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The territory of Russia around this mighty Far Eastern river occupies a place of special importance for the economic progress of this country. This was stated in an interview for the newspaper FE (Far Eastern) SCIENTIST (DV Ucheny) by the Deputy Director of the Institute of Water and Ecological Problems of the Far Eastern Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Alexei Makhinov.
As a leading expert in this field Dr. Alexei Makhinov points out that being in possession of vast volumes of numerous resources, which are not yet on a proper scale, the Priamurye region (around the Amur River) has all the necessary conditions for comprehensive utilization of its natural wealth, combining their rational uses and the interests of the wellbeing of the region. But a complex combination of the local zones of different levels and significance, what they call an asymmetry in the levels of economic development in the adjacent regions of Russia and China, are already causing a number of serious problems.
One of them is an ecological one. Over the past few decades there have been major natural phenomena in the Priamurye. They are
assuming a scale of natural disasters, and some cover vast areas. The list includes catastrophic floods on the rivers Khor and Bikin and other water arteries in 1999, 2000 and 2003. There were also record low levels of water in the Amur and some of its tributaries in the summers of 1992, 2000 - 2003. There have been repeated cases of water pollution and fish poisoning in winter months. Devastating forest fires have become more frequent and many rivers are changing their beds. All this attests to a deteriorating environment in the basin of the Amur caused by increased anthropogenic pressure. Phenomena of this kind, stressed the author of the article, are fraught with unpredictable and strikingly dramatic negative consequences for the socio-economic progress of the Russian territories of the region whose ecological safety is reduced. For example, the vital interests of the population are already affected by problems of supplies of good drinking water not only in big cities, but also in small populated centers. There is a serious situation with the preservation of biodiversity and restoration of fish populations in the Amur basin. And all these problems are likely to be accentuated in the future with increased economic activities which are inevitable because of the presence of vast natural resources: including oil and gas*, coal, gold, non-ferrous metals etc; and biological resources (valuable wood, sturgeon and salmon fish, hunting game, food, medicinal and other plants; water resources (including mineral and medicinal waters); recreational facilities (unique natural sites, historical, archeological, paleontological and ethnographic monuments of international importance).
At the same time, being located in a zone with a moderate climate, the Amur basin in its Russian part is not typical of this latitude because of the low degree of development of the territory and low density of its population. And it is very likely that in the perspective this factor will promote higher than the present rates of utilization of the local resources of the Priamurye. Its climate, types of soils, the water regime of the local rivers and lakes, years of permafrost in the northern regions, the local vegetable and animal worlds have no analogues on our planet in terms of mutual impacts.
On the other hand, global climate changes and high tectonic activity of the territories, especially in its eastern part, have been the cause of the intricate combination of different natural complexes even within the confines of separate areas, such as the lower reaches of the Amur. That accentuates the importance of fundamental studies of the laws of the evolution of the local environment. That would provide the basis for the elaboration of theoretical notions about the functioning of a major river system and for solving a number of applied problems.
Leading institutes of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Science located in Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Birobijan, Blagoveshchensk, Chita and Magadan developed a joint program of research for the years from 2004 to 2008. Its implementation started from comprehensive studies by expeditions of the local natural environment. The studies involved more than 160 specialists, divided into 15 detachments, who came from 8 academic subdivisions of the RAS Far Eastern Branch with the participation of representatives of the RAS Siberian Branch. The specialists assessed the conditions of the soil, cover in key areas of the region and substantially enlarged the collections of local plants species (more than 5,000), mushrooms (2,700) and mosses (800) and identified some earlier unknown species of fish and insects. They also identified an activization of natural and, above all, exogenic geological processes caused by global climate changes. The scientists measured for the first time removals of terrigenic and organic material and water discharged from major lakes into the Amur during the summer low-water periods.
The expedition participants appreciably replenished the bank of samples of sediments and warps (sediments deposited by water) which reflect the biochemical conditions of the lower reaches of the main water artery of the Far East. Members of the expeditions identified factors which cause its changes, and set up a network of checkpoints registering the rate of deformation of the river banks, analyzed the rate of degradation of soils in the process of development of the local mineral deposits and carried out what are called landscape studies in the region of the Ussuri in order to assess the impact of economic activities. It has also been possible to establish permanent geobotanical platforms in different subzones of the Upper Amur basin for tracing changes of the vegetable world of the local steppes. Finally, the expeditions gave preliminary assessments of the impact of fires on the typological composition and ecologo-geographical, structure of the grass cover of key areas of the Lower Priamurye region.
In April 2005 our scientists summed up the first results of their studies and determined ways of the continued implementation of the Program. By the end of 2005 ten subdivisions of the RAS Far Eastern Branch should complete their field studies in a region from the Zabaikalye to the Amursky Liman (estuary), collect new data on the structure and dynamics of development of different components of the natural environment and study the regularities of their interaction in geographically divided parts of the region.
DV Ucheny (Far Eastern Scientist), No. 13, 2005
Prepared by Yaroslav RENKAS
* See: "Gas Deposits of Priamurye", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2005. - Ed.
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