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2021 - Year of the Wetlands

A swamp is a forested wetland. Swamps are considered to be transition zones because both land and water play a role in creating this environment. It is characterized by excessive surface moisture, moisture-loving vegetation. Swamps and marshes are separated, and this difference is determined by the thickness of the peat cover: if the thickness of the peat is more than 30 cm, then it is considered a marsh, if less - a swamp. However, most people call any wetlands a swamp.

Swamps should be protected, studied and protected - this is a whole world, interesting and vital for nature and man!

Role, significance and types of wetlands

Swamps are a natural reservoir of water

During rain or snowmelt, swamps accumulate a huge amount of water, preventing it from quickly sliding into rivers, thereby preventing the occurrence of floods or significantly reducing their level. In the dry season, this accumulated water enters the rivers gradually, maintaining their level and not allowing them to dry out.

The swamp is a natural filter

An accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter (peat) in swamps effectively absorb pollutants, including heavy metals. Therefore, swamps purify all water from impurities and contaminants, making it suitable even for drinking. And the swamps attract and deposit all the dust from the surrounding area. Therefore, they purify not only the water, but also the air.

Swamps are "lungs of the planet"

Yes, these unpresentable ecosystems are 7-15 times more efficient at producing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide than forests. One hectare of swamp can absorb up to 1,800 kg of carbon dioxide per year and produce up to 700 kg of oxygen. Moreover, the carbon dioxide absorbed by swamp vegetation is stored for thousands of years in the form of peat and falls out of the global carbon turnover.

The swamps are home to animals and plants

Swamps are ecosystems with the highest level of biological diversity, surpassing boreal forests or steppes and competing with rainforests and seas. It is not only home to "wetland" species, such as waterfowl and semiaquatic birds, amphibians or fish. Swamps attract ungulates in the summer, which find here abundant food and good protection from predators. There are also predators in the swamps – foxes, badgers, raccoon dogs, which find food here – small rodents, fish, amphibians, eggs and bird nestlings. In late summer and autumn, the bear goes out to the swamps in search of berries for "fattening".

What are swamps like?

According to the type of landscape, the marshes are divided into upper, lower and transitional. Yes, swamps are not always lowlands filled with water, although they all start that way. But gradually deposited plant remains begin to raise the level of marsh vegetation. The "dome" of the upper swamp is formed, on top of which, in the center of the swamp, only plants survive. In the Far East, there is a very special type of swamp – Mari. These are wetlands formed on permafrost, which traps water on the surface. Tussock sedge are formed here – a special form of sedge in combination with sphagnum moss. Areas of depressed larch, dwarf birch and alder, thickets of blueberries, ledon and rhododendron.

Why do people need swamps?

Swamps bring a lot of gifts to a human - berries grow here-blueberries, cranberries, cranberries, cloudberries. The variety of animals makes the swamps valuable hunting grounds where you can get food. Peat serves as fuel and a valuable raw material for the chemical industry. Many plants that live in the swamp are used in the pharmaceutical industry. And for archaeologists, the marshes are a real treasure trove, where ancient artifacts are well preserved due to the high acidity of the environment. Handwritten birch scrolls of Ancient Novgorod, shields and swords of the Germans, Viking ships and almost all the archaeological finds of ancient Northern Europe were extracted from the swamps that preserved these artifacts for thousands of years.

What threatens the swamps?

Man still considers the marshes, if not the enemy, then a useless part of the territory that could be exploited with "greater benefit". Therefore, the main problem for the conservation of swamps is their drainage for further use in agriculture or peat extraction. As a result, there is a loss of animal habitats, a sharp change in the hydrological regime of streams and rivers, and an increase in the number of fires. Peat in drained swamps can burn for years, poisoning the air in the surrounding areas and regularly breaking through surface forest fires, as the fires in the Moscow region in 2010 showed.

Where are the wetlands located?

Ramsar wetlands in the Amur-Heilong Ecoregion

Torey Lakes

Russia, Zabaykalsky Province, Ononsky and Borzinsky districts
Torey Lakes, including the Daursky State Nature Reserve
Geographical location of the territory:
Torey Lakes are situated in Transbaikalia, on the territory of Onon and Borzinsky Districts of the Zabaikalsky Province. The south border of the wetland coincides with the boundary between Russia and Mongolia. The distance of the western part of the wetland to Borzya is 90 km, from the northern part to Chita — 300 km and from Nizhniy Tsasuchey — 50 km
The list of species in Daursky includes 47 mammals, 317 birds, 3 reptiles, 2 amphibians. 4 species of mammals and 42 birds are included in the Russian Federation Red List of Threatened Species, 20 species of birds — in IUCN Red List. Torey Lakes are an important place of nesting such species as white-naped crane, great bustard, Asian dowitcher, relict gull.
Flora of the wetland is unique for the territory of southern Transbaikalia. On a rather small territory of the wetland there grow close to each other species of steppes and of the wetlands. So far 440 species of vascular plants are known from Daursky.
More about Torey Lakes

Muravjevsky wildlife refuge

Russia, Amurskaya Province, Tambovsky district
Zeysko-Bureinskaya plain within the Muravjevsky wildlife refuge
Geographical location of the territory:
The wetland is located on the plane near middle Amur, between river mouths of Zeya and Bureya. Amurskaya province, 43 km northwest of the city of Blagoveshchensk (regional centre), 33 km east of the village of Tambovka.
About 15,000 geese and 1,500 ducks migrate through the area in spring; up to 8,000 migrating ducks and 50—60 cranes have been registered in autumn. Breeding waterbirds include 300 pairs of ducks. Rare bird species, that occur at the site, include Japanese crane, white-naped crane and Oriental stork.
The flora of the Zeya-Bureya Plains includes 280 species of plants, three of these are included in the Russian Federation Red List of Threatened Species and seven species are included in the Red List of the Russian Far East.
More about Zeysko-Bureinskaya plain

Khingano-Arkharinskaya lowland

Russia, Amurskaya Province, Arkharinsky District
Khingano-Arkharinskaya lowland
Geographical location of the territory:
In southern Amur Region, near the border with China, 175 km southeast of the city of Blagoveshchensk. The site includes vast floodplain areas in the middle course of the Amur River, between the Bureya and Khingan Rivers, to the south-west of Trans-Siberian railway.
During seasonal migrations, lowland reservoirs attract tens of thousands of waterfowl. The breeding avifauna of the eastern foreststeppe contains representatives of the Chinese and European faunistic types. The wetlands of the area are of particular importance for breeding populations of rare and threatened birds. Fifteen species included in the Russian Federation Red List of Threatened Species have been registered at the site.
The flora of the area is represented by 700 species of vascular plants. Ten species included in the Russian Federation Red List of Threatened Species occur at the site
More about Khingano-Arkharinskaya lowland

Lake Bolon

Russia, Khabarovsky Province, Amursky District
Lake Bolon and the mouths of the Selgon and Simmi rivers
Geographical location of the territory:
In Amursky District, Khabarovskiy province; 70 km of the town of Amursk, 170 km of Khabarovsk. Lake Bolon is one of the largest inland water reservoirs of the Amur Rriver region.
The site is very important for conservation of migratory waterbirds. About 80% of all waterbirds, migrating through the lower Amur, use the area as a stop-over site. The total number of passage migrants is between 800,000 and 1,200,000.
Three species of plants currently included in teh Russian Federation Red List of Threatened Species occur in the area. These are Brasenia schreberi, Iris ensata, and Trapa natans and some rare in the region species.
More about Lake Bolon

Lake Udyl

Russia, Khabarovsky Province, Ulchinsky District
Lake Udyl and the mouths of the Bichi, Bitki and Pilda rivers.
Geographical location of the territory:
Lower Amur, Khabarovsk Region, Ulchinsky District. The site is located 100 km upstream from the mouth of the Amgun River and 500 km downstream of the city of Khabarovsk. The site is 5 km away from the nearest village of Kolchem and 30 km far from the village of Bogorodskoye (district centre).
Up to 26 rare species of birds listed in the Red Books of Russia and the Khabarovsk Territory nest in the territory of the region: several pairs of mandarins, Baikal teal, osprey, Far eastern curlew, 30-40 pairs of swan geese. With an extremely high density – up to 3-4 nests per kilometer – Steller's sea eagle and White-tailed sea eagles nest.
The rare forest plants are represented by yewtree (Taxus cuspidata) included in the Russian Federation Red List of Threatened Species, which occurs in its shrub form. The floodplain forests are mainly represented by willow formations dominated by Salix schwerini.
more about lake Udyl

Lake Khanka

Russia, Primorsky Province
Lake Khanka
Geographical location of the territory:
The site is located approximately 200 km north-northeast of the city of Vladivostok. The northern one third part of the lake is in China.
During seasonal migrations on the Lake Khanka and nearby territories accept 300,000-350,000 dabbling ducks (mainly pintail), wigeon, falcated teal and common teal, 100,000-130,000 geese (mainly Bean goose) and white-fronted goose, and 3,000—5,000 swans, mainly whooper swan. Migrating birds stay on the lake for about a month both in spring and in autumn.
There are plants included in the Russian Federation Red List of Threatened Species, that occur at Lake Khanka (for ex. lotos Komarova).
More about Khanka lake

Lake Buir

Mongolia, Dornod Province
Geographical location of the territory:
Republic of Mongolia, Dornod Province. At boundary with China, 969 km east from Ulaanbaatar, 314 km east from Choibalsan town of Dornod aimag, and about 20 km southwest from Khalh gol soum. Lakes northeastern part lies in the territory of China.
The Buir Lake and its surrounding area support totally 236 birds species. This is the world’s largest aggregation of molting Swan Goose reaching 40,000 birds. The Buir Lake, the most nourishing lake in Mongolia, supports 29 species of fish, 25 species of mammals among which 10 are rare.
The Buir Lake is surrounded by the steppe vegetation system, which are formed from Daguur type from the north, Mongolian type from the south and Manjurian (China) vegetation type from the east.
More about Lake Buir

Mongol Daguur

Mongolia, Dornod Province
Geographical location of the territory:
Province Dornod, close to the state border of Mongolia/Russia, borders the Russian Daursky Nature Reserve.
Both parts of the territory play a significant role as a place for nesting and rest of migratory birds for many species of water birds. 260 bird species use the site for staging, breeding or wintering. Mongol Daguur is the only site in Mongolia where six species of crane can be observed at the same time. The place holds a significant proportion of the global breeding population of whitenaped crane and swan goose.
There are about 300 species of plants and 100 of them are rare and of medicinal value.
More about Mongol Daguur

Lakes in the Khurkh-Khuiten river valley

Mongolia, Khentii Province
Geographical location of the territory:
Khentii Province. The Khurkh and Khuiten River basin is situated in the transition zone between Mongolian forest and steppe zone.
The site is the habitat of many threatened and endangered species from the southern taiga, Central Asian steppe, and forest steppe of Daguur-Manjuria. The region is a breeding habitat of variety of rare and common bird species that highlights the importance of the inclusion in Ramsar convention.
In terms of vegetation and geographical zones, it includes in the Khentii mountain taiga zone, and Daguur-steppe mountain forest steppe zone. There are some rare plants in the wetlands.
More about Khurkh-Khuiten

Xingkai lake reserve

China, Heilongjiang Province
Geographical location of the territory:
Xinghai Lake National Nature Reserve is located in the southeast part of Heilongjiang Province, 120 km to Jixi City, 25 km away from Mishan City, and at the east and south neighbor to Russia. Russian reserve “Lake Khanka” borders the reserve.
The reserve is an important place of habitat of number of endangered wildlife which is protected in China. Here can be seen 59 nationally protected species including birds and mammals.
Xingkai Lake reserve has a complex wetland system, including grassland, marshes, lakes, and forests.According to the statistics, 691 higher plant species, 238 bird species and 68 fish species are present in this reserve.
More about Xingkai lake

Dongfanghong wetland reserve

China, Heilongjiang Province
Geographical location of the territory:
Dongfanghong Wetland National Nature Reserve is located in the transition zone between the Wanda Mountains and the Ussuri River along the border with the Russian Federation.
Dongfanghong wetland NNR lies in the Sanjiang Plain, which belongs to the sparse trees wetland grassland types. The area is rich in animal and plant resources.
There are 43 national protected wildlife species. This floodplain supports rare and globally threatened wildlife such as the critically endangered Baer’s pochard and the endangered Oriental stork and Amur tiger.
More about Dongfanghong NNR

Honghe National nature reserve

China, Heilongjiang Province
Geographical location of the territory:
Honghe National Nature Reserve is located at the boundary of Tongjiang City and Fuyuan County.
Honghe NNR lies in the Sanjiang Plain which contains the largest area of original marsh in China, with many different wetland types. Due to those special natural conditions, the reserve has abundant flora. According to statistic, over one thousand plant species are presented in this reserve including 6 endangered rarely wild floral species in China
A near-natural marsh ecosystem with a large variety of wetland types, providing support for 7 endangered species of mammals and 10 endangered species of avifauna.
More about Honghe NNR

Momoge National nature reserve

China, Jilin Province
Geographical location of the territory:
Momoge National Nature Reserve is located in the northwestern part of Jilin Province, where the boundary of Jilin Zhenlai county and Heilongjiang Province.
The Momoge National Nature Reserve includes most wetland classification types in the Songnen Plain, such as swamps, lakes, salt marshes, paddy fields, and others.
Wetland ecosystems, as the main protected areas in the reserve, have unique ecological values and functions, especially for rare birds and waterfowl, such as red-crowned crane, which inhabits the wetlands. Here can be seen over 50 nationally protected bird species, especially for Siberian crane.
More about Momoge NNR

Zhalong National nature reserve

China, Heilongjiang Province
Geographical location of the territory:
The site is located 26 km east of Qiqihar City in the west of Heilongjiang Province.
The site regularly supports over 20,000 waterbirds. Particularly, here can be seen 35 nationally protected bird species which including 6 crane species, there are close to 350 red-crowned cranes overwintering at the reserve.
Vegetation in the area includes meadow prairie, wet meadow, marshy vegetation and aquatic vegetation. Especially the extensive reed marshes in the reserve provide a important habitat for breeding waterbirds in cluding endangered red-crowned crane. Grassland, farmland and man-made fishponds surround the reserve.
More about Zhalong NNR

Zhenbaodao National nature reserve

China, Heilongjiang Province
Geographical location of the territory:
The Heilongjiang Zhenbaodao Wetland National Nature Reserve is located to the east of Hulin city, northeast China. It is on the border between China and Russia.
The Zhenbaodao Wetland National Nature Reserve supports 31 nationally protected bird species which 23 are birds and 8 are mammals. The important protect subjects of this reserve are red-crowned crane and Oriental stork. Other endangered faunal species include the Amur tiger, white-naped crane, red deer etc.
The Zhenbaodao Wetland National Nature Reserve is a rare almost natural wetland without human disturbance. There are not used for agriculture, aquaculture or other production uses. However, with the beautiful landscapes of the Wusuli River and diverse wetlands, this site is of great potential value for ecotourism.
More about Zhenbaodao NNR

Qixing river reserve

China, Heilongjiang Province
Geographical location of the territory:
The Heilongjiang Qixing River National Nature Reserve is located in Northeast China. It has 40 km away from Baoqing County.
This site supports 29 threatened species of which 3 are mammals and 26 are birds such as Siberian crane, Oriental stork, red-crowned crane, scaly-sided merganser and Baer’s pochard. The reserve is important breeding site for nationally protected Eurasian spoonbill. According the survey, its population was increased by every year.
The Qixing River wetland reserve has typical micro-climate characteristics, which play significant role to adjust climate change of reserve and surrounding areas, sustain ground water levels, cleaning the air and so on. The mainly vegetation types are meadows, swamp and aquatic vegetations.
More about Qixing river NNR

Sanjiang reserve

China, Heilongjiang Province
Geographical location of the territory:
The Sanjiang National Nature Reserve is located in the northeast of HeiLongjiang province, along the border with Russia, in the downstream of the Wusuli River.
The site is an important habitat and stopover for migratory birds. Particularly the site is internationally important for waterbirds, including the endangered Oriental stork, Chinese merganser etc. And, more remarkable, the number of geese and ducks may reach up to 100,000 in autumn.
According to the statistics, there are 43 mammal species, 259 bird species, 8 reptile species, 7 amphibian species, about 500 insect species and 105 fish species in the Reserve. In addition, there are more than 900 species of higher plant such as nationally protected wild species soybean.
More about Sanjiang NNR

Dalai lake National nature reserve

China, Inner Mongolia
Geographical location of the territory:
The site is located in West Hulunbeir Prefecture, stretching across three administrative sub-regions. It lies 40 km south of the city center of Manzhouli. The southern edge of the site borders the Republic of Mongolia on transboundary Buir Lake.
Reserve is an important channel of Australia-east Asia migratory birds and distribution center, and it is also important Asia waterfowl breeding grounds. There are over 100,000 migrations stage or breed here every year. There are support 55 national protection species.
Because of the large density of reeds and other hydrophytes that grow at its edges, it has a strong influence on maintaining water quality. Marsh vegetation types are the mainly cover plant in the Dalai Lake. They are distributed in river channels and seasonally or permanently flooding areas. Areas with marsh vegetation provide important breeding areas for birds and spawning areas for fish. The Dalai Lake region is critical for maintaining regional climate.
More about Dalai lake

Nanweng river National nature reserve

China, Heilongjiang Province
Geographical location of the territory:
Heilongjiang Nanweng River National Nature Reserve is located in the Great Xing an Mountains Area, Songling District, in Northeast China
This wetland is an important water source for over 10 million populations in Nen River Basin, as well ensuring the recharge of 350 million cubic of water for Heilongjiang Zhalong Nature Reserve per year.
Being located in the transitional area between the temperate and cold zone, this site supports a representative mixture of plants from the Siberian, Inner Mongolian and Changbai floras.
More about Nanweng river reserve

Xianghai National nature reserve

China, Jilin Province
Geographical location of the territory:
The reserve is located 67 km north-west of Tongyu County, Jilin Province.
The area is important for breeding, wintering and staging waterbirds. There are 52 national protected species recorded in the reserve.
Sand dunes, grasslands, swamps and lakes cross distribute in the Reserve, making up diversity wetland landscape. The area is rich in animal and plant resources. The sand dunes interspersed between the lakes and marshes are covered with elm forest. There is a high diversity of aquatic plants, with the algae providing abundant food for fish. The large area of reed marshland provides an excellent habitat for waterbirds.The site regularly supports over 20,000 waterbirds.
More about Xianghai NNR

Wetlands news of the year

A pair of Red-crowned cranes became the heroes of live video stream

WWF Russia web portal AmurInfoCenter launched online broadcasting from the enclosure with Red-crowned cranes in the Muravyevsky Wildlife Refuge in Amurskaya province.

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Inhabitants of rivers, lakes and swamps of the Amur basin became heroes of the International contest of children paintings “Wetlands for life”

2000 children have already submitted their art works to the International Contest “Wetlands for Life” organized by WWF Russia in the Amur-Heilong River basin in the Year for Wetlands - 2021. The paintings are accepted till April 30, so the kids still have time to take part in the Contest on the AmurInfoCenter web portal of the Amur-Heilong Ecoregion.

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Two rarest Red-crowned cranes were released into the wild in Primorye

On March 29, two Red-crowned cranes, rarest bird species in the Amur River basin, were released into the wild in the buffer zone of the Khanka Lake Nature Reserve in Russia. These birds were rescued from death with the support of WWF and were kept at the Rehabilitation Center TIGR in the village of Alekseevka in order to be prepared for independent life in the wild.

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The Year for wetlands - 2021 kicks off on World wetlands day in the Amur-Heilong river basin

Marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, WWF announced 2021 as the Year for Wetlands in the Amur-Heilong River Basin. WWF Russia, WWF China and WWF Mongolia as well as nature reserves, national parks, and public organizations of the ecoregion will unite efforts for wetlands conservation.

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From Russia to South Korea: new scientific data on Oriental stork migration

Two Oriental storks tagged with GPS transmitters in Russia with support of WWF were observed on the wintering sites in South Korea. New data on their migration route were obtained thanks to international programs on stork conservation and joint efforts of specialists from Russia, China and South Korea.

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In the Year for Wetlands – 2021, protected areas of the Amur basin launched a campaign to protect rivers, lakes and swamplands

On World Wetlands Day, five provinces of the Russian Far East: Khabarovsky, Primorsky, Zabaikalsky, Amurskaya and Evreiskaya provinces, with the support of WWF-Russia, an environmental education campaign was launched to protect rivers, lakes and swamps. More than 5500 people took part in offline and online events over just one week.

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Online cameras captured the first egg in the nest of Oriental storks in the Amur Ecoregion

Today, on March 26, the first egg appeared in the nest of Oriental storks in Amurskaya province. This pair of storks has been breeding here for about 20 years. 4 years in a row specialists have been monitoring the nest with online cameras as part of a joint project of WWF Russia and NGO AmurSEU.

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The field operation to rescue Kvoter, the red-crowned crane, successfully ended in Primorye

Ornithologists from Amur-Ussuri Center for the Study of Birds Biodiversity and the Russian Academy FNTS Biodiversity Feb RAS Russia were supporting the life and security of a Red-crowned crane named Kvoter for more than two months. This rare bird, released from the Muravyevsky Park in Amuskaya Province did not fly to the south but stayed to winter in the northern Primorye. On February 10, the crane was finally captured and taken to the Rehabilitation Center. The rescue operation was supported by WWF.

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Local citizens are actively participating in the “Tree for water, water for life” campaign

As part of “Tree for water, water for life” campaign, the soum households volunteered to plant trees and planted 200 elms in Delgerkhaan Mountain.

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WWF appeals to the Ministry of the environment to protect rivers from placer gold mining

One of the main WWF’s proposals sent to Alexander Kozlov, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia, is to introduce a ten-year ban on the issuance of licenses for prospecting, exploration and extracting of placer gold deposits on rivers not previously affected by this type of activity

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Photo Gallery

WWF Russia

Video Gallery

Photo exhibition dedicated to the Year of Wetlands - 2021: Guardian of Water. Wetlands of the Amur-Heilong river basin.

Jaki-Unakhta-Yakbeyan ridge vista. "Bolonskiy" natural reserve. Photo: Adrian Kolotilin

The Bolonsky Nature Reserve is a hub of migratory bird flyway and a place of concentration of wetlands with a rich diversity of animals and plants. During the spring and autumn migration, hundreds of thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds gather on floodplain lakes to rest and feed. Many of them stay here for nesting. Lake Bolon and its delta reservoirs are important spawning grounds and feeding grounds for many Amur-Heilong fish species.

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Ussuri River Valley. Photo: Anna Serdyuk

The Ussuri River is the largest waterway in Primorsky province and one of the largest tributaries of the Amur-Heilong River. It originates in the southern part of the Sikhote-Alin mountain system. The riverbed is very winding, with many branches and channels. In its basin there are about 2,800 small lakes with a total area of 120 square kilometers and Lake Khanka with a water surface area of 4070 square kilometers.

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Lake. National Park "Alkhanay". Photo: Ochirnima Nemaev

The unnamed, unexplored lake is located in the protected area of the Alkhanay National Park. There is an assumption that the origin of the water system is thermokarst. Moose regularly come to the lake.

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Scaly-sided merganser. National park "Udegeyskaya legenda". Photo: Vladimir Gnevashev

The scaly-sided merganser is endemic to the Amur-Heilong basin, the rarest and most ancient duck. This species is several million years old. Birds inhabit the mountain rivers of the middle and lower Amur region, Primorye and Manchuria, preferring to settle on the banks of mountain rivers and lakes. They make nests in burrows, tree hollows, among rocks and shrubs. 85 % of the world population of the scaly-sided merganser nests in Russia. Most birds winter in southern and southeastern China, and sometimes in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, northern Vietnam, Myanmar, and Thailand.

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Bobchi well spring from bird`s eye view. National park "Annyuskiy". Photo: Valeriy Badulin

Bobchi well spring is a typical plain watercourse. This is the natural border of the national park and surrounding area. The spring flows into Lake Gussie, which is located on the lands of the national park. Lake Gussie is currently considered the northernmost body of water where the Chinese softshell turtle, a representative of tropical fauna, lives.

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Godwit. Daurskiy natural reserve. Photo: Yuri Bazhenov

The Torey Lakes and their surroundings are home to more than 300 species of birds, of which about 40 species are listed in the Red Book of Russia, more than 20-in the Red List of Globally Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The godwit lives in shallow water, where it catches fry and small fish. It also feeds on insects and their larvae. It breeds in the reserve, and flies to Southeast Asia and Australia for the winter.

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Lake Zabelovskoye is one of the largest lakes in the Amur-Heilong basin. Photo: Andrey Averin

The lake with an area of 4.28 sq. km is located on the territory of the Zabelovsky cluster of the Bastak Nature Reserve. This is an ancient estuarine lake, where swampy water bodies have been preserved. One of them connects him to Amur river. Here, during the spring and autumn migration, flocks of hundreds of waterfowl stop to feed, replenishing their energy reserves for further flight.

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Mandarin duck. National park "Udegeyskaya legenda". Photo: Irina Merzlyakova

The Mandarin duck is endemic to East Asia. This is the most common breeding species of ducks in the forest zone of the Amur-Heilong basin. They live wherever there is floodplain woody vegetation. Mandarin ducks nest in hollows at an altitude of 6-11 m, near the water, where they get food. The sharp claws of the webby feet help the ducks to stay on the branches. Mandarins do not quack like other ducks, but whistle.They winter in southern China and Japan.

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Komarov`s lotus. Khankayskiy natural reserve. Photo: Oleg Tarnovetskiy

Lotus is a legendary plant. In China, the lotus was considered a sacred plant and a symbol of spiritual development, and mystical power was attributed to it. This relic is about 100 million years old. The lotus flower reaches 30 cm in diameter, and the leaves that do not get wet due to the wax coating - from 20 to 100 cm. In Russia, the Komarov`s lotus grows in the Far East in the lower reaches of the Amur River, in the basins of the Ussuri, Bureya, Tunguska and Zeya rivers, on the Prikhankaiskaya plain.

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Otter on the Bukukun river. Sokhondinskiy natural reserve. Photo: Igor Mavrin

Lake Bukukun is a visiting card of the reserve. From the lake flows the Bukukun River, the source of which is located under the rocky stream gravels. The river otter lives here. This is a very careful and keen animal. It is an excellent swimmer, diver, and feeds mainly on fish. It lives in burrows or in the cracks of rocks near the water. The otter burrow is usually located on a steep bank, and the entrance is located below the water level. The otter has several burrows that serve as its home and shelter from predators.

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Misty morning. Swans. Daurskiy natural resreve. Photo: Eugeniy Kokuhin

Birds have a long neck, but without a distinctive bend, a dense and strong body and relatively short legs. Swans settle on the banks of calm and quiet rivers and lakes, bays and estuaries, less often choose swampy areas. They get all their food in water. Swans are very careful - they prefer to stay in open water and do not approach the shore. If possible, even the nest will be built on a small hummock away from the shore.

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Male roe deer. Norskiy Nature reserve. Photo: Vasiliy Kolbin

The Norsk Nature Reserve is the homeland of the largest population of migrating Siberian roe deer. There are up to 7000 of them here. The fawns are born in late spring, and with the onset of autumn, the great migration of roe deer to the south begins with overcoming the main obstacle — the Nora River. The roe deer plowing the northern river has become a symbol of the Norskiy Nature Reserve. Mass crossing of roe deer is a unique sight.

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Wetland conservation challenges

Hydroelectric construction
Most of the wetlands of the Amur-Heilong basin are located in the floodplain of this river or its tributaries. Their existence is closely related to the hydrological regime of this river. The construction of hydroelectric structures, especially "large" hydroelectric power plants on large tributaries of the river, significantly changes the natural flow of water in the rivers. In addition, hydroelectric dams deposit so-called sediment load in reservoirs, sand and soil particles that are constantly transported by rivers. In addition, the redistribution of annual sediment load negatively affects the breeding conditions of wetland animals, primarily many fish species.

Wildfires
Most of the wetlands of the Amur-Heilong ecoregion are subject to the annual impact of fires. Vegetation suffers from the burning of shallow roots and the death of fallen seeds. For animals, late spring fires are especially dangerous, as a result the clutches and nestlings of birds and animal’s cubs die. Autumn and winter fires lead to the destruction of the food supply of ungulates in the winter, which negatively affects their survival in these difficult natural conditions.

Wetlands drainage
This happens both as a result of the construction of hydroelectric structures (see the first point), and as a result of purposeful activities. For a long time, and even now, swamps are perceived by people as useless territories that could be used more usefully – for construction, agriculture or other purposes. The most affected are small areas of wetlands among the fields, the so-called estuaries, which are drained and completely plowed. At the same time, these areas play an important role in the nesting of white-naped and red-crowned cranes in the agricultural areas of the Amur-Heilong basin.

Pollution
Unfortunately, a significant part of the settlements equipped with centralized sewage systems, both in the Russian and Chinese parts of the Amur-Heilong basin, are still not equipped with treatment facilities that allow for sufficient purification of sewage water. Agricultural activities lead to contamination of wetlands with fertilizers and pesticides due to their flushing from the fields when the technology of their application is violated. A separate problem is the pollution of reservoirs, which are places of recreation for the population, and their coastal territories with solid household waste, primarily plastic.

Hunting, poaching and the disturbance factors
Hunting waterfowl during their migrations creates a significant disturbance factor for the birds, preventing them from resting and fattening up during migration stops. In addition to the waterfowl themselves, species that are not objects of hunting – cranes, oriental storks - are also of concern. Fish poaching with nets undermines the food supply of semiaquatic animals and birds, abandoned nets lead to the death of fish and waterfowl animals and birds, and are pollutants of water bodies.

Animals of Amur-Heilong

Living in the wetlands: Badger

The animal prefers to inhabit dry, dehydrated areas located near water bodies or swampy lowlands. This is due to the nature of the animal's diet, as it prefers to eat mouse-like rodents, lizards, frogs, birds and their eggs. And all the most delicious food either grows near the water, or lives near swamps and streams.

Living in the wetlands: Moose

The presence of wetlands is very important for moose habitats: Moose makes up for the lack of mineral salts and chemical elements, feeding on wetland vegetation, accumulating a supply for the winter, in the water, the mighty animal finds salvation from the summer heat, as well as from blood-sucking insects.

Living in the wetlands: Roe deer

The Asian roe deer is much larger than the European one. Most of the year, it lives sedentary on a plot of only 2-3 square kilometers, sometimes even less in winter. It likes to live near mares and grass swamps. Asian roe deer swim well and freely cross rivers such as the Amur-Heilong during their migrations. They feed on grass, as well as berries and mushrooms; in winter – branches, buds and dry leaves of trees and shrubs. They are very fond of acorns, which are sometimes even dug out from under the snow in winter.

Living in the wetlands: Japanese tree frog

The tree frog lives in well-warmed floodplains of large rivers, along the shores of lakes and in warm swamps. In the spring, in the habitats of this amphibian, you can hear "concerts" performed by male tree frogs. Although tree frogs are relatively small creatures, their singing is very loud due to their throat resonators. In standing warm water, the females lay their eggs in late May-June. These amphibians feed mainly on various insects and spiders.