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Youth Environmental Expedition in Vyborg Archipelago Has Finished June 25th

Youth Environmental Expedition organized by "Friends of the Baltic" NGO and Center for Children’s Creativity “Craftsmen’s City” was held from 21 to 25 of June on the islands of the Vyborg archipelago. Expedition participants were sailing around the Vyborg archipelago on the catamaran "Harlequin" from Strelna Yacht Club under the command of A. Mukhin and have visited Chernovoy, Novik and Gustoy islands.

Every island in the Vyborg archipelago is unique in its own way. On the Chernovoy island participants saw the military installations of the beginning of XX century: aircraft shelters for the seaplanes, which were based on the island. On the Novick island the group paid tribute to the sailors who died in the late XIX century and visited the burials of the old naval cemetery. On some islands one can still see the trenches from World War II.

But, besides history, the members of environmental expedition obviously were interested in the wonderful nature of the islands. During the expedition children were making notes and description of the vegetation. They have also run some tests and measurements of the physico-chemical parameters of water in Gulf of Finland: its temperature, transparency, total salinity, pH, total hardness, nitrite, nitrate and ammonium cations contents. It was found that now the water transparency in the Vyborg archipelago is less than 85 cm

The shore deposition in the Gulf of Finland has a great impact on the water transparency level. For example, in 2007-2008, when the Sea Façade was being constructed on the Vasilievsky island in St.Petersburg, the water transparency to the south of Kotlin island was only 0.6 m and in some other places in the Neva Bay it was only 0.1 to 0.3 m. The plume of sand and suspended sediments from the shore deposition works can be seen clearly on satellite maps and it even reached the Finnish coastline. In the deepwater of the Gulf of Finland the normal level of transparency reaches 4-4.5 m, which can be compared with the beginning of XX century when the level of transparency was 6 meters or more.

Nowadays there is a risk of repeating the situation of 2007-2008 now in relation to the planned shore deposition near Sestroretsk town, next to state natural reserve "Komorovsky coast"

Water transparency is one of the key indicators of state of aquatic system. Marine plants and algae need to have access to the sunlight in order to sustain photosynthesis, just like the terrestrial plants do. The lack of sunlight causes the lack of photosynthesis, which means that the benthic plants emit less oxygen, which naturally has a negative impact on all other aquatic inhabitants. Besides, algae are a habitat for some marine microorganisms such as crustaceans, larvae and other invertebrates, which are feed for fish and birds.

Due to the eutrophication and reduce of the amount of algae and marine plants, a niche is being released for the rapid growth of blue-green algae which lives in surface waters and causes "water blooming". This in its turn prevents the sunlight even more from passing into the interior water and thus disturbs the natural balance in the ecosystem of the Gulf of Finland.

Vyborg archipelago is also well known for its unique and rich nature. The nature reserve "Birch Islands" protected by Ramsar Convention is situated here on the Big, North and West Birch islands and several smaller ones. Here on the islands thousands of birds are resting during their annual migrations; the islands are also a nesting place for some rare bird species. Swans, dabbling and sea ducks, brant and barnackle geese, all kinds of gulls and terns are stopping here during their migrations. The aquatorium next to Birch islands is a place for whelping for the Baltic ringed seals that live in the Gulf of Finland, as well as the spawning place for fish species.

Another special protected natural area – “Ingermanlandsky natural reserve” - due to be established on the islands Dolgy Kamen, Kopytin, Big Fiskar, Rock Halley, Virginy, Big and Small Tyuters, Rock Vigrund and Seskar. The project of natural reserve was developed already in 1990th, however, because of various bureaucratic and political delays, there still are some agreements to be made on various levels.

Our Finnish neighbors are actively interested in the creation of “Ingermanlandsky natural reserve” since this area is supposed to be included in Russian-Finnish cross-border reserve. It should be noted that the Finns did their parf of work much better – the national park in the Finnish part of the Vyborg archipelago has already been created.

On the territory of the planned nature reserve "Ingermanlansky" there are the most valuable plants species growing; here are situated the resting places of many bird species including those from "Red Book of Russia" during their annual migrations; these islands are habitats for rare species of marine animals, including the Baltic gray seal and Baltic ringed seal.

Despite of its unique nature the Vyborg archipelago is considerably affected by strong anthropogenic load. Besides the already mentioned effects from shore deposition, there is also constantly increasing turnover in the ports of Primorsk, Vyborg and Vysotsk; the "Nord Stream" gas pipeline that was launched recently. Local fishermen notice reducing of the fish catches, which is one of the indicators of the environmental degradation.

It is therefore very important to show the need to preserve the fragile ecosystem of the Vyborg archipelago at all levels, to teach children to care and be concerned of the fate of their native land, to show a wonderful and exciting living world, which is worth fighting for its life.

We hope that the expedition participants will remember their beautiful sea voyage to the Vyborg archipelago, the amazing nature of these granite islands, and, of course, their communication with crew members of the catamaran, who told the children about the sea life and gave a chance to feel themselves as real sailors.

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