Information Retrieval System for Fauna and Flora in Protected Natural Areas of the Russian Federation

Petrosyan V.G., Reshetnikov U.S., Kuzmin S.L., Korneeva T.M., Nuhimovskaya U.D.,
Varshavskiy A.A., Pavlov A.V., Bessonov S.A., Dergunova N.N.

Institute of Ecology and Evolution, RAS

Dorofeeva E.A., Sideleeva V.G.
Zoological Institute, RAS

Pavlinov I.Y., Orlova V.F.
Zoological Museum of the Moscow State University

 Information Retrieval System for Fauna and Flora
  Browse: Fish species

Information Retrieval System for Fauna and Flora
  Browse: Amphibians

Information Retrieval System for Fauna and Flora
  Browse: Reptiles

Information Retrieval System for Fauna and Flora
  Browse: Birds

Information Retrieval System for Fauna and Flora
  Browse: Mammals

Information Retrieval System for Fauna and Flora
  Browse: Vascular Plants

 Information Retrieval System for Fauna and Flora
  Browse: Lichens

Information Retrieval System for Fauna and Flora
  Browse: Mosses

Information Retrieval System for Fauna and Flora
  Browse: Hepaticae & Anthocerotae

The aim of the project, which was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was the translation and development of a consolidated and comprehensive Information System and an Integrated Database (ISID), which would be available for use in research of the Nature Reserves of the Russian Federation. For this goal, WEB-portals on the basis of the problem-oriented information systems should be developed using the INTERBASE SQL-server (multiprocessor version), CGI stand-alone program executables, Java-script, DHTML, XML – languages and HTTP - protocol. Pilot version of this system was created with the help of a multi-language (Russian and English) search engine for the portal.

One of the most complicated tasks of this project is the comparative assessment of biological diversity in nature reserves. The biodiversity studies in Russia have been undertaken for more than 90 years and a huge number of articles has been published, however, the fact that these data were presented in many different sources which were often incompatible with one another, has not allowed to use the available information for carrying out the comparative analysis. We assume that unless such information is not generalized, any assessment of the state of biodiversity of protected areas would be arguable. Long-term detailed studies on the species' composition have been carried out most comprehensively in the State Nature Reserves both by reserve staff and invited researchers. Therefore, first of all our task was to create the information system and the databases on the biota of the nature reserves. These new WEB-portals sum up both published and previously unpublished data collected through the Chronicles of Nature long-term monitoring program. We strived to include the available material accumulated to-date in the reserves as much as possible.

An inventory of wildlife species composition is usually begun from the moment of the reserve's establishment. As can be seen from the database presented in the Information System, different groups of vertebrate animals in nature reserves have been studied to various extents. For example, fish species is the least studied area. Traditionally, in scientific staffs of the reserves, with some exceptions, there have been no full-time ichthyologists. Fish species have therefore been studied either by zoologists associated with other Research Institutions from the Russian Academy of Sciences and Universities, or by staff zoologists with other specializations as a side activity of their own research programs.

The species of batracho- and herpeto- fauna have been studied more thoroughly. The Chronicles of Nature in many nature reserves contain the data on the findings and phenology of amphibians and reptiles. In these studies, the fundamental contribution was made by researches from the different Institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Ornithological and theriological studies are being conducted in the majority of nature reserves. Practically in all their scientific staffs, there are ornithologists and theriologists who carry out the studies on species composition and biology (including rare and endemic species), population, ecology and biogeography etc.

The first known attempt to conduct a comprehensive assessment of vertebrate animals of reserves was made in 1988 [Krever et all., 1988]. This work presents the lists of animals found in the nature reserves of Russia, as well as the data on valuable and rare species that do not have protection status but are in need of protection. These data were mainly used for preparing of the proposals for organization of new protected areas. In recent years, however, the situation has changed considerably. The number of nature reserves in Russia has increased from 66 to 101. In many of them, the inventories have been completed or are being compiled and, therefore, the lists of vertebrate animals have been updated significantly.

During the same period, the Commission of the USSR Academy of Sciences on Coordination of Scientific Research in the USSR reserves (currently the section on conservancy of the Commission on Biodiversity Conservation of the Russian Academy of Sciences) has arranged publication of a series of booklets entitled "Flora and Fauna of the Nature Reserves". The latter contains the results of inventories of different groups of animals and plants, presented in the form of annotated lists. Before this series was launched, such data had hardly ever been published. In certain cases, the lists of vertebrate animals included in the Chronicles of Nature were incomplete. Such information was often stored in personal field journals and card files. The publication of the "Flora and Fauna of the Nature Reserves" series served as a catalyst for undertaking or completing inventories for many reserves. Altogether, more than 100 issues of this series have been prepared and published.

The efforts of the staff of the Russian Committee of MAB UNESCO resulted in the opening of the website "MAB Fauna" and "MAB Flora" - the lists of only vertebrate animals of biosphere reserves in Russia.

The current Information System was developed in two stages: from 2001 to 2004 and from 2005 to 2006. During the first stage, activities were conducted within the framework of the Federal Special Scientific and technical program of The Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology of Russian Federation ("Information systems on biodiversity"), and partly by Biological Science's department of the RAS ("Fundamental basics of biological resource management"). The main goal was to create the public information system and integrated database (DB) on fauna and flora with the purpose of introduction the species` structure of living organisms, which are protected today within the reserved territories of Russia. The pilot version of the information system was created by the staff of the Institute of Ecology and Evolution RAS (V.G. Petrosyan, U.S. Reshetnikov, S.L. Kuzmin, A.A. Varshavskiy, T.M. Korneeva, U.D. Nukhimovskaya, A.V. Pavlov, S.A. Bessonov), Zoological Museum of the Moscow State University (E.D. Vasilieva, V.F. Orlova, I.Y. Pavlinov), Zoological Institute RAS (V.M. Loskot, E.A. Dorofeeva, V.G Sideleeva), who, together, compiled a Russian version of the database. During this period, the database was filled with information from only the more or less completely published lists of fauna and from other various publications containing important additions to previously published lists [Petrosyan et. all, 2003; Vasilieva et. all, 2003; Nukhimovskaya et. al, 2003; Ignatov et. all 2004]. Furthermore, the first verification of this database using information from nature reserves (Chronicles of Nature and card files) was undertaken.

Since August 2005, the maintenance and updating of the reserves' biota species database has been supported by The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (under the supervision of Steven G. Kohl). The process of amending and updating both the lists and bibliographic references has become more intensive. It is very important that during this period the main attention was focused on development of the integrated database on fauna and flora of Nature Reserves. Russian and English versions of the integrated databases were created for the first time.

The cadastral data on Russian reserves are introduced in the context of conceptual information model which includes: the administrative status, the year of organization, the major ecosystem, habitats & land cover types, the presence of status of biosphere's reserve, the area and characteristics of the spatial distribution, the general description of flora and fauna, the inclusion to the object's register of Universal cultural and natural heritage; the skeleton map of reserves with gridding.

The fish species database contains data on 333 species found in the nature reserves, amounting to 35% of the entire ichthyofauna of Russia (the inland and territorial waters of the Russian Federation are a habitat for more than 950 species of fish). The information, which allows finding of species in the world fish database using URL:, is also presented in the created database.

The amphibian and reptile fauna of Russia is not rich (113 species totally). Out of them, 26 amphibians and 56 reptiles are found in Nature Reserves, i.e. the amphibians' and reptiles' databases contain the data on about 73% of total Russian species content. The developed databases also include information, which allows to find species in the world database of "Amphibian Species of the World" and in the database of Systematics working group of the German Herpetological Society by URL  and, respectively.

Birds' database was created on the basis of L.S. Stepanyan`s work (2003) by means of exclusion of species which inhabited outside Russia. The tables of database include attributes indicating the taxonomic species` description, characteristics of residence (settled, nested, flyway, migratory, wintering), inclusion in The Red Book of the Russian Federation (animals) and literary sources. The created DB gives an idea of current status of birds` conservation in Russia. According to our data, out of 730 birds` species, which reside in the territories of Russia, 702 species are registered in the reserves, i.e. 96%. The information, which provides retrieval of the species in the world database (“Global biodiversity Information Facility”) by URL:, is also presented in created database.

The nature reserves' mammalian data stores information on about 254 species, i.e. amounting to 80% of the wild mammalian fauna of Russia (315-320 species total). The information, which provides retrieval of the species in the world database (“Mammal Species of the World”) by URL:,  is also presented in created database.

The Hepaticae and Anthocerotae database presents the data on about 328 species (94%) found in Russian Nature Reserves out of 350 species found within the whole Russian territory. The Russian Nature Reserve Mosses database unites information on 883 species of a total of1045 ones (database contains 84%).

The Lichens database includes 2015 species found in the Nature Reserves out of a total of 3000 Russian species, i.e. 67%.

The created Vascular Plants database on Russian Reserves includes the characteristics of systematic species` locations, their presence in reserves and literary sources. The summary list of 7920 reserves' species (5 sections and 192 families) and subspecies forms about 75% of vascular flora's plants of Russia. During the development of Information System some restrictions were considered, particularly, only the species concerning up-to-date territory were included in the database - indigenous, including weed, adventive, introductional and cultivated plants (which penetrate into natural communities and are able to exist independently for some years). Only those taxons, which grew for certain or at least were once registered in the proper reserves` territories, but not in their guarded zones or surroundings, were admitted in the database. As the basis of the DB, the published information was assumed, which had been earlier collected by us in the form of basic annotated bibliography on vascular plants and vertebrates of Russian reserves. For many reserves, the annotated species registers are used in the series of "The flora and fauna of reserves", which have been published (since 1987) by the RAS Committee for Reserved Work (nowadays, the section of Reserved Work of the RAS Committee on Biodiversity Conservation, the chairman of the Committee is the Academician of the RAS D.S. Pavlov). Altogether, more than 200 specialists from the Reserves and from other Scientific Institutions took part in the operation. The developed Information System functioning on the basis of the frame-based technology in three different modes: browse, query and search, is presented at the server of the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution at the URL: The review mode is intended for navigation in the hierarchical tree during the species selection out of the database. After the species selection in the special frame, reserves lists are reflected, in which the species was registered, and then the gridding is indicated in the map of Russia. The search mode assures the functional mobility for full textual contextual search in integrated DB of reserves. The developed Information System will be of use for the compilation of cadastres as well as for the specialists of RAS, working under the problem on biodiversity and bio-resources conservation in the Russian Federation.

The quality and completeness of the provided information differs from reserve to reserve. For those reserves, where fauna research is at an initial stage, the lists are obviously incomplete. In some of the older reserves, where inventories were undertaken many times, the lists are practically complete and only slight modifications could be made with the occasional new find or introduction of a new species. We expect that the integrated database will be regularly updated in the future. For the time being, however, the current Internet version of species list is the most complete and accessible among all available sources and can be used as the basis for other initiatives.

  • Krever V.G. "The present-day state and prospects of terrestrial vertebrates conservation in the RSFSR reserves" // Current issues of nature protection. Compendium of academic works of the TsNIL Glavokhoty RSFSR. M. 1988, pp. 63-76.
  • Petrosyan V.G., Pavlov A.V., Bessonov S.A. Informational system on Russia biodiversity. Proceedings of the EuroMAB 2002 Meeting. Rome: Italian National Academy of Sciences. 2003. p. 78-79.
  • Vasilieva E.D., Korneeva T.M., Orlova V.F., Pavlinov I.Y. The present-day state of biological diversity within protected areas in Russia. Issue 1. Vertebrate animals, Moscow. 2003. IPP “Grif &K”, Tula, 258 p.
  • Nukhimovskaya Yu.D., Gubanov I.A., Isaeva-Petrova L.S., Pronkina G.A. The present-day state of biological diversity within protected areas in Russia. Issue 1,2. Vascular plants Moscow. 2003. IPP “Grif &K”, Tula, 783 p.
  • Ignatov M.S., Ignatova E.A, Konstantinova N.A., Pronkina G.A., Urbanavichus G.P., Urbanavichene I.N. The present-day state of biological diversity within protected areas in Russia. Issue 3. Lichens and Bryophytes. Moscow. 2004. IPP “Grif &K”, Tula, 364 p.

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The pilot version of the databases and an Information Retrieval System for Fauna and Flora in Protected Natural Areas of the Russian Federation were developed by The group of "Bioinformatics and modeling of biological processes" Institute ecology and evolution RAS.
© 2003-2006. Group "Bioinformatics and modeling of biological processes"