The students of SPbU international master’s programmes “Polar and Marine Research” and “Complex Study of Polar Region Environment” have assessed the levels of technogenic pollution of ecosystems in Yamal and collected data to contribute to the Red Data Book of Soils of the region. The project was led by SPbU’s Prof Evgenii Abakumov who headed the expedition to Yamal, with the itinerary of 600 km across tundra.

The Red Data Book of Soils is a document containing information about rare and unique endangered soils. These data are vital in preserving soil diversity. Today, Russia is implementing a massive project on creating the red books for its regions.

“The aim of our trip, which was arranged by St Petersburg University and Inter-Regional Expedition Centre “Arctic”, was to collect data to contribute to the Red Data Books of Soils of Yamal. We were searching for benchmark soils (soils typical to the region in terms of morphological structure and chemical composition) and unique, endangered soils in Yamal”, — said Doctor of Biology, Prof Evgenii Abakumov.

The young scientists carried out a number of electro-physical, thermometric and hydro-chemical studies of soils. Besides, they examined how borrow pits to extract rock and ore minerals were getting covered with the grass and collected samples taken from those pits higher 66 degrees north latitude.

This project has no rivals. “The soils in the region have little been studied yet, as the north landscapes are difficult to reach. Still, the research of this kind is vital. Recovery potential of the north ecosystems is dramatically weak, and it is vital to get insight into how humans can activate soil formation by microbiological methods”, — explained Evgenii Abakumov.

The data obtained during the expedition will be used in the RSF’s research project “Dynamics of soil biota in the chrono-sequences in the post- technogenic landscapes: Analysis of soil-ecological efficiency of ecosystem restoration” led by Prof Abakumov.

Moreover, the data collected can be used in the student master’s theses. “I collected soil samples from the borrow pits and could find additional materials on the soil diversity of the arenaceous rock in the south-west Yamal to use in my thesis”, — said Ivan Alekseev, SPbU’s student in Polar and Marine Research.

In science, the students in Complex Study of the Polar Region Ecosystems have also set the ball rolling. Aleksandra Kiskina collected water samples for hydro-chemical analysis, while Ji Xiaowen collected data on soil, vegetation and landscape contamination in the chrome ore-mining areas.

St Petersburg University is implementing massive projects on soil studies in the regions in Russia and making information resources on how to preserve environment. SPbU’s scientists have already compiled the Red Data Book of the Soils in Leningrad region. In Russia, it is vital to work out a federal document of this kind, say the scientists.


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The research of the Arctic is a high priority at SPbU. Its agenda is to support complex development of the Arctic territories: exploration of fossil fuels, rational use of natural resources, Arctic ecosystem preservation. SPbU acts as an expert and research centre bringing together the world’s leading scientists and educates a new generation of researchers of the Arctic. The University offers a number of the educational programmes on the Arctic. Apart from the current joint master’s programmes, the University has developed a new joint programme with the University of Tromsø, Norway.