Commander Islands

 

Commander Islands

Region of the Russian Federation: Kamchatsky Kray

Status of Territories composing the Property: Komandorsky State Nature Biosphere Reserve

Area: 3 648 679 ha

Status: inscribed in the Tentative List of the Russian Federation in 2005

The Commander Islands form the westernmost part of the Aleutian islands arc being the peaks of a grandiose submarine volcanic ridge which borders the Bering Sea from the south. This island arc can be considered as a connecting link between Asia and North America - a bridge along which plants and animals were settling apart.

The islands are inhabited by a considerable number of endemic animals and plants: Arctic fox, rock ptarmigan, rock sandpiper, ancient murrelet, wren, gray-crowned rosy finch, island wormwood and others. Some species - representatives of Asian and American flora and fauna are common here, among them at least a dozen of vascular plants, many algae, marine invertebrates and birds. Some of them cannot be observed anywhere else in Russia.

Covering nowadays most part of the islands the mountain tundra adds much to the unique beauty of the Commanders' natural complexes. Their evolution took place in the absence of permafrost and without any influence of phytophagous animals (even-hoofed mammals, rodents), i.e. factors that in fact are playing great role in tundra aspect's formation on the continent.

Commander's landscapes are strikingly beautiful. Quaint sea cliffs, bluffs and rock exposures, expanses of the plain tundra, low-mountain massifs with abrupt slopes and narrow valleys of numerous rivers and streams, forming dozens of picturesque waterfalls, constantly changing marine sceneries and even frequent fogs - all these features create the surprisingly attractive image of the islands. Ceaseless rumpus of numerous birds' colonies on seashores, animals' trustfulness and breeding grounds of marine mammals supplement the scene.

Coastal zone and aquatoria of the Commander Islands are known for the remarkable biodiversity of marine mammals and sea birds. There are no other examples of such dense concentration of mammals and birds of different species on a really small coastal area within the limits of Russia. Sea otters, harbour and common seals are permanent inhabitants of the islands. Rookeries of the northern fur seal and Steller's sea lion are being restored. The coastal zone is a place of fattening, wintering or migration paths of porpoises, sperm, killer, Cuvier's beaked, little piked, humpbacked whales, seiwhale, finwhale and others. Many of marine mammals and sea birds have been inscribed to the Russian and IUCN Red Data Books.

The whole remarkable diversity of the Commanders' marine landscapes and biocenosis is concentrated directly near the coast. Almost all the vertical oceanic zones - from littoral to ultraabissal - can be observed here within the distance of only 30 miles from the coast. Since 1958 all types of economic activities including commercial harvesting of fish and other marine organisms were prohibited within the 30-mile protection zone around the Commander Islands. Due to this decision nowadays it is one of the last shelf sections still remaining undisturbed in its natural state within the territory of a vast harvesting region of the Far East.