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Community-based monitoring in the Ponoy River, Kola Peninsula (Russia): reflections on Atlantic salmon, pink salmon, Northern pike and weather/climate change


This 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.

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Data availability

Snowchange is safe-guarding the materials of Indigenous knowledge and other data items in the central archives. Additionally, a regional coordinator placed in the community of Lovozero has copies of the field materials. This safeguards them from loss and at the same time protects data items from unlawful use. Materials can be available for scientific purposes after consultation with Snowchange to safeguard that future use is according to prior-informed consent. 2001–2008 Sámi materials are also placed in the regional Sámi museum in Siida, Inari, Finland.


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We are grateful to Karen Dunmall and Jules Pretty for their very helpful comments and observations on an earlier version of this paper.


The project has been funded by the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO).

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TM acted as project leader and overall coordinator. JK was local coordinator, while AP, AK, IK and DB performed the field visits and local interviews. MK and HT were scientific advisors to the project. KM analysed the oral history archives and BD conducted the statistical analysis for the temperature data. The manuscript was developed and revised by TM, MK and HT. All authors approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Tero Mustonen.

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Mustonen, T., Mustonen, K., Kirillov, J. et al. Community-based monitoring in the Ponoy River, Kola Peninsula (Russia): reflections on Atlantic salmon, pink salmon, Northern pike and weather/climate change. Polar Biol 44, 173–194 (2021).

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  • Ponoy river
  • Atlantic salmon
  • Northern pike
  • Kola peninsula
  • Murmansk
  • Pink salmon
  • Climate change