Rationale and Scope

Inventory of existing collections.--Museum collections of Kuril plants and animals are almost nonexistent outside the Russian Republic. A survey of collections throughout Japan turned up some higher plants maintained in the Faculty of Agriculture, Hokkaido University, and less than a dozen fishes in the Faculty of Fisheries, Hokkaido University; other than this, and a portion of the material collected by us in 1994, virtually nothing exists in Japan: material collected prior to World War II, as well as that resulting from a 1942 expedition to the northern Kuril Islands by the Zoological Department of Research, Institute for Natural Resources (see Kuronuma, 1943), was destroyed by fire in 1945 (Amaoka, pers. comm., 20 August 1993). Since the close of the War, nothing has come to Japanese institutions.

Institute of Biology and Soil Sciences, Russian Academy of Sciences, Far East Branch, Vladivostok.

Collections of various plant and animal taxa do exist, however, in the various institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, primarily at Vladivostok, Magadan, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (in preparing this proposal, detailed estimates of the numbers of lots of Kuril plants and animals in Russian institutions were compiled, but space restrictions prevent inclusion of this material here). Smaller collections exist at Perm, Alma-Ata, and Bishkek, and many private collections are maintained by Russian scientists as well. As part of this request, we propose to produce computerized inventories of all Kuril Island material found in these collections.

Study sites.--In this request, we propose to survey the 17 major islands of the Kuril Archipelago (defined as all those with freshwater, streams as well as lakes, with areas greater than 50 square kilometers): in the southern group these include (5 islands) Kunashir, Iturup, Urup, Shikotan, and the largest of the Habomai group, Zelionyi; in the central group (4), Simushir, Ketoi, Rasshua, and Matua; and in the northern group (8), Shiashkotan, Ekarma, Kharimkotan, Onekotan, Makanrushi, Paramushir, Shumshu, and Alaid (in preparing this proposal, detailed physical descriptions of all the islands of the Archipelago were compiled, including area, elevation, geological age, size and location of mountains, streams, rivers, and lakes, etc., but space limitations prevent inclusion of this material here). We also propose to spend one field season surveying the little known flora and fauna of the southern tip of Kamchatka, an important source biota for the Kuril Islands; the Japanese fauna and flora to the immediate south is well known.

Taxonomic breadth.--In this proposal, focus is on freshwater and terrestrial plants and animals, these being (1) much less understood taxonomically than marine organisms (which typically have much broader geographic distributions), (2) far more vulnerable to adverse human impact and exploitation, and (3) more likely to provide the basis for significant future research (e.g., inter-island biogeography). Within this selected assemblage, we propose that vascular plants, insects, spiders, freshwater and terrestrial mollusks, fishes, and terrestrial vertebrates be sampled. Criteria for inclusion of various taxa include (1) those groups likely to display high levels of local endemism among subtaxa, (2) groups especially vulnerable to human impact, and (3) those taxa within the interest and expertise of personnel at the collaborating institutions.

In preparing this proposal, detailed descriptions of the macro- and microhabitats of the Kurils, an outline of the basic floral communities of the islands, and extensive lists of the known species of plants and animals were compiled. However, space permits only the following brief outline of what is known about each selected taxon:

Vascular plants: The flora of the Kuril Islands consists of at least 1,380 species of vascular plants in 556 genera and 135 families; at least 14 species are thought to be endemic (Alexeeva, 1983; Barkalov, 1988). Poorly known and taxonomically complex genera include Ranunculus, Sasa, and Oxytropis. New taxa may be expected in many groups but especially within the genera Cirsium, Minuartia, Taraxacum, Poa, and Scutellaria (V. Y. Barkalov, pers. comm., 8 June 1993).

Dianthus superbus, Caryophyllaceae (Kunashir); Papilio sp., Goryachiye Kluychi hotsprings (Kunashir).

Insects: About 3,000 species of insects are recorded from the Kuril Archipelago but the true number is probably well in excess of 15,000 (M. K. Glubokovsky, pers. comm., 18 June 1993). An analysis of the present state of knowledge of aquatic taxa, which are among the least known insect groups, will serve as an example: ten species of mayflies (Ephemeroptera) have been recorded from the Kurils, another nine are listed as "possible" inhabitants (Tshernova et al., 1986; Tiunova, 1991), but unpublished data (T. M. Tiunova, pers. comm., 23 April 1993) indicate the presence of perhaps as many as 35 species. Stoneflies (Plecoptera) are represented on the Kurils by at least 37 species (six of which remain unidentified to species and are probably undescribed); another four are listed as possible inhabitants (Zhiltzova and Levanidova, 1984). Two genera and three species of alderflies (Megaloptera) are known from the Kurils (Vshivkova, 1989), but these are recorded from only three islands (Kunashir, Shikotan, and Iturup); no systematic collecting has been attempted on other islands of the Archipelago (T. S. Vshivkova, pers. comm., 23 April 1993). Twenty-one species of midges (Chironomidae) have been recorded from the islands and adjacent Sakhalin (Makarchenko, 1985), but E. A. Makarchenko (pers. comm., 23 April 1993) believes that there are at least 200 in all. Fifty-seven species of caddisflies (Trichoptera) are listed as inhabitants of the Kurils (Levanidova, 1986, 1989; Vshivkova, 1986), but T. S. Vshivkova (pers. comm., 23 April 1993) thinks that more than 100 will eventually be found.

Spiders: Spiders are one of the least studied animal groups of the Russian Far East and those of the Kuril Islands are almost completely unknown. Until the mid-1980s, the only information available was scattered in a few small papers, published primarily by Japanese arachnologists in the 1930s (e.g., Peelle and Saito, 1932a, 1932b; Saito, 1932, 1933; Nakatsudi, 1937). Eskov (e.g., 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992) added significantly to the spider literature of eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East, in a long series of papers beginning in 1986 (for a full bibliography, see Marusik et al., 1992), but a recent checklist of the spiders of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands (Marusik et al., 1992) indicates that only six islands of the Archipelago have been sampled, and records a total of 136 named species for the southern Kurils and only 174 for the entire chain. The actual number of species may well be an order of magnitude higher.

Female Trochosa terricola, Lycosidae, with egg sac (Chirpoi); Bradybaena sp., Bradybaenidae (Iturup).

Freshwater and terrestrial mollusks: The molluscan fauna of the Kurils is practically unknown. Among freshwater species, nine bivalves (one endemic) and eight gastropods (two endemic) are known; of terrestrial gastropods, 12 species are known and another seven listed as possible inhabitants of the islands (Zatravkin and Bogatov, 1987; Bogatov and Zatravkin, 1990). The actual numbers, however, are much greater: on the southern Kurils, numerous endemic populations of bivalves are said to be present and undescribed in the many small isolated lakes that dot nearly all the islands (e.g., at least 19 lakes on Shumshu, 5 on Onekotan, 7 on Simushir, 14 on Iturup, 10 on Kunashir, and 8 on the largest of the Habomai group); and it is estimated that at least 50 species of terrestrial gastropods remain to be described from the more heavily vegetated southern islands (Victor V. Bogatov, pers. comm., 26 March 1993).

Freshwater fishes: At least 48 species of freshwater fishes (including anadromous forms) are found in freshwater habitats adjacent to the Kurils (Kamchatka, Hokkaido, and Sakhalin Island) but only 18 species are known to occur on the Archipelago itself (Taranetz, 1937; Berg, 1948-1949; Kuronuma, K. 1943; M. K. Glubokovsky, pers. comm., 22-29 March 1993). Nine of these are said to occur throughout the Kurils (anadromous salmonids and osmerids, and euryhaline gasterosteids), and, in addition to these, one is reported from the northern Kurils (an osmerid, Hypomesus olidus) and three from the southern Kurils (the osmerids, Hypomesus nipponensis and H. japonicus, and a gasterosteid, Pungitius sinensis). Three other species are reported from Iturup (a cyprinid, Tribolodon brandti, and two gobiids, Tridentiger obscurus and Chaenogobius urotaenia), three from Shikotan (the gobiids, Luciogobius guttatus, Chaenogobius mororanus and C. castaneus), and two from Kunashir (the gobiids, Luciogobius guttatus and Chaenogobius urotaenia). According to M. K. Glubokovsky (pers. Comm., 22-29 March 1993), only a few random collections of non-commercially important freshwater fishes have been made during the past 50 years, and these efforts have been confined to only three or four of the larger islands of the chain.

Salvelinus leucomaenis, Salmonidae (Kunashir); Rana chensinensis, Ranidae (Kunashir).

Amphibians and reptiles: Seven species of amphibians and reptiles are recorded from the Kurils: one salamander, two frogs, one skink, and three snakes (L. J. Borkin, pers. comm., 15 June 1993). All have been collected from only a single island (Kunashir) except for one of the frogs (Rana chensinensis David), which is also known to occur on Shikotan and on Zelionyi and Tanfileva (small islets of the Habomai group). None of the other islands have ever been sampled herpetologically. There is some indication that these species associate with hot springs and lakes (V. A. Kostenko, pers. comm., 18 June 1993; pers. obs., July-August 1994).

Birds: The number of birds that inhabit the Kurils is unknown. Estimates range from 153 (V. A. Nechaev, 1969, pers. comm., 14 May 1993) to as high as 280 on the southern islands alone (Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan, and the Habomais). Our efforts will be directed toward building a definitive list of species, but also toward discovering critical habitats used as molting or migratory staging areas. A primary focus will be the collection of tissues to be used for general molecular systematic studies, to help identify breeding sources of origin for migrants, and to analyze inter-island variation in species that are permanent residents or known to be local breeders.

Rissa tridactyla, Laridae (Ketoi); Alopex lagopus, Canidae (Ushishir).

Terrestrial mammals: Thirty-one species of mammals have been recorded from the Kurils: six insectivores, six chiropterans, nine carnivores, nine rodents, and one lagomorph (Krivosheyev, 1984, per. comm., 22 April 1993). At least four undescribed species of rodents have been identified; bats have never been studied and the number of recorded species is undoubtedly significantly higher (V. A. Kostenko, per. comm., 18 June 1993).

Cooperating organizations and agencies.--The work will be shared almost exclusively by personnel from three organizations: (1) the University of Washington Burke Museum, Seattle; (2) institutes of the Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences at Vladivostok (primarily the Institute of Biology and Soil Sciences and Institute of Marine Biology); and (3) various departments of Hokkaido University, Japan.

The Burke is Washington's state museum of natural and cultural history, and the only major natural history museum in the Pacific Northwest. The museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums. Its three scientific divisions of Anthropology, Geology, and Zoology contain nationally ranked collections totaling over three million specimens. The zoological collections are especially strong in birds, mammals, fishes (collections housed in the School of Fisheries), spiders, butterflies, and other terrestrial invertebrates. The herbarium, supported and administered by the UW Department of Botany, is a nationally ranked collection of over 500,000 specimens; while its primary focus is northwestern North America, it is worldwide in scope, including material from Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, Kamchatka, Siberia, and Japan.

The various institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Far East Branch, have jurisdiction over all basic and applied science conducted in the Russian Far East, including the Kamchatka Peninsula, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands. The Institute of Biology and Soil Sciences in Vladivostok, is responsible for studies of biodiversity, ecology and evolution of plants and animals, and development of modern technologies for the rationale use, conservation, and restoration of biological and soil resources of the Far East (M. K. Glubokovsky, pers. comm., 6 August 1993). Large, well-curated and properly housed collections of plants and all major taxa of animals are maintained on the premises (pers. obs., 22-29 March 1993).

Hokkaido University, with campuses in Sapporo and Hakodate, originated from the Hokkaido Development Office Temporary School, founded in 1872 for the purpose of training pioneers to open up and develop Hokkaido. A School of Fisheries was established at Sapporo in 1907; originally part of the Sapporo Agricultural College, it later moved to Hakodate to become the Faculty of Fisheries. In 1930 the Faculty of Science was established. Currently, the University has twelve faculties, 3 research institutes, and 13 research centers. Collections are strongest in vascular plants, maintained primarily by the Botanical Garden of the Faculty of Agriculture at Sapporo; and fishes, held by the Faculty of Fisheries on the Hakodate campus (K. Amaoka, pers. comm., 8 September 1993).

Project participants and responsibilities.--The project will be directed and administered by the principal investigator, Theodore W. Pietsch, through the University of Washington Burke Museum, Seattle; Pietsch will take overall responsibility for pre-expedition planning, overseeing all aspects of the field work, supervising post-expedition curation and dissemination of specimens, and coordinating the production of reports and publications. The responsible individual in Russia will be Viktor Bogatov, Deputy Chief Academic Secretary and Chief of Scientific Investigations, Russian Academy of Sciences Far East Branch, Vladivostok. The responsible individual in Japan will be Kunio Amaoka, Faculty of Fisheries, Hokkaido University, Hakodate, Japan. Each of these three primary participants will direct and be responsible for the work carried out by personnel of his respective country.

Three senior scientists, one from each participating country, will take responsibility for coordinating field activities for each major taxon. All senior personnel have had extensive field experience within their particular area of expertise (for biographical sketches and lists of publications, see "Biographical Sketches").

  • Vascular plants: Lawrence C. Bliss (UW), Yuri N. Zhuravlev (RAS-Vladivostok), and Fusayuki Kanda (HU-Kushiro).

  • Insects: Robert I. Gara (UW), Valentina V. Teslenko (RAS-Vladivostok), and Masahiro Ohara (Otaru Museum, Otaru, Hokkaido).

  • Spiders: Rodney L. Crawford (UW), Kirill Y. Eskov (Paleontological Institute, RAS-Moscow), and Nobuo Tsurusaki (Tottori University, Tottori, Japan).

  • Freshwater and terrestrial mollusks: Victor V. Bogatov (RAS-Vladivostok), Haruo Katakura (HU-Sapporo), and John B. Burch (University of Michigan).

  • Freshwater fishes: Kunio Amaoka (HU-Hakodate), Dmitry L. Pitruk (RAS-Vladivostok), and Theodore W. Pietsch (UW).

  • Amphibians and reptiles: Lev J. Borkin (RAS-St. Petersburg), Sen Takenaka (Hokkaido Tokai University, Sapporo), and Theodore W. Pietsch (UW).

  • Birds: Sievert Rohwer (UW), Yuzo Fujimaki (Obihiro University, Obihiro, Japan), and Yuriy V. Shibaev (RAS-Vladivostok).

  • Terrestrial mammals: George James Kenagy (UW), Hisashi Abe (HU-Sapporo), and Victor A. Kostenko (RAS-Vladivostok).

Scott V. Edwards, Assistant Professor of Zoology and Curator of Genetic Resources, Burke Museum, will coordinate all activities relative to animal tissue collections, taking responsibility for proper collection standards and procedures, the subsequent care and maintenance of tissues, their proper documentation, and their final shipment to Seattle for permanent storage at the Museum. Subsequent to the field work, he will direct the future analysis of genetic differentiation, molecular systematics, and molecular studies of the history of colonization of the Kuril Islands. He will also coordinate collaborative work with Russian and Japanese institutions and assure compatibility of results and optimal use of the tissue samples.

Brian K. Urbain, Collection Manager, School of Fisheries and Burke Museum, University of Washington, veteran of our 1994 expedition, will again function as "Database Manager," responsible for data-entry protocol and standards, maintaining and updating the database, and dissemination of data via the Internet. For more on data analysis, see "Data Acquisition and Dissemination of Information".

Additional personnel will include students from all three participating nations. These will be primarily graduate students but undergraduate and post-doctoral students will be involved as well. At least three students from the University of Washington will participate in field and laboratory activities during each year of the project. In some cases, Russian and Japanese government biologists and technicians will also participate. To the extent possible, we will include a disproportionate number of Russian participants in an effort to augment the biodiversity infrastructure of the host country.

Prof. Theodore W. Pietsch and graduate student Andres Lopez (both UW).

Training.--A high percentage of the personnel associated with the field aspect of the project will be graduate students involved in various research projects in each of the eight major taxa under consideration. All will be given the opportunity to interact with, and receive training from, experts from all three participating nations. Each will take a full and active role in all major aspects of the work: collecting, identification, curation, and data collection and analysis. They will also share authorship and be full participants in the preparation of reports and publications. The provision to provide support for Russian and Japanese students to visit and work with collections at the Burke Museum, University of Washington, will be a further benefit to those whose future mandate will more directly lie with the long-term conservation and preservation of the Kuril Island biotas. It is further envisioned (with financial assistance other than that requested here) that post-doctoral positions might be offered to particularly well-qualified Russian and Japanese students to allow for more long-term study at the University of Washington.

Urgency.--While most of the islands now support nearly virgin assemblages of plants and animals, the current political situation poses a serious environmental threat, especially to the southern Kuril Islands, whose rightful ownership is the focus of long-standing debate between Russia and Japan, and whose biota is considerably more diverse than the central and northern members of the chain. Russian policy at present is to populate and otherwise exploit the islands as quickly and as extensively as possible to make a transfer of title to Japan more difficult. In fact, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, hoping to stimulate the economy and attract foreign investments, has recently declared the Kurils a "Free Economic Zone," providing tax advantages to businesses, and offering land at reduced rates and 99-year leases; priority has been given to exploitation of "biological resources" (e.g., deforestation; M. K. Glubokovsky, pers. comm., 26 July 1993). The Japanese, on the other hand, have developed elaborate contingency plans to occupy the islands if and when ownership is achieved. Potential environmental pressures are and will be considerably greater on the more diverse, more productive, and climatically milder southern Kurils. Thus, it is imperative that we act now to explore, document, and protect the unique and delicate floras and faunas of these islands before they are lost forever.

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