The Laboratory of Brackish Water Hydrobiology



Laboratory of Brackish Water Hydrobiology in international expeditions to the Aral Sea



N. V. Aladin and colleagues from the Laboratory of Brackish Water Hydrobiology conducting field research at the Aral Sea

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Nowadays the staff includes five researchers and one technician.




N. V. Aladin

Scientific Staff





The Laboratory of Brackish Water Hydrobiology is the youngest laboratory in the Zoological Institute. It was established in 1989 in accordance with the resolution of the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences as a result of a scientific project competition of young scientists. Initially the Laboratory was engaged in the studies of the Aral Sea only, but later on its interests expanded to other saline lakes. The Laboratory head is Nikolay Vasilievich Aladin.


Research Directions


Initially the Laboratory carried out hydrobiological studies on the Aral Sea and studies of salinity adaptations and osmoregulatory capacity of invertebrates from this huge saline lake. Already in 1990 the Laboratory has undertaken the first 2 expeditions to the Aral Sea. Further there were many other expeditions. In several of these, Russian scientists from the Institute and affiliated institutions were joined by foreign scientists from the United States (Professors P. Micklin and T. Dietz), Spain (Prof. M. Alonso), Germany (Prof. D. Keyser), Australia (Prof. W. Williams), and the United Kingdom (Dr. I. Boomer, Dr. Steve Juggins, Dr. Basil Davis, Fiona Murray).

During surveys on the Aral Sea some modern techniques of hydrobiological studies were applied on this lake at the first time. Just in the first expeditions macrobenthos was collected by divers with SCUBA equipment. Later radioisotope methods were utilized to measure primary production and radiocarbon analysis of saxaul stumps to estimate age of the Aral Sea terraces. As a result many data on the present status of the Aral Sea aquatic ecosystems and the historical development of its fauna and flora were obtained.

Since the middle 1990's the Laboratory carried out studies in other themes also. There were began hydrobiological studies on the Caspian Sea and karst lakes of Middle Volga region, palaeolimnological studies on lakes Issyk-Kul, Balkhash, saline lakes of Australia and South America. Besides this there were continued ecologo-physiological features of popular species of aquatic invertebrates from the White, Baltic and Caspian Seas.

Now in the Laboratory  the following directions of studies are developed:

Laboratory workers have collected, for the first time, the benthic community from the Aral Sea, including a sample of the plankton and benthos. This collection was used for a study of primary production. SCUBA equipment and radioisotope methods were utilized. The main conclusion of these studies was that a new crisis period is approaching, associated with an increase in salinity of up to 36 to 42%. This crisis will lead to the death of the flounder, shrimp, and bivalve mollusk population and a reoccupation of their niches by hyperhaline fauna. This crisis can be avoided by increasing the flow of the Amu Dar'ya and Syr Dar'ya rivers that feed into the Aral Sea.

The Laboratory has collected Aral Sea materials for the evaluation of the recent state of the environment, biodiversity, and biological productivity in the planktonic and bottom communities and their resistance to change on the basis of main environmental characteristics in the Aral Sea as well as data for palaeolimnological reconstruction of environmental conditions in the Aral Sea.

Data obtained by the Laboratory officials themselves and received due to cooperation with other organizations has become the base for computer data bases on research themes. Now the most complete there are data base "The Aral Sea zooplankton and The Aral Sea zoobenthos", reflecting dynamics of changes in the hydrobionts communities during process of desiccation and salinization of the Aral Sea. In the Laboratory there are created original software to access these data bases, to calculate functional parameters of aquatic communities and for statistical data processing.

The staff of the Laboratory participated or participate in projects of UNEP, UNESCO, UNDP, CEP, INTAS, DAAD, TACIS, "Integration of Science and High School", Russian Foundation for Basic Research, and others. During 14 years there were written tens of papers, some books and collective monographs. Results of researches are presented in Russian and foreign scientific conferences and symposia. Members of the Laboratory participated in more tan 30 expeditions on the Aral Sea, Caspian Sea, Balkhash, Issyk-Kul, mineralized lakes of Middle Volga region and other water reservoirs. Officials of the Laboratory as invitees visited Baltic, White and Black Seas, and water bodies in other regions of Russia.

The Laboratory actively co-operates with colleagues from Russia and other countries being interested in the Aral Sea problem. As a result four volumes of  Proceedings of Zoological Institute, where problems arisen in the relation to the Aral Sea regression and salinization are discussed. Results of  studies on the Aral Sea have allowed to lay the foundation for monitoring and to draw conclusions corresponding modern conception of salinity impact on hydrobionts. Resting on these results the Laboratory gives necessary to develop plans of the Aral Sea conservation and rehabilitation  to the interested in the problem institutions in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Results obtained due to studies on the Caspian Sea  have allowed to analyze spatial-temporal transformation in the communities of aquatic organisms resulted from the present rise of the sea level. For the first time by the results of hydrobiological studies there was drawn conclusion about stopping of the Caspian Sea level rise and its relative stabilization in the late 1990's. Revealed dependencies of hydrobiological regime parameters from the key factors of environment are forming scientific base for further evaluation of anthropogenic factors impact on the Northern Caspian ecosystem and also for evaluation of possible impact of alien for the Caspian ecosystem invaders.

Palaeolimnological studies in the Pont-Aral-Caspian basin have allowed to reveal the main directions in the evolution of marine and brackish water fauna in this region. The revealed regularities allow to draw reliable conclusions about possible destiny of endemic species and ecosystems under recent oscillations of level and salinity.

Studies of salinity adaptations of aquatic invertebrates both in metazoan (Crustacea, Mollusca) and protozoan (Infusoria) organisms allow to draw theoretically important conclusions about of salinity adaptations evolution and evolution of taxa in Eucariota. In the Laboratory also there are carried out eco-faunistic studies of amphibiotic and secondary aquatic Arthropoda, especially Insecta (ecology of species and their importance as indicators; ecology of communities; composition of local and regional faunas). There are collected numerous materials on the formation and dynamics of arthropod communities on the Aral Sea former bottom; simultaneously there were obtained faunistic materials on many systematic groups of Arthropoda (Chelicerata, Myrmeleontidae, Coleoptera, Lepidoptera) considerably completing regional species lists.

Synthesis of palaeolimnological, zoological, hydrobiological and experimental approaches  allows to carry out studies on more high-quality level to be compared with the traditional. This provides high efficiency and quality of obtained results.

Members of the Laboratory are also involved in educational activity. There were worked out lecture course on hydrobiology of southern sear of Russia, which are given in St. Petersburg State University, Institute of Mines, Caspian Floating University.




Original papers have been published in Russian and international journals. Five volumes of the Proceedings of the Zoological Institute (Trudy Zoologicheskogo Instituta) dealing with the Aral Seal have recently been published. These are volumes 199 (1989), 223 (1990), 237 (1991), and 250 (1993). A fifth volume of the Proceedings of the Zoological Institute, 262 (1995), has just been published under the title Biological and Environmental Problems of the Aral Sea and Aral Region.
See  List of publications on the Aral and Caspian Seas.




199034 RUSSIA, St.-Petersburg, Universitetskaya nab. 1, Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, Laboratory of Brackish Water Hydrobiology
FAX:(812)3282941 and (812)1140444

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