White whales to help monitor the health of Arctic ecosystems

White whales to help monitor the health of Arctic ecosystems

9 April 2015

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation has drawn up a list of the plant and animal species that will serve as indicators of the health of the marine ecosystems in the Arctic. 


The list comprises 111 indicator species ranging from algae to higher plants and from invertebrates to fish, birds and sea mammals. Of these, 79 are plants and 32 are animals. The latter include the white, or beluga, whale, which inhabits the cold Arctic waters.


These species were chosen because they quickly react to any environmental changes. The basic criteria are the presence or absence of indicator species in certain areas, as well as visible changes in their external appearance, behaviour or chemical composition. The study of indicator species for environmental monitoring is a more reliable method than the use of special devices, as these species are capable of reacting to all environmental processes, even those that can’t be detected by equipment.


The list was compiled in cooperation with the Komarov Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the All-Russian Research Institute of Environmental Protection, the Botanical Gardens of the Moscow State University Faculty of Biology, and the World Wildlife Fund.  


According to Natural Resources and Environment Minister Sergei Donskoy, the list of indicator species will help make the development of Russia’s Arctic zone more effective and environmentally sound.