Out today in Polar Biology, a decadal science process culminates with a release of a major science paper from community-based observations of change from Ponoy River catchment, Murmansk, Russia. A Sámi-Russian-Finnish-Swedish-US team investigated the proliferation of Pacific Pink Salmon, introduced species, and impact of climate change on this wilderness river system in NW Russian Arctic.
More specifically, the paper documents changes in three villages of the Ponoy River region, Murmansk, Russia between 2006 and 2020. Two keystone species—the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and northern pike (Esox lucius) as well as an introduced species, the pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), were studied to determine changes to fish and fisheries. Oral histories, community-based observations and literature data are used to establish key messages on river health from the 1800s to 2020, including temperature data from 1864 to present. Climate change becomes increasingly evident and impacts the Ponoy River system from 1980s onwards with system-relevant changes becoming more pronounced in late 2010s. This coincides with proliferation of pink salmon from 2006 onwards. The species was introduced from the Russian Far East in the 1930s. Very few long-term community-based observation processes have taken place in the Russian North and this paper corrects this to certain extent. Ponoy River and region are important as the last major roadless wilderness area of the European North. Societal and climate changes are rapidly impacting the river and its catchment area as well as the available biological resources and consequently the local culture. This study shows the value of local communities to determine base lines and highlight ongoing changes when establishing climate change impacts and impacts of an alien species.