The Arctic Council is initiating a report focused on protecting biodiversity and healthy Arctic ecosystems in the face of global warming.
Tromso, Norway – The Arctic Council — a “high level forum” for addressing many of the common concerns and challenges faced by the eight Arctic states of Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States and the six Arctic indigenous peoples organizations that are “permanent participants” to the Council — had endorsed the 2010 Arctic Biodiversity Assessment, a major undertaking that will result in a report on the current status and trends of biodiversity in the Arctic, the threats to biodiversity in the Arctic, and policy recommendations to address the dangers currently facing Arctic communities, species and ecosystems. This assessment is a direct follow up to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, which highlighted the rapid climate warming occurring in the Arctic.
The assessment is being carried out by the Arctic Council’s Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Working Group and will be completed in 2010. A work plan with chapter outline is now under development and CAFF has encouraged comment and participation from organizations outside the Arctic Council process. In response, Dr. David Carlson, Director of the International Polar Year, highlighted the opportunity to integrate IPY biodiversity-related projects and this assessment, a collaboration the Senior Arctic Officials encouraged. Once completed, the 2010 Arctic Biodiversity Assessment will provide the Arctic Council and other policy makers with critical information and tools to protect the diversity of life in the Arctic and the health of Arctic ecosystems, which are already under stress from the effects of global warming and other factors.
“Global warming is already impacting the Arctic, creating incredible stress in the region – especially from a loss and thinning of sea ice,” said Dr. Chris Krenz of Oceana, an international non-profit dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. “We must prevent additional stressors like accidents from increased shipping or destructive large-scale commercial fishing from further weakening the resilience, productivity, and adaptive capacity of the Arctic food web and the health of Arctic ecosystems, so that the communities and wildlife of the region have a chance to withstand the increasing pressures caused by rising temperatures.”
The Arctic is home to indigenous peoples that rely on healthy Arctic ecosystems and a productive Arctic food web for the subsistence way of life that has been a part of their traditional cultures since time immemorial. Arctic people have already seen unprecedented changes in their part of the world, which have forced them at times to encounter unusual dangerous conditions and to alter centuries-old traditional subsistence practices. The Permanent Participants voiced strong support for the 2010 Arctic Biodiversity Assessment at this week’s Senior Arctic Officials meeting.
In addition, polar bears, whales, seals, walrus and a variety of birds and fish species, which have adapted to life in the harshest of conditions, rely on healthy Arctic ecosystems and a productive Arctic food web for survival. Many of these species are currently under stress from climate change and industrialization, and the 2010 Arctic Biodiversity Assessment could be an important tool for ensuring the future of these animals.
“The people most qualified to address the issue of global warming and other stress on the Arctic are those people and nations directly connected to the Arctic,” said Krenz. “It’s encouraging to see the Arctic Council, with representatives from indigenous organizations and each of the nations, taking the lead in protecting the region, and we are hopeful that the Council will continue to work towards a bright future for Arctic communities and healthy Arctic ecosystems.”