1 Southern Science Center RAS, Russia,
2Murmansk Marine Biological Institute RAS, Russia,
3 Lukoil-Nizhnevoljsk-neft, Russia

Active development of the Caspian Sea by oil and gas companies stimulated ecological monitoring investigations in this water body, which, in the early 1990s, were almost stopped. One of the most actively developing companies along the Caspian Sea is the Lukoil Company, which, from the beginning of its activity, has declared the protection of biological resources and environment from the influence of petroleum-related activities among its priorities. In the mid-90s of the XX century a widespread network of industrial monitoring was created, covering the area of the North Caspian Sea, within the license sites of the company. Many central and regional scientific organizations specializing in marine ecosystems research has been involved in this monitoring. Extensive primary data have been obtained and preliminary assessments of the current status of the Caspian Sea ecosystem has been made over the last ten years. These data are presented in numerous publications of VNIRO, CaspNIRCH, 10 RAS, IVP RAS etc.

One of the elements of the ecological monitoring program of the Lukoil Company is the block "Assessment of man-caused damage, prognosis of the possible negative changes in corresponding elements of environment and in the natural complex in general" (Специальные, 2005). Forming of this part of monitoring system is straightly concerned with the assimilation of obtained data and developing of the model instruments using GIS-technologies.
Research in this direction has been started by the Lukoil-Nizhnevoljskneft limited liability company, Murmansk Marine Biological Institute and Southern Science Centre of RAS in 2002 (Обоснование..., 2002; Анализ..., 2003; Определение..., 2005). As the basis for developed methods of data interpretation and composing the model "image" of the northern part of the Caspian Sea, the ecosystem approach has been assumed. This approach has been successfully applied by MMBI for more than 15 years in the seas of North-West Arctic, which is reflected in the series of joint works with NOAA (USA) on the program "Large Marine Ecosystems of the World" (Матишов и др., 2006). These works resulted in ecological mapping of the coastal zone (marine area) and establishing vulnerable ecological zones in the Russian sector of the Barents Sea.

The following steps of developing model instruments for evaluation and prognosis of possible changes in the Northern Caspian Sea ecosystem when developing oil fields are discussed:

1. Creation of electronic database of primary hydrological, meteorological, hydrochemical and hydrobiological information for the Northern area of Caspian Sea, heading for the "Lukoil" industrial ecological monitoring.

Solving of this problem is meant to be executed using the joint experience of NOAA, MMBI and SSC RAS at developing electronic climate atlases of the Northern seas (Матишов и др., 2004) and the Sea of Azov (Matishov et al„ 2006).
At the same time the primary database is formed, the already published maps of abiotic and biotic characters' distribution should be integrated into it with the use of GIS-technologies.
2. Realization of landscape-ecological zoning, marking out the large natural territorial complexes and zones.

In the framework of this aim a generalized structure chart of the Northern Caspian Sea ecosystem has been developed, includingimportant trophic objects of the open sea as well as of the coastal waters. The three ecological zones have been distinguished, having essential distinctions: coastal, estuarine, marine. These zones are situated in the regions of present or supposed oil-and-gas producing and unite, by means of trophic connections, several complexes of key species of the Northern Caspian Sea ecosystem. Determining the boundaries of these zones appears to be the most complicated problem, for fluctuations of the sea level, the river flow and the wind conditions influence significantly upon position of the zones to each other. Coastal (freshwater) zone is the smallest one, but it plays an important role in the functioning of the whole ecosystem due to the highest specific production. Estuarine (saltish) zone has the largest of these three zones. It is of the greatest importance due to presence of the key species (benthic life, sturgeons, birds). Marine zone in the ecosystem ranking of the Northern Caspian Sea area appears to be an intermediate between the saltish zone and the Middle Caspian Sea (transfer of matter, energy and organisms: seals, fish, Mnemiopsis). It has lower production as compared with the two other zones.

3. Typification of the main kinds of works led in the shelf zone by the level of their possible impact upon the biological components.

4. Developing of the clear ecological vulnerability coefficient calculation procedure, creation of particular and integral schemes of the ecosystem sensitivity uniting all kinds of works (impacts).

For the solution of this task an integral approach is used, considering a number of already tested methods. For the revelation of ecosystems' reactions for the exterior impacts, numerous indices have been being developed by ecologists. The most attractive indices are multimetric ones, e.g. AMBI (AZTI Marine Biotic Index). Approach based on the NOAA methods (Environmental..., 1997), is headed mainly for the revelation of the sensitive zones in the coastal waters. The other significant feature of this approach is that, to the great extent, it takes into account rare and socially important biological objects. For evaluating long-time impacts, methods concerned with the developing mathematical models of the ecosystem are used. For example, trophodynamical component of the ecosystem is examined (see, for instance, Berdnikov et al., 1999). This allows one to carry out an integral quantitative assessment of the influence upon the ecosystem in general of some local impacts upon its separate components under the conditions of joint effect of climatic factors and anthropogenic influence.

An example of using the model instruments for assessing risk of oil pollution of water birds' habitats in the mouth regions of Volga, Terek and Ural rivers is examined. An original spatially detailed model is suggested, describing correlation between mass water bird species' quantity (bald-coot, mute swan, gray lag-goose and mallard) and changes of coastal growth at fluctuations of the Caspian Sea water level. The calculations for the interval of 1930 - 2000 years showed that, in the period of abrupt decreasing of the sea level, birds mass far from the marine border of the nesting area, and in the period of increasing of the sea level they move close to this border. Thus, risk of elimination of birds of these species as a result of possible oil pollution of the delta's marine border in case of disastrous oil spills is determined greatly by the sea level's dynamics and existence of suitable for nesting coastal growth.

The present work is carried out under the contract with the "Lukoil-Nizhnevoljskneft"' limited liability company, with partial sponsorship of Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology of the Russian Federation (Federal Target Scientific-Technological Program "World Ocean", subprogram "Investigations of the Word Ocean's nature", theme 8), Program of the Presidium of RAS "Organization of Scientific Expeditions".
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