Sea of Azov

The Sea of Azov, known is Classical Antiquity as Lake Maeotis, is a sea towards the south of Eastern Europe. It’s linked by the narrow Strait of Kerch to the Black Sea towards the south and is bordered in the north by mainland Ukraine, in the east by Russia, and in the west by the Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. The Kuban and Don are the major rivers that flow into the Sea of Azov. This sea is the shallowest in the world with the depth varying between 2 ft 11 inch and 46 ft. There’s a constant outflow of water into the Black Sea from this Sea of Azov.

This sea is essentially affected by the inflow of a number of rivers, which bring sand, shells, and silt, creating numerous bays, limans, and narrow sandbanks called spits. Due to these deposits, the sea bottom is comparatively smooth and flat with the depth gradually increasing towards the center of the sea. Also, because of the river inflow, water in the sea has a low salinity rate and high content of biological matter.

The bottom of the Sea of Azov is comparatively flat with the depth gradually increasing from the coast the center. It is an internal sea with the passage to the Atlantic Ocean going through the Black, Aegean, Marmara, and Mediterranean seas. It’s connected to the Black Sea by the Strait of Kerch, which at its narrowest has a width of 2.5 mi and a maximum depth of 49 ft.

The sea is moderately small and practically totally surrounded by land. Therefore, the climate is continental with cold winters and hot and dry summers.

Historically, the sea has had rich marine life, both in variety, with over 80 fish and 300 invertebrate species identified, and in numbers. Because of this fact, fishing has long been a major activity within the area. Due to the shallow waters, the development of aquatic life in the sea is more typical of a lagoon, and the plankton patterns are rather similar near the shores and in the open sea. Despite the shallowness, the water has low transparency, so bottom plants are not very well developed and the majority of algae are of planktonic type. There are 183 ichthyofauna species from 112 genera and 55 families in the Sea of Azov area. Among those, there are 50 rare and 19 endangered species.

The shores of the sea contain a number of limans, estuaries, and marshes and are dominated by reeds, sedges, Typha, and Sparganium. The characteristic submerged plants are Charales, pong weed, hornworts and water lilies. The lotus is also common, which was brought to the area from Africa.

Limans, estuaries and spits of the sea are rich with birds, predominately waterfowl, such as wild geese, seagulls and ducks. Colonies of cormorants and pelicans are frequent. Swans, herons, sandpipers and many birds of prey are common as well. The mammals include foxes, hares, wild cats, hedgehogs, martens, wild boar and weasels. Muskrats were initially introduced into the area during the early 20th century and are hunted for their fur.

Image Caption: Azov Sea in New Yalta, Donetsk Region. Sunset Sun. Credit: Канопус Киля/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)