quite disastrous — the expedition leader went crazy, and when they were flown out he had to be strapped down to the floor of the aircraft, so he wouldn’t run riot," Barr said. And the Russian researchers have found no evidence to back the speculative theories about the Schatzgrabber base: "We have prepared a complete diagram of the station, and geo-referenced all the facilities, including [machinery] that suggests a German origin dating from the time of the Great Patriotic War [World War II]," Ermolov said. "Based on these data, we can eliminate some of the myths that have formed around the station for many years."


Rozhnov V.V.,RAS Severtsov Institute of Ecology | Platonov N.G.,RAS Severtsov Institute of Ecology | Mordvintsev I.N.,RAS Severtsov Institute of Ecology | Naidenko S.V.,RAS Severtsov Institute of Ecology | And 2 more authors.
Biology Bulletin | Year: 2015

The behavior of female polar bears with cubs in an isolated terrestrial area of Alexandra Land Island (Franz Josef Land Archipelago) was analyzed in the fall of 2011 in an ice-free period using Argos satellite telemetry and the data of ground observations. The size and structure of their home ranges and selection of their habitats have been estimated; the differences in behavior of tagged animals have been analyzed. © 2015, Pleiades Publishing, Inc.


Andrianov V.V.,Russian Academy of Sciences | Lebedev A.A.,Russian Academy of Sciences | Neverova N.V.,Russian Academy of Sciences | Lukin L.P.,Russian Academy of Sciences | And 6 more authors.
Russian Journal of Marine Biology | Year: 2016

Complex studies were carried out in the southern part of Onega Bay (White Sea) in the summer seasons of 2003–2006 and 2011–2013. These studies revealed the dynamics of oil pollution of the water area after an accidental fuel oil spill in September 2003 and its long-term adverse effects on organisms of different trophic levels of the coastal ecosystem (benthos, fish, and sea mammal populations) in the most polluted southeastern part of the bay. The deterioration of the status of the top trophic-level white whale population (a decrease in numbers) and the accumulation of oil hydrocarbons in tissues of benthic organisms are described. © 2016, Pleiades Publishing, Ltd.


Rozhnov V.V.,RAS Severtsov Institute of Ecology | Platonov N.G.,RAS Severtsov Institute of Ecology | Mordvintsev I.N.,RAS Severtsov Institute of Ecology | Naidenko S.V.,RAS Severtsov Institute of Ecology | And 2 more authors.
Zoologicheskii Zhurnal | Year: 2014

The behavior of polar bear females with cubs on the isolated terrestrial area of Alexandra Land Island (the Franz-Josef Land Archipelago) was studied during the ice-free period in the autumn of 2011 using Argos sat- ellite telemetry and the data of ground observations. The animals' home range and habitat selection analyses were supplemented with the mutuality analysis. The personality was extracted for each specimen.


News Article | October 24, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

Russian scientists have discovered a secret Nazi base in the Arctic. Located on Alexandra Land in the Arctic Circle, the site known as "Schatzgraber" or "Treasure Hunter" is believed to have been built on direct orders from Adolf Hitler. It was constructed in 1942 after the German dictator invaded Russia. The supposed weather station was in service from 1943 but it was reportedly abandoned just a year later in July 1944. The staff manning the site was said to have been poisoned after being forced to eat raw polar bear meat that was contaminated with roundworms when supplies at the facility ran low. The poisoned crew were rescued by a German U-boat. The story, however, was often dismissed as a wartime myth. For decades the location of the site was unknown but 72 years later, researchers who were exploring the isolated island stumbled upon it. They found more than 500 relics, including discarded petrol canisters, ruins of bunkers and a batch of paper documents that were well-preserved by the island's freezing climate. Researchers also found bullets as well as personal items such as shoes. Many of these items appear to be dated and marked by the Nazi-appropriated symbol, the swastika. The artifacts will be taken to Russia, where they will be studied and later put on public display. "Now we can enter this data in the scientific revolution, and, referring to the evidence, to expand and clarify the idea of ​​the German army operations in the Arctic region during the Second World War," said Evgeny Ermolov, a senior researcher at the Russian Arctic National Park. The name given to this German base has led some people to believe that it may also have had another secret mission. Some speculate that the base may have been used for pursuing ancient relics, which the Ahnenerb believed to have supernatural powers. Ahnenerb was a Nazi Germany institute that conducted research on the Aryan race's archaeological and cultural history. The institute launched expeditions and performed experiments to find proof that the mythological Nordic populations once ruled the world. Prior to the discovery of the site, the existence of the base was only known from written sources. The site was referenced in the German book Wettertrupp Haudegen, which was published in 1954. Alexandra Land, where the base was discovered, has been a disputed territory for many years but it is now part of the Russian Federation. Russia is said to have plans of building a permanent military base in the region. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | October 25, 2016
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

For years, world leaders have been arguing over the best way to protect the chilly Southern Ocean at the bottom of the world from threats like pollution and overfishing. Now, they may finally be one step closer to an agreement. This week, members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) are convening in Hobart, Australia, for an annual meeting, where they will discuss the conservation and management of the Southern Ocean. And one of their priorities will be to continue negotiations on proposed marine protected areas, or MPAs, that have proved challenging. Establishing the MPAs is crucial to the protection of, and continued research of, the Antarctic ecosystem, conservationists have argued. But some countries are concerned that the protected area could damage their fishing operations in the Southern Ocean, and for the past few years, negotiations have fallen flat. Life at the bottom of the world The Southern Ocean, which surrounds the continent of Antarctica, may sound like a lifeless, frozen wasteland. But it’s actually a teeming ecosystem, home to everything from microscopic algae and tiny shrimplike krill to penguins, seals and whales. In fact, it’s an important commercial fishing interest to some countries, particularly when it comes to krill and toothfish. Managing the fishing industry was a major reason CCAMLR was established in the first place, in 1980. Its responsibilities as an international body, now including 24 nations plus the European Union, include protecting the common resources in the Southern Ocean by setting catch limits for commercial fisheries and designating areas and times of the year when fishing cannot occur. In 2009, the commission established its first MPA around the South Orkney Islands, just northeast of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. However, some scientists have been critical about the compromises that were involved in reaching an agreement. A paper published last week in Science noted that the final MPA excluded some ecologically important zones to “avoid conflict with commercial krill fisheries operated by several CCAMLR States.” Since then, other countries have proposed additional MPAs in the Ross Sea, the East Antarctic and, most recently, the Weddell Sea. For an MPA to be established under CCAMLR rules, all member states must agree on the proposal, said Evan Bloom, director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Oceans and Polar Affairs and head of the U.S. delegation to CCAMLR. The Ross Sea and East Antarctic proposals have been under negotiation for five years, but none of the MPAs have been approved. If the proposals were to pass in their current forms, nearly 10 percent of the total Southern Ocean would be protected. The MPAs would include no-take zones, where fishing would not be permitted, as well as special research areas, where fishing for scientific purposes would be allowed. These MPAs are critical for protecting the health of the Antarctic ecosystem, and maybe even fisheries in other parts of the world, conservationists have argued. Krill are a staple food for penguins, whales, seals, seabirds and other Antarctic animals, but some studies have suggested that they may be in decline in certain parts of the Southern Ocean. This may be thanks to overfishing, as well as effects of the warming climate. The Southern Ocean is also an important contributor to the health of other marine ecosystems around the world, noted Andrea Kavanagh, director of the global penguin conservation campaign for the Pew Charitable Trusts. It’s the site of a critical ocean process known as upwelling, in which nutrient-rich water bubbles up from the bottom of the sea and joins currents that carry it to other parts of the planet. There’s also scientific value in preserving what may be some of the last pristine marine ecosystems left on Earth, she added. “There’s potential that these reserves could end up offering answers on how to help ecosystems adapt — what are the things that we need to manage to help ecosystems adapt to a changing climate,” she said. But some countries are worried about the limits these protected areas may place on their fisheries, and these concerns have stalled negotiations for the past few years. Last week’s Science paper noted that certain concessions have been made on both the Ross Sea and East Antarctic proposals, including reductions in the size of the areas that would be protected. “Historically CCAMLR has been this institution where they require science to make decisions,” said Cassandra Brooks, the paper’s lead author and a PhD candidate at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences. In other words, without sufficient data to suggest that fishing is safe in a given area, it would not be permitted. But recently, Brooks said, some member states have called for a reverse in the burden of proof required, suggesting that “until there’s enough data to know that there’s enough of a threat, we shouldn’t have a marine protected area,” she said. Until now, Russia has been among the most vocal opponents of the proposed MPAs. According to Bloom, it’s the only nation left that is not on board with the Ross Sea proposal. But that could change this year. “At this meeting, Russia has been more amenable to talking with us,” he said. “And so we are in the process of seeing whether we can bring them on board with the goal of hopefully establishing what would be the world’s largest marine protected area by the end of this session of CCAMLR.” While it’s unclear what caused the change of heart, Bloom noted that Secretary of State John F. Kerry — who has used his diplomatic role to draw historic new levels of attention to the oceans — has been communicating with the Russian government about the issue ahead of this year’s CCAMLR meeting, and “there’s been a real high-level push to get Russia to sort of come to the table on this.” The improved negotiations may also be part of a renewed Russian interest in polar conservation. Earlier this year, President Vladimir Putin declared that 2017 will be the “Year of Ecology,” and over the summer the government expanded the Russian Arctic National Park. “That, to us, sent a great signal that they’re concerned about [the] poles,” Kavanagh said. Bloom cautioned that the Ross Sea proposal is the only one that is likely to move forward this year, if any of the MPAs are approved at all. And even if that happens, some scientists are concerned about the concessions that might be necessary to move the proposal forward. A few CCAMLR member states have proposed setting a time limit on the MPAs, so that they would need to be renewed in 20 or 30 years, Brooks noted. This is an outcome that many conservationists hope to avoid, worrying that such a compromise might set a precedent for future international high-seas MPA negotiations. “The hope is we get [an MPA] that’s in place long enough to be effective and long enough to meet its objective, which I would say would be a minimum of 50 years,” Brooks said. But attendees of this year’s meeting agree that, in general, the climate is more optimistic than it has been in years. “It’s taken us six years to get to a place where people are feeling this positive,” Kavanagh said.

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