Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

The fifth year of studies in the Barents Sea, White Sea and on the Baltic coast: summary of activity in 1997


In the summer of 1997 the Baltic Floating University (BFU) continued its UNESCO-Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)-Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) sponsored work in four different near-shore environments: (i) on the Murman coast of the Barents Sea, (ii) in the estuarine, tidal, saline Gulf of Kandalaksha on the (semi-enclosed) White Sea, (iii) in the estuarine, brackish, eastern Gulf of Finland and (iv) in the tideless, brackish west Estonian archipelago jutting out into the (semi-enclosed) Baltic proper.

Traditionally the Gulf of Kandalaksha has been protected; it now forms the Kandalaksha State Nature Reserve. HELCOM has proposed a complex system of Baltic Strictly Protected Areas (BSPA) to combat the pressures of human development in areas such as the eastern Gulf of Finland. The four study areas, with their different socio-economic backgrounds and administrative infrastructures, provide the BFU with the opportunity to explore different approaches to integrated coastal management (ICM). The BFU workshop held in Helsinki South Harbour, August 26-29 marked the close of its 1997 summer activities.

Methods and approach to education for integrated coastal management

The annual BFU activities usually begin with a planning workshop at the Russian State Hydrometeorological Institute (RSHI) in St. Petersburg. In 1997 this workshop (May 27-28) was organized in conjunction with an international seminar on "Teaching Integrated Coastal Management" (May 29-30); probably the first of its kind in Russia. The seminar was organized by the RSHI in cooperation with the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Higher and Professional Education of the Russian Federation, the Committee for Nature Management and Ecological Safety of the Leningrad District and in collaboration with the School of Environmental Sciences (University College of Scarborough, UK), UNESCO-CSI and the Gulf of Finland Environment Society (SULA).

Training for ICM in practice

To quote some well-quoted figures: today, about 60% of the world's population lives within 60 km of the coastline and by the year 2020 probably 75% will. The world's coastal zone produces 90% of the world's total fish catch. (Note: the length of the Russian coastal zone is about 60 000 km.). It is quite clear that the task of bringing the coastal zone under sustainable management requires that ICM be introduced into higher education, to provide a proper academic background for future coastal managers.

Working to develop ICM in the north

In July and August 1997 the BFU continued its integrated research of the "natural-and-technical" systems in Palkina Bay (Gulf of Kandalaksha) and Kislaya Bay (Motovskoy Gulf on the Barents Sea). This work, extending over a 40-day period, included the study of biotope characteristics (hydrological and hydrochemical structure), monitoring of benthic and plankton communities (biodiversity and concentration of pollutants and toxins in organisms), observing the effects of runoff from the land, and bottom sampling for chemical analysis.

One target of this research is the creation of a hydrometeorological support service for the different nature-users in the areas studied. Within the context of ICM, it is possible to say that the contacts, social and professional, and the socio-economic aspects encountered by the BFU during the last four years of work in the North can now be incorporated into the elaboration of scientific programmes for the initiation of new, pilot projects for sustainable development.

The principal, direct nature-resource users of the area of the Gulf of Kandalaksha studied during BFU expeditions are: the Port of Kandalaksha, the Kandalaksha State Nature Reserve, the "White Sea" Oil Terminal, the trout-breeding farm Udarnik Ltd. and the PINRO experimental trout-breeding farm, the Gandvig Children's Health Centre and the Maripal medicinal silt-extracting company. Three of these are non-profit organizations with a vital interest in sustainable development and in keeping the environment clean.

The results of BFU expeditions show that, on the whole, the ecological situation in the western part of the Gulf of Kandalaksha is quite stable, and favorable for the development of new, sustainable, natural-and-technical systems. Indications of human impact (e.g. decreased oxygen content, increased nutrient concentrations) seem to be minimal, being observed mainly in the shallow skerries at the head of the Gulf which is influenced by the sea port and a town with a population of 77,000. There are also about 17 significant industrial enterprises within a 50-km radius (non-ferrous metals, energy, machine assembly, metalworking, forest products, printing, foodstuffs and other light industry). The Neva River, the main river flowing into the head of the Gulf, also carries industrial waste from Lake Imantero which is located in the ecologically endangered Montsegorsk District. BFU’s objective is to locate the coastal regions which experience maximum human impact.

The 1997 BFU expedition to the North was concluded at an international workshop in the town of Kandalaksha on "Rational exploitation of the coastal zone of northern seas". This workshop, initiated by the BFU, is becoming a tradition in Kandalaksha. In 1997, 18 students from the RSHI took part, making presentations alongside scientists from several leading research and teaching institutions: Kandalaksha State Nature Reserve, Polar Research Institute of Fishery, Institute of Marine Biology, Marine Biology Institute of the Kola Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences, White Sea Biological Station of the Zoology Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, White Sea Biological Station of Moscow State University, Russian Geographic Society, SULA and ornithological colleagues from Finland.

At the end of August three BFU students and one lecturer were able to share experiences with Baltic marine biologists and other scientists during an intensive course on "Coastal Eutrophication: Effects, Diagnosis and Management", organized by the Institute of Marine Science, University of Kiel, at the recently established Marine Biological Field Station.

Activities in the eastern Gulf of Finland

In 1997 the BFU expeditions to the eastern Gulf of Finland were concentrated, as in earlier years, on the south-eastern coastal area of the Gulf, the so-called Luga-Koporye area. The hydrodynamics of this area, where a part of the great estuarine flood of the Neva River meets and mixes with Baltic water, are complex. The littoral habitat of the area is, for many reasons, an important natural resource, supporting, for instance, one of the main spawning grounds of the Gulf of Finland's Baltic herring stock and a very important resting ground for hundreds of thousands of birds on their spring migration along the Baltic-White Sea Flyway.

The construction of a new port in the Luga Bay with a projected cargo-handling capacity of 35 million tons (mainly coal) has been started. With the exception of the giant fertilizer factory 'Phosphorite' on the Luga River and the Sosnovyj Bor Nuclear Power Station the coastal zone was hitherto largely undeveloped. The new port is perhaps not an altogether unwelcome intrusion, since, in the opinion of some local people, the area needs new developments. The results of the last five years of BFU research are now particularly valid in terms of monitoring future changes to this important part of the Gulf, especially with regard to change caused by the construction and operation of the new port. The BFU studies are also of significance to the understanding of sedimentation and silting relating to, and caused by, the new (dredged) shipping channel to the port.

In July, atypical, strong upwelling occurred bringing cold, saline bottom water from the west to the surface. This resulted in blue-green alga blooming in the northern part of the study area. In the Gulf of Finland at the moment eutrophication is a major issue. Studies aimed at understanding eutrophication and teaching students about it are therefore extremely important.

In the south-eastern part of the Gulf the secondary effects of eutrophication are regarded as one of the main anthropogenic factors behind what has been described as (negative) "deep structural change" in the local population dynamics of (commercial) fish species, change that some ichthyologists think may be irreversible.

The BFU returns to the west Estonian archipelago

The 1997 BFU expedition with the sailing catamaran Orients to the West-Estonian Archipelago Biosphere Reserve was a direct follow-up to the 1996 expedition to Hiiumaa. Both expeditions were the result of close cooperation with the Hiiumaa Biosphere Reserve Centre (HBRC). The aim of these expeditions is to explore ICM issues in an established (non-industrial) biosphere area.

The 1997 BFU expedition with the sailing catamaran Orients to the West-Estonian Archipelago Biosphere Reserve was a direct follow-up to the 1996 expedition to Hiiumaa. Both expeditions were the result of close cooperation with the Hiiumaa Biosphere Reserve Centre (HBRC). The aim of these expeditions is to explore ICM issues in an established (non-industrial) biosphere area.

In 1997, elaboration of an ICM plan for the Vainameri Sea, including the proposed Hiiumaa Islets BSPA, was initiated by the Human Biosphere Research Centre (HBRC) together with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) -Sweden. The main objective is to develop the necessary planning and regulation systems to maintain and improve the environmental situation and the biodiversity in both the marine and coastal parts of the area. To be able to do this, appropriate investigations of the existing environmental conditions are needed. It is precisely this task that was set for the BFU expeditions in 1996 and in 1997.

The 1997 BFU expedition to Hiiumaa was organized together with researchers from Estonia (Estonian Marine Institute and Tartu University) and Finland (Alleco Ky). The expedition focused on (i) hydrometeorological and hydrochemical investigations with a general view to understanding hydrological conditions and their possible influence on protection planning, and (ii) the classification of bottom biotopes and the preparation of bottom landscape maps in view of protection and proposals for zoning the area. Working in close cooperation, the Estonian, Finnish and Russian teams were able to become acquainted with each other’s techniques and high precision results were obtained when the different teams repeated each other’s observations at specified sampling points.

During final discussions it was agreed that the advantages of co-operative investigations within the framework of the BFU facility were clear and that efforts should be expended to ensure that this type of joint activity can be developed. This discussion was formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the HBRC and the RSHI at the end of August.

In conclusion

Every year BFU endeavours bring greater understanding of how the application of energies and resources to ICM can be improved. To date these expeditions have engaged mainly in traditional base-line studies, but in many cases the data obtained have already been of benefit to the communities in question. In itself the idea of student expeditions going out to do research that serves to inform local communities about their environment is highly commendable.

It is important to recognize and acknowledge the enormous effort and determination that has gone into keeping the BFU afloat under the difficult circumstances that exist in Russia today. For five years the RSHI has managed to mount complex summer expeditions that have brought back valuable data and continued to lay the foundations for future work. The BFU expeditions produce a lot of data and it was only in June this year that the 1995 results were published in the BFU Research Bulletin No. 2. Distribution of this 132-page illustrated journal around the Baltic Sea was arranged by HELCOM and SULA, in North-West Russia by the RSHI and in other regions by UNESCO-CSI.

The BFU is already a positive influence for the development of ICM in Russia and in the areas where fieldwork is undertaken. Nothing now would be more satisfying than to see the BFU expeditions working with a good mix of Russian and non-Russian students, especially students from the Baltic countries.

Extract from: R. T. Coon. BFU. HELCOM News No 4, 1997, pages 13-22

For more information contact:

SULA: Fax: + 358 9 668069. E-mail: rtsula@freenet.hut.fi (Mr. R. T. Coon)

RSHI: Fax: + 812 2242155. E-mail: Plink@rgmi.spb.su (Dr. N. Plink)

UNESCO-CSI: Fax: +33 1 45685808. E-mail: csi@unesco.org

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