IN THE ESTUARY OF THE LENA
The delta of the Lena, a major Siberian river, is a labyrinth of channels and islands whose territory totals 32,000 sq. km. Since 1985, a part of it has been declared a wildlife preserve. Together with the neighbouring Kharaulakh Ridge the preserve’s area amounts to 14,330 sq km.
The Yakutian coast of the Arctic Ocean, where the preserve is located, is known for its severe climate; people rarely settle there. Yet, few as they are, hunters’ and fishermen’s communities have done much to ruin the environment for the indigenous delta inhabitants. As a result, not only food-fish, game-birds and fur animals but other species, too, have dramatically decreased in number. The total of swans and geese in the past two decades has been cut down by 600 and 300 per cent respectively; at present the Lena can boast 156-fold less whitefish than half a century ago. Small wonder that experts in tundra studies insisted upon making the delta of the Lena a wildlife preserve, and the authorities responded to their reasoning.
Almost half of the preserve’s territory is covered by plain and mountainous tundra – shrubby, grassy and rocky. There are many swamps, some of them typical of coastal areas of northern Asia – from a helicopter they look like enamel polygons separated from each other by rollers of clay and peat; they owe their existence to the ground ice.
The preserve is criss-crossed with channels and branches of the river; in summer, together with numerous lakes on the islands, they attract diverse water-fowl.
Winters are as cold and long, as everywhere else north of the Arctic Circle; only a hundred days a year there is no snow. By average indications the weather in the delta of the Lena is even more unwelcoming than in the “freezers” of the Northern Hemisphere – Yakutia’s Verkhoyansk and Oimyakon. Summers are cool and short, yet sufficient for the green and vibrant celebration of life: yellow polar poppies, carpets of pinkish-lilac carnations…The strength of life is indomitable: the stems of the blossoming pasque-flower struggle their way even through the snow.
Few people know that the tundra is home for some trees, too. There are even groves of one of the larch species in some places. The maximum height for such trees is three metres. Nearly 400 species of higher plants (86 among them are rare ones) grow in the preserve.
As for fauna, the preserve is inhabited by 94 species of birds and 29 – of mammals (five of them live in the sea). The preserve has given shelter to such rare animals as the polar bear, Laptev’s walrus, unicorn fish, sea hare, beluga, and in the mountainous part of it – to the polar ram and black marmot.
Nesting in the preserve are pink sea-gulls, black brants and smaller swans – birds which have been taken under special protection. To restore the former number of fish, birds and animals entered in the Red Books of all ranks is one of the major objectives of the preserve.
Experts are studying the valuable whitefish, nelma and other fishes of the same species, the biology of frostfish and the Pacific herring all the year round. The preserve is a vintage treasure-trove for ornithologists and botanists.
5.24. Complete the sentences about pets with the words from the box.
Date: 2016-04-22; view: 575