World Heritage Russian sites of WH

The Lena Delta


Status of Property: State Nature Reserve

Area: 1.433 million ha

Situation: The possibility of inscription on the Russian Tentative List is being examined

The following organizations took part in preparation of the nomination: NABU, WWF, Biological problems and cryolithozone Institute of Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, International Academy for Nature Conservation (Vilm Island, Germany)


Lena, the 4 500 km long Siberian river, is one of the 5 largest Russia's waterways. No other river in the Arctic Eurasia forms such a large delta - about 3 million ha. Each year the full-flowing Lena alluviates about 15 million tons of drift to its mouth forming here, by the Laptev Sea, the unique landscape, the global phenomena, - 6 500 km of large and small branches, 30 000 lakes of different size and over 1 500 islands and aits.

This boundless water mosaic is redoubled by the outstanding brightness of vegetation cover. The arctic tundra types presented here are very diverse: grassy, grassy-shrub, lichen-green moss and also the typical polygonal bogged tundra occupying small shallow depressions and bringing the landscape a special color.

The flora list of the Ust-Lensky Reserve which occupies the significant part of the delta (1.433 million ha) counts about 420 vascular plants species, 160 moss species, 70 lichen species and about 320 algae species. Such floristic diversity perceptibly outlines the delta from the neighboring areas of Yakutia. On one of the islands in the southern part of the delta grows a small larch grove up to 4 m high which is considered to be the most northern forest massif in the whole north-eastern sector of Eurasia.

The Lena Delta plays an important role for migrating birds. Each year in early summer many thousands of geese, ducks, swans, different pipers (Charadriiformes), gulls and terns concentrate at the nesting sites. In total the area counts over 100 bird species major part of which is nesting here. The rarest species are the Siberian white crane, lesser swan, snow goose, cuneate-tailed gull.

In the delta area one can find marine mammals like white whale, narwhal, three seal species and also the laptev walrus (the disappearing subspecie). Concerning the terrestrial mammals (about 30 species) of special notice are polar bear, wild reindeer, bighorn sheep, Kamchatka marmot, Arctic fox and lemming. The Lena mouth forms the most favorable conditions for wintering, fattening and spawning shoals formation of valuable industrial fish species - nelma, muksun, Siberian and Arctic cisco and many others. In total 36 fish species were noted.

Geologic conditions of the delta and its relief are very peculiar. It is located near the edge of two giant lithosphere crustal plates - Eurasian and American. Here are found rocks of very diverse age - from the most ancient Paleozoic till relatively young Quarternary. Permafrost reaches the depth of 600 m. Thermokarst hollows and boolgoonyakhs are rather typical. Blanket sands are met everywhere and sandy spits are more rare. In the center of the delta are few residual rocks considered to be sacred by the local yakut people.

The Lena Delta is the unique Arctic delta landscape formed between sea and land, under conditions of permafrost and harsh northern climate.