Synthesis: Implications for conservation
Please note that the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment: Synthesis is still under development.
The Arctic holds some of the most extreme habitats on Earth, with species and peoples that have adapted through biological and cultural evolution to its unique conditions. A homeland to some, and a harsh if not hostile environment to others, the Arctic is home to iconic animals such as polar bears Ursus maritimus, narwhals Monodon monoceros, caribou/reindeer Rangifer tarandus, muskoxen Ovibos moschatus, Arctic fox Alopex lagopus, ivory gull Pagophila eburnea and snowy owls Bubo scandiaca, as well as numerous microbes and invertebrates capable of living in extreme cold, and large intact landscapes and seascapes with little or no obvious sign of direct degradation from human activity. In addition to flora and fauna, the Arctic is known for the knowledge and ingenuity of Arctic peoples, who thanks to great adaptability have thrived amid ice, snow and winter darkness.
Nowadays all of the tundra is on the move now. Many forest animals are coming to tundra now. Moose is moving towards the tundra proper nowadays.
Alexey Nikolayevich Kemlil, a Chukchi reindeer herder from Turvaurgin in northeastern Sakha-Yakutia, Siberia;
T. Mustonen in lit.
CHARACTERISICS OF ARCTIC BIODIVERSITY
The Arctic holds some of the most extreme habitats on Earth, with species and peoples that have adapted through biological and cultural evolution to its unique conditions. A homeland to some, The Arctic is made up of the world’s smallest ocean surrounded by a relatively narrow fringe of island and continental tundra. Extreme seasonality and permafrost, together with an abundance of freshwater habitats ranging from shallow tundra ponds fed by small streams to large deep lakes and rivers, determine the hydrology, biodiversity and general features of the Arctic’s terrestrial ecosystems. Seasonal and permanent sea ice are the defining features of the Arctic’s marine ecosystems.
HUMAN USE OF WILDLIFE THROUGH TIME
From the first arrival of humans in the Arctic to the modern day, the use of wildlife has been an essential contributor to individual and community well-being. Patterns and purposes of use have varied by time and place, with differing implications for biodiversity. The harvest of wildlife remains both a vital connection between humans and biodiversity and a source of impacts to at least some wildlife populations, and today other stressors pose a greater threat to Arctic biodiversity. This section provides a brief outline of such uses and impacts, from prehistory to today, by indigenous peoples and more recent arrivals.
STATUS AND TRENDS IN ARCTIC BIODIVERSITY
An accurate accounting of the status and trends of the majority of species of Arctic flora and fauna is impossible except for relatively few well-known vertebrates. For many species or species groups, we have data on distribution and sometimes also density, but lack the record through time to assess trends. In addition, many short term trends reflect cyclical patterns rather than long term increases or declines. This section presents a summary of current understanding by taxonomic, ecosystem and functional group in accordance with the chapters in the assessment.
STRESSORS AND THEIR ALLEVIATION
As a contribution to halting the loss of biodiversity, the Arctic Council initiated the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment and asked for scientific advice on what could be done to alleviate stressors that put Arctic biodiversity under pressure. Detailed advice is given in the individual chapters, and in this section we the lead authors of the scientific chapters of the ABA present an overview of stressors on Arctic biodiversity together with possible actions to enhance biodiversity conservation. Our aim is to suggest appropriate, scientifically based actions, which should be seen as facilitative and not prescriptive.
Basic knowledge on the vast majority of Arctic biodiversity is limited. Often, only the distribution of mammals, birds and vascular plants is sufficiently documented. Comprehensive data for abundance, population densities and trends are generally available only for vertebrates considered to be of direct significance to people, for example for commercial or other harvest, and for many taxa even the taxonomic status is incomplete. Thus, substantial gaps in biodiversity knowledge are apparent, and a more synoptic approach is necessary.
SUGGESTED CONSERVATION AND RESEARCH PRIORITIES
The erosion of global biodiversity is not the only global crisis of our time. It has been argued that changes in climate, biodiversity, infectious diseases, energy supplies, food, freshwater, human population and the global financial system are part of one contemporary global challenge, and that they need to be addressed as such. If this is not done in an integrated and sustainable way, efforts to address one challenge may very well worsen one or more of the others considerably. Also, global markets seek the exploitation of Arctic resources, resulting in greater interconnections between the Arctic and the rest of the world
I too, have noticed changes to the climate in our area. It has progressed with frightening speed especially the last few years. In Iqaluktutiaq, the landscape has changed. The land is now a stranger, it seems, based on our accumulated knowledge. The seasons have shifted, the ice is thinner and weaker, and the streams, creeks and rivers have changed their characteristics.
Analok, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut; Elders Conference on Climate Change 2001.