The islands of the F. E. National Marine Sanctuary represent its special historical, scientific and aesthetic value. The U. S. ecologist Y. Odum wrote: “The accessibility and abundance of life on sea coasts have caused them to become the most well studied part of the continental shelf. No biologist, let alone amateur naturalist, who believes his education is complete if he did not get sound schooling on the seacoast.
Ecologists, biologists, and environmentalists all over the world simulate models of ecosystems to understand and forecast global ecological events. Small in area closed (micro) and half-closed (meso) ecosystems are best subject to simulation to elucidate the flows of matter and energy therein and develop global models therefor. The small islands of Russia’s only Marine Sanctuary precisely represent such mesoecosystems.
The Sanctuary has eleven large and small islands with total area of 110 ha. The largest islands -- Bolshoi Pelis, Stenin and Furugelm—occupy an area of up to 400 ha. The diversity of their landscapes is truly amazing. They boast cliffs, sandy beaches, taiga, subtropical forests, steppes, bogs, fresh-water streams, and Bolshoi Pelis and Stenin islands even fresh-water miniature lakes.
From the viewpoint of ecology, the following terrestrial and marine ecosystems may be distinguished on Sanctuary islands: coniferous forests, taiga, subtropical deciduous forests, steppes, pebble and sand beaches, lakes, ponds, streams, marshes and bogs, bird bazaars, the continental shelf, the supralittoral, the littoral, the sublittoral, upwelling zones, and drowned river valleys.
largest terrestrial vertebrate animals inhabiting the islands are the raccoon-like
dog and the North American mink. The Sanctuary islands are also inhabited
by field, East Asian and other mouse species; bats (the brown bat, leather-like
bats; amphibians (Mongolian toad and Japanese tree frog; and snakes (Japanese
grass snake and patterned runner. The largha seal has again returned to
the islsands for permanent residence, when previously it was almost totally
exterminated in Southern Primorye. Its southernmost population is in Peter
the Great Bay, and in summer up to 80 percent concentrate in the area.
Near the islands, you can see such cetaceans as the white-sided dolphin
and the Pacific white-sided dolphin, the porpoise, and the black shark,
the small rorqual and the sei whale.
Over 350 bird species have been registered in the Sanctuary’s islands and protected zone. In Russia, their variety is unmatched, even in the Volga delta. The F. E. Sanctuary boasts up to 100,000 marine colonial bird specimens. The Sanctuary coast and islands, and the fresh-water reservoirs of Southern Primorye are places where migrant birds, which number up to several hundred thousand, rest, feed and procreate. Birds included in the International and National Red Books inhabit the area, and among them the Japanese and Daurian cranes, the yellow-beak stork, the Japanese Scolopax, the black griffon, the white-tail and white-shoulder Haliethus, the Aquila regia, and the falcon.
Eighty nesting bird species and 185 migratory species have been registered in the Sanctuary, which gives special attention to protection of colonial nesting sites of sea birds. Over 50 percent of black-tail seagulls (40-50 thousand specimens on Furugelm Island, up to 5,000 on Stenin Island, several dozens of pairs on Matveev, De Livron, Gildebrandt and Bolshoi Pelis Islands, and almost 20 percent of Japanese Carbo haliaeus of all those nesting in Russia nest in the Sanctuary. Furugelm Island is the habitat of the presently known world’s largest colonies of the Japanese Carbo haliaeus and the black-tail seagull.
Almost 780 vascular plant species (over 66% of Russia’s Far East vascular plant families) grow on Marine Sanctuary islands. Twenty species have been entered into Russia’s Red Book. Eight species per hectare, a truly remarkable figure, grow here. Such a high density does not occur elsewhere on the mainland; for example, the terrestrial Laso Preserve and the Biological Station, American Museum of Natural History in Calbfleish, New York, boast only one species per hectare. The populations of all insular species require special protection because they belong to “relict communities” and are highly vulnerable.
Sea islands are actually the peaks of underwater mountains inhabited by terrestrial and fresh-water animals and plants, marine organisms live on the underwater slopes of those mountains (additional shelf sites). Evidently, the isolated state of the islands is responsible for the uniqueness of their populations.
In periods of maximal glaciation in Pleistocene (25-30 thousand years B. P.), all islands in Peter the Great Bay were joined in a single entity with the recent continental territory and had a common flora and fauna. In periods of climate warming and resultant sea transgression, most of the land was flooded by the ocean to leave on the surface in the form of islands only ridge peaks populated by individual plant and animal species adaptable to new conditions. Given their complete isolation from the mainland and from each other, the different areas of the islands with different ecological conditions, each species evolved in its own unique way. It would appear that the mammal population that exists today in each respective island is genetically unique.
A. TIURIN, Cand. Sci (Biology).