Society • 30 May, 2018

Expedition of QazaqGeography to the Aral Sea comes to an end

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The 20-day expedition of the "Kazakhstan National Geographic Society "QazaqGeography," Aral 2018, around the North and South Aral Sea ended May 29. The trip covered more than 7,000 km across Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and included nine regions of Kazakhstan, seven regions of Uzbekistan, and the Republic of Karakalpakstan, reports primeminister.kz.

During the research work carried out by a group of hydrobiologists from the Nazarbayev University, water samples were taken from several points in the South and North Aral Sea during the Aral 2018 expedition, hydrological and hydrochemical parameters were measured to study the current state of the Aral Sea basins.

"Preliminary data of scientists suggest that the salinity of the Aral Sea varies from 3.5 ppm to 130 ppm. At the same time, the salinity of the North Aral in some places is almost 10 times less than in the South Aral Sea. Thus, 130 ppm, recorded in the Southern Aral, on average four times higher than the average salinity of the World Ocean," said Nurzhan Algashov, the head of the expedition.

The main result of the expedition, according to Nurzhan Algashov, was that all the planned water samples from both reservoirs were collected.

The expedition members note that thanks to the construction of the Kokaral dam, sponsored by the Government of Kazakhstan and the World Bank, the northern part of the reservoir in Kazakhstan began to revive. In 2006, an increase in the level of the North Aral Sea was recorded, followed by an increase in the species diversity of phytoplankton.

"Phytoplankton is the basic link in the food chain for larger aquatic organisms. Our research will allow us to make a fuller study of the trophic network of the Aral Sea and assess the pace of ecosystem restoration. We plan to investigate the hydrochemical composition of water, make a microscopic, spectral and cytometric analysis of the qualitative and quantitative composition of plankton. The results of the work will be data on the biodiversity of plankton microorganisms, the hydrochemical composition, the trophic status and the concentration of biogenic elements," said hydrobiologist Veronika Dashkova.

Preliminary studies on the completion of sampling were conducted by scientists during the expedition itself, in the city of Aralsk, where a mobile laboratory was deployed. In addition to the materials collected, the results of the expedition prepared material for the map of the Northern Aral Sea and collected photo and video materials. The collected data on the biodiversity of plankton communities, the level of salt, phosphorus, acidity, water contamination will reveal a preliminary trend in the development of the ecosystem of the Northern and Southern Aral. The full result of the research of the scientific part will be known after the hydrobiologists of the Nazarbayev University carry out complex studies.

It should be noted that this is the second expedition of QazaqGeography to the Aral Sea. Earlier, in 2016, a team of scientists studied the hydrobiological state of water in several parts of the North Aral Sea. Then the scientists recorded a tendency to decrease the average salinity of the North Aral Sea, which made it possible to draw a preliminary conclusion that the ecological situation is improving. The peculiarity of the expedition in 2018 is that the South Aral Sea has entered the research spectrum.

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