All news

Arctic academic center plans to cooperate with Madagascar in climate change, genetics

Another direction of the joint research is related to geographical peculiarities of land territories in the Russian Federation's Arctic Zone and in Madagascar relative to the polar regions

ARKHANGELSK, December 8. /TASS/. The Laverov Federal Center for Integrated Arctic Research (the Russian Academy of Sciences' Urals Branch, Arkhangelsk) will cooperate with the University of Toamasina (the Republic of Madagascar) on studies of biota of reservoirs to assess the continental drift, the climate change effects, as well as on teaching genetic research methods, the Center's Director Ivan Bolotov told TASS, adding an agreement with the university had been signed and for the Center the university would be the first partner in Africa.

"The Center has signed a cooperation agreement with the University of Toamasina, in (the Republic of) Madagascar. For the Center, it is the first partner university in Africa, the first historic agreement of the kind that we have entered with a university from Africa," Bolotov said. "The signed agreement is on the exchange of staff, post-graduate students, on joint internships, expeditions. We have several areas for cooperation."

The joint work's first area is to study freshwater invertebrates, primarily freshwater mollusks (naiads). This is part of the Center's research to model continental drift, and to see what role the separation and interaction of ancient continents had on the formation of flora and fauna in different parts of the planet.

Some 335 - 175 million years ago, there was one supercontinent on the Earth - Pangaea, which later on split into two supercontinents: Gondwana and Laurasia. Laurasia included North America and Eurasia, Gondwana - Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, and Hindustan. "Madagascar occupied an intermediate position, it was stuck to Gondwana. And India also got stuck to Madagascar on the way to Eurasia," the scientist explained. "It's interesting to see how freshwater mollusks that live on the Madagascar relate evolutionarily to those that live in Africa or to those that presently live in India."

Scientists from Arkhangelsk have been creating a supercomputer model using a dating method, which is based on the so-called molecular clock, that is, the researchers see when certain species moved away from their closely related groups. By studying the evolutionary biogeography of the island's freshwater mollusks they will clarify the time when Africa, the Madagascar and India separated, which is important for calibrating geological data on the time of this event.

The University of Toamasina is Madagascar's leading organization to study the island's freshwater ecosystems. The Russian Center will receive assistance in obtaining necessary permits for field works and for work on remote hard-to-reach reservoirs. The latest data on naiads in those reservoirs were obtained more than a hundred years ago.

Climate change studies

Another direction of the joint research is related to geographical peculiarities of land territories in the Russian Federation's Arctic Zone and in Madagascar relative to the polar regions. Accordingly, the Arctic and the Antarctic have impacts on coastal processes, climatic and hydrological conditions, on the conditions of human activities and agriculture, and on infrastructures.

Madagascar is currently experiencing the climate change effects like the territory desiccation, resulting in problems with water resources. "We historically have been working on these issues with Central Asia, in particular, in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, where the climate is changing, where water resources are being depleted," he continued. "There, we have practiced interesting methods to assess water resources, to see from which sources certain mountain rivers are formed. We have been using complex isotopic methods." These techniques may be applicable to studying the island's water reserves.

The University of Toamasina's specialists will be able to master advanced molecular methods in studying the flora and fauna of the island, and to work on scientific equipment at the Center, as well as to join scientific internships in Arkhangelsk, in particular, focusing on genetic research technologies.

Other studies in Africa

According to the expert, the Arctic Center plans to work with other partners in Africa. The scientists have been cooperating with counterparts in Morocco on the taxonomy of mollusks. Additionally, the Arkhangelsk specialists are interested in studying that continent's large rivers.

Earlier, scientists believed that rivers, even giant ones, are short-lived and dynamic formations, unlike lakes, he said. But, according to recent data, the period of existence of giant rivers is quite comparable to the age of ancient lakes. "Our researchers have found that the Mekong basin has been stable for about 50 million years, and the Irrawaddy River basin (Myanmar) has been stable for about 30 million years," he said. "The biota studies in such rivers are of great interest from the point of view of evolutionary patterns." From this point of view, according to the Russian expert, the Congo River is very interesting - it is one of the most abundant rivers in the world. It would be interesting to compare the data on its freshwater mollusks with data on other ancient rivers of the planet.