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Climate Change in the Azov Sea Basin, Russia and Ukraine

46.0N 36.0E

May 8th, 2013 Category: Climate Change

Russia and Ukraine – May 8th, 2013

The Sea of Azov (bottom right quadrant) is a sea in the south of Eastern Europe. It is bounded to the north by mainland Ukraine, to the east by Russia, and to the west by the Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. The Don and Kuban are the major rivers that flow into it. The Sea of Azov is the shallowest sea in the world with the depth varying between 0.9 metres (2 ft 11 in) and 14 metres (46 ft).

The sea is largely affected by the inflow of numerous rivers, which bring sand, silt, and shells, forming numerous bays, limans, and narrow sandbanks called spits. Because of these deposits, the sea bottom is relatively smooth and flat with the depth gradually increasing toward the sea centre. Also, due to the river inflow, water in the sea has low salinity and high content of biological matter, such as green algae that affects the water colour.

The provinces of Russia and Ukraine located within the Azov sea basin are important producers of grains, sugar, sunflower, meat, and milk. Because of heavy dependence of regional economics on agriculture, and major effects of regional agriculture on food security of the entire countries, climate change impacts on food production and water resources constitute major threats to the food security of both Russia and Ukraine. Historically, major droughts frequently affected the agriculture of the region.

At first glance, recent climate change seems beneficial for agriculture of the region: warmer temperatures extend growing season and elevate the accumulated heat. However, further warming is not likely to be matched by higher precipitation, with negative impacts from the increasing aridity of climate. The most effective adaptation option, expansion of irrigation, is limited with high pressure on water resources, which is already high in many parts of the region (click here for more information).