In recent years, there has appeared an increasing number of studies on assessment of biodiversity levels in fauna and flora of individual small areas, landscape zones, countries, and the world as a whole. Such data are important as a basis for development of principles and techniques of biodiversity conservation in the conditions of developing national and inter-state environmental management systems. The more we know about biodiversity, the better we can use it without causing damage. Furthermore, such information is required for comparative analysis of local, zonal, and global structure of the biota of the Earth, and understanding of its laws.
The aim of this catalogue was to present the biodiversity of a geographically limited area covered by the educational and scientific activities of the White Sea Biological Station of Moscow State University (MSU WSBS). The catalogue of the MSU WSBS biota includes more than 6,000 species of bacteria, protistas, fungi, plants and animals, that live in all habitats (land, sea, fresh water) on an area of about 40 square kilometers. On this very small plot of land and sea, at the latitude of the Arctic Circle, there are present the four main kingdoms, 64 phylums, and 152 classes of the biota of our planet. Today, the MSU WSBS vicinity is one of the most well-studied parts of our planet, by the number of studied species per unit of area. As human impact in the WSBS vicinity is very insignificant, due to the area remoteness from major settlements and industrial enterprises, absence of runoff of polluted rivers; absence of large-scale logging, industrial fishing and seaweed gathering; and due to weak recreational and tourist load; the biota of MSU WSBS vicinity can be considered as undisturbed and regarded as a model biota for the White Sea and the northern European taiga.
The biological Station was founded in 1938, and in this way, it has the over 70 year history of an inventory of its flora and fauna. This was achieved by the WSBS staff, by invited researchers and specialists in different taxa, by professors, and by students. The biota studies are stimulated by annual student field practices. Each year, samples from from land and sea travel are brought, and under supervision of professors, is analysed, sorted, drawn, photographed, and defined. Interesting samples and specimens are preserved and sent for further study in Moscow to various chairs of the MSU Department of Biology, and other academic institutions. Almost every year, researchers discover at the WSBS vicinity, new species, previously unknown in the WSBS area, in the White Sea area, or new to science.
The initial idea of the catalogue belongs to the former WSBS employee, Natalya Mikhailovna Kalyakina. For several years she has collected an impressive array of fauna and flora lists, from professors and researchers. This work turned out to be quite complicated. The reality was that not all researchers had a tradition to compile such lists for large groups of animals or plants. Thus, botanists have compiled lists of vascular plants of the WSBS and then have been continuously updating them; while zoologists did not have such lists as a common practice. They just knew, for example, what kinds of bivalves can be found in the Velikaya Salma and how to find them, or what kinds of butterflies can be found at the station power line swath. Compilation of more formal fauna lists lists, required both some additional effort from the authors and constant perseverance from N.M.Kalyakina. We had to verify additionally many lists in order to confirm the validity and completeness of the Latin names, using taxonomic databases and involving competent experts, who, in most cases, became co-authors of the lists. In total, compilation of the catalog involved 68 authors. In all lists, species are ranked according to the traditional Linnaean hierarchical system, with mandatory listing of main taxonomic ranks (species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom); where appropriate, the intermediate ranks are given.
Authors, whose names are listed under the name of the corresponding taxon, bear all responsibility for the integrity and authenticity of the lists. Some lists display species just as names, consisted of two words, without any additional information. Other lists may contain brief information on habitat, occurrence (common or rare), substrate, hosts, etc. Some of the most comprehensive lists (e.g. embryophytes) also contain information on the extinct or new species in the WSBS vicinity. The lists are based both on published and original personal data of the authors. The published data contain references to corresponding publications.
The biota study area is determined by the field trip routes. The Kindo peninsula, to the east of the Ershovsky lakes, and its surrounding marine areas have been studied evenly and in sufficient detail. At the same time, the catalog includes species found in several more remote isolated locations, where the material is systematically collected for regular practical courses, student independent work, and scientific research - Chernaya River, Nilma, Krestovye islands, Kastyan island, Velichaikha island, or Kokoikha island. These locations are separated from the Kindo Peninsular by vast territories with scarce knowledge of their fauna and flora. The species registered and in these, or only in these remote locations, are especially marked in the lists.
The lists of species presented by the catalogue, show how unevenly the WSBS vicinities are explored. For some large taxa, the lists appear complete or almost completely finalized (i.e. embryophytes, or vertebrates), except for possible extinction of appearance of some species in future. The lists of species of large marine invertebrates, cnidarians, molluscs, higher crustaceans, annelids, echinoderms, apparently, will not increase greatly in future.But the degree of scrutiny of small invertebrates, such as meiobenthic nematodes, or Harpacticoida copepods, is much lower, in spite of the impressive numbers of species abundance listed in the catalogue. Unfortunately, there is still no data on the species classification for such groups as Turbellaria, gastrotrichs and, of course, for many groups of flagellates, naked forms of sarcodines, or epibenthic ciliates. The lists of terrestrial biota show absence of data on centipedes, many groups of spiders, excluding ticks (for example, the list of spider species is limited only to supra-littoral forms), and an extreme incompleteness of information on many insect orders. The fauna of soils and litter is scarcely covered. Finally, the catalogue almost does not cover a huge variety of prokaryotic organisms (except blue-green algae). Of course, compilation of a complete list of all living organisms for the local biota is an almost impossible task. No one point of our planet has got such complete lists so far. However, if it is possible to conduct further research and obtain data on the species classifications of the taxa, missing or poorly represented in this catalogue, in future we can get a more balanced view of the WSBS biota diversity and structure.
The editors are sincerely grateful to Alexander B. Tsetlin, the WSBS director and MSU Professor of Invertebrate Zoology for his multilateral support, which contributed significantly to the successful completion of this project of creation of the WSBS biota catalogue.