KNO14: Leading by example: lessons from Arctic biodiversity monitoring programs and assessments

Date: Friday October 12, 2018

Location: Valtuustosali, City Hall

Time: 10:30-12:00

This session explores a series of case studies that are employing some best practices in Arctic biodiversity monitoring. Issues to be covered include: mainstreaming biodiversity data, cumulative effects monitoring and cascading impacts, biotic and abiotic monitoring practices, the utilization of Traditional Knowledge, and effective reporting.

Chairs: Niels Martin Schmidt, Aarhus University/ Zackenberg Research Station; Donald McLennan, Polar Knowledge Canada - Canadian High Arctic Research Station

Format: Series of presentations followed by discussion

  • A look at Canada’s General Status Ranking Program – Mainstreaming data flow on Canada’s northern biodiversity with the help of NatureServe: Rob Gau, Government of the Northwest Territories pdf
  • Yamal EcoSystems – monitoring terrestrial ecosystems of Yamal Peninsula under changing climate and human impact: Aleksandr Sokolov, Arctic Research Station of Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences pdf
  • Climate-Ecological Observatory for Arctic Tundra (COAT): Eeva Soininen, UiT - The Arctic University of Tromsø pdf
  • Using Inuit traditional ecological knowledge for detecting and monitoring avian cholera among common eiders in the eastern Canadian Arctic: Allison Patterson, McGill University pdf
  • “Interactions Working Group”: A circumpolar initiative to measure and predict the cascading impacts of “Indirect Trophic Interactions” in Arctic terrestrial vertebrate communities: Olivier Gilg, University Bourgogne (F) & Groupe de Recherche en Ecologie Arctique (GREA) pdf
  • Trends in Arctic falcon populations – a preliminary overview for CAFF’s Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme: Knud Falk, Arctic Falcons Specialist Group pdf

 


Abstracts:

A look at Canada’s General Status Ranking Program – Mainstreaming data flow on Canada’s northern biodiversity with the help of NatureServe

Rob Gau, Government of the Northwest Territories

In Canada, one program has made the most impact in streamlining the data flow on biodiversity in the North. The program is celebrating its 20th year anniversary in 2018. An overview of the program will be presented. The program has resulted in increased monitoring, in enhancing cooperation amongst agencies, including Indigenous organizations working in northern Canada, in adopting and adapting state-of-the-art NatureServe methodologies for ranking the biological status of northern species, in establishing clear timeline for sharing data and in regularly publishing results that are available to the public. Ideas on how the program framework and results can be used by the Arctic Council will be explored.

Yamal EcoSystems – monitoring terrestrial ecosystems of Yamal Peninsula under changing climate and human impact

Aleksandr Sokolov1,2, Dorothee Ehrich3, Natalia Sokolova1,2, Ivan Fufachev1
1 Arctic Research Station of Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, UrO RAS, Labytnangi, Russia
2 Arctic Research Center of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, Salekhard, Russia
3 UiT – The Arctic University of Norway

The Arctic tundra is rapidly changing under the impact of climate change and human activities such as oil and gaz exploitation. At the same time, the empirical basis for assessing the impacts of these drivers is poor, because only few long-term monitoring stations exist and many activities are poorly coordinated. This is particularly true for the Russian Arctic. In order to manage important tundra resources and conserve biodiversity, it is necessary to understand processes involved in changes. This requires a better understanding of the functioning of tundra ecosystems, and well-designed monitoring programs. Yamal EcoSystems is a monitoring program addressing changes in the tundra ecosystem of Yamal Peninsula under the impact of climate change and increasing human activities. The Yamal Peninsula is well suited for such a task because 1) It extends with a homogenous topography over 700 km from the forest tundra to the high Arctic; 2) Yamal is one of areas of the Russian Arctic that has been the subject of most ecological research, and therefore important reference data from up to several decades ago exists; 3) Yamal ecosystems are subjected to several important drivers of change: climate change, industrial development, and increasing herds of semi-domestic reindeer. Yamal EcoSystems collects data in an integrated way at four sites, which extend from the forest tundra in the south to the high Arctic. We take a food web approach and focus on the plant-based vertebrate food web, which comprises the ecosystem components most important for local people. We monitor small rodent community composition and population dynamics, which are likely to be affected by changing winter climate. These changes in small rodent community can impact specialized predators such as arctic foxes and rough-legged buzzards. Increased human infrastructure and activity is likely to promote the expansion of boreal generalist predators, and we observe the northwards expansion of red foxes and corvids. Other monitoring targets include plant-herbivore interactions and rare species of geese. An important part of YaES is also to participate in international research and monitoring projects, where often sites from the Russian Arctic are underrepresented.

 

Climate-Ecological Observatory for Arctic Tundra (COAT)

Eeva Soininen, UiT - The Arctic University of Tromsø; Virve Ravolainen, Norwegian Polar Institute

Arctic ecosystems are challenged by climate change more than most others on Earth. The rapid shifts to new climate regimes may give rise to ecosystems with unknown properties, making science unable to predict the consequences on biodiversity. The Climate-Ecological Observatory for Arctic Tundra (COAT) is an ecosystem-based observation system aiming at real time detection, documentation and understanding of climate impacts on biodiversity in the Norwegian sector of the terrestrial Arctic (www.coat.no). COAT uses the adaptive monitoring approach, having question and hypothesis-driven conceptual “climate impact path models” at the core of the program. COAT aims to establish causal relations between food web components that are important to ecosystem functioning and/or management (response targets) and climate and management drivers (predictor targets). The models encompass key species, functional groups and communities within the food webs and their mutual linkages. Management actions can enter this design in an experimental fashion and thus be tested and adapted to become rational and effective. The two focal regions –the Low Arctic Varanger Peninsula and the High Arctic Svalbard archipelago - provide pertinent contrasts in ecosystem complexity, climate, and management regimes. The overall approach, the expectations for climate–ecosystem interactions, as well as the monitoring state variables are described in detail in a peer-reviewed science plan. The study designs are common for a suite of state variables at spatio-temporal scales that allow discrimination of natural variation from climate impacts. COAT builds on and expands the ongoing research and long-term monitoring with methods ranging from field observations to remote sensing. Development of i) appropriate statistical modelling tools and ii) new technologies that generate high quality data with a minimal environmental footprint are important outcomes of COAT. The combination of state-of-the art study designs, monitoring and analysis methods enables COAT to answer both scientific and management questions.

 

Using Inuit traditional ecological knowledge for detecting and monitoring avian cholera among common eiders in the eastern Canadian Arctic

Allison Patterson, McGill University; Grant Gilchrist, Environment and Climate Change Canada

Indigenous engagement in community-based monitoring has been identified as a priority by the Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative. In recent decades, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) has played an increasing role in community-based monitoring and biodiversity conservation in the Arctic and elsewhere. This study examined the potential contribution that Inuit TEK (which is one aspect of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit or Inuit traditional knowledge) could offer to detect and monitor avian cholera and other disease-related mortality among Northern Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima borealis) breeding in the eastern Canadian Arctic. Avian cholera is an infectious disease (Pasteurella multocida) that has been a major conservation issue because of its potential to cause high rates of disease and mortality in several bird species in repeating epizootics; it has spread geographically in North America since the 1940s. In 2004, Inuit hunters from Ivujivik, Nunavik, Québec, were the first to detect avian disease outbreaks among Northern Common Eiders nesting in northeastern Hudson Bay and western Hudson Strait. Laboratory analysis of bird tissues confirmed avian cholera in that region. From 2007 to 2009, we collected Inuit TEK about mortality among Common Eiders and other bird species north and west of where the outbreaks were first detected. During interviews in the communities of Kimmirut, Cape Dorset, Coral Harbour, and Igloolik, Nunavut, Canada (n = 40), Inuit participants reported seeing a total of 8 Common Eiders and 41 specimens of other bird species either sick or dead in northern Hudson Strait, Hudson Bay, and Foxe Basin. Most of the observed disease and mortality events were at sea, on sea ice, or on small nesting islands. Such events probably would have gone undetected by biologists, who were mainly monitoring avian cholera outbreaks on large nesting islands in that region. Inuit participants readily recalled details about the timing, location, and numbers of sick and dead birds that they observed. Some reported signs of disease that were consistent with avian cholera. Inuit also revealed knowledge of two past bird mass mortality events that took place about 60 years and a century ago. Those interviewed indicated that that bird mass mortality events potentially caused by avian cholera had not occurred in the study area prior to 2004, supporting the hypothesis that avian cholera emerged only recently in the eastern Canadian Arctic. This study demonstrated that TEK can be a valuable tool for monitoring future avian cholera outbreaks and other wildlife diseases in the Arctic region.

 

“Interactions Working Group”: A circumpolar initiative to measure and predict the cascading impacts of “Indirect Trophic Interactions” in Arctic terrestrial vertebrate communities

Olivier Gilg, University Bourgogne (F) & Groupe de Recherche en Ecologie Arctique (GREA); Members of the Interactions Working Group (IWG)

Long-term monitoring programs must be promoted to address key knowledge gaps currently harming the development and implementation of conservation and management strategies (Recommendation #13 in: ABA, Report for Policy Makers, 2013). In particular, “coordinated ecosystem-level oriented monitoring and modelling effort is needed to support biodiversity conservation efforts in a time of rapid change” (ABA Synthesis 2013; p113). In terrestrial ecosystems, biotic processes (e.g., direct and indirect inter-specific interactions within and between trophic levels) are shaping biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (ABA 2013; Terrestrial Ecosystems: Key findings). Rodents (mainly lemmings and voles), predators (foxes, snowy owl and skuas) and vertebrate herbivores (reindeers, muskoxen, geese, hares and ptarmigans) are the main vertebrate players interacting with the species-rich migrating wildfowl (anatids and shorebirds) in Tundra ecosystems. Indirect interactions between different prey species (e.g. lemmings and sandpipers) modulated by shared predators (e.g. Arctic fox) are believed to shape the structure and sometimes even to drive the dynamics of these communities. Important progress has been made in recent decades to describe and understand these interactions. Yet, our understanding of these phenomenon (and hence the possible inference on conservation questions) is still fragmentary. To fill this gap, several teams (or even regional networks) started working on these questions in North America, Greenland, Scandinavia and Russia over the past 10 to 30 years. But since they were studying environments hosting different communities, and used different methods at different spatial and temporal scales, merging these results to draw a comprehensive picture that would be valid at the circumpolar scale remained however difficult. In 2015, five of these existing teams joined their forces in an attempt to “harmonize” their protocols, collect comparable and “optimized” information, and ultimately improve their understanding of these indirect interactions, including through the development of new parameterized models. In 2016 and 2017, 12 sites distributed over 5 Arctic countries fully implemented the 5 approved protocols (6 additional sites will join the network in 2018): 1. Monitor predation pressure using artificial nests 2. Monitor incubation patterns and survival rates of Sandpiper/Stint nests using temperature sensors 3. Assessing relative abundance of predators and lemmings using incidental observations 4. Estimating lemming/rodent densities using different trapping methods 5. Assessing “herbivores” (excl. rodents) relative abundance using faeces counts on transects. This talk aims at presenting the research questions, deployment, funding, governance, preliminary results and future plans of this original collaborative network.

 

Trends in Arctic falcon populations – a preliminary overview for CAFF’s Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme

Arctic Falcons Specialist Group

CAFF’s Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme (CBMP) identified the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) and the Gyrfalcon (F. rusticolus) as Focal Ecosystem Components (FECs) for the terrestrial biodiversity monitoring, in part due to their role as top predators within Arctic food webs, their circumpolar distribution and different adaptations to ecological conditions in the Arctic. The Peregrine is a long-distance migrant (some populations trans-equatorial) present in the Arctic breeding grounds from May to September and prey on a wide variety of bird species, while the Gyrfalcon is a year-round resident or short distance migrant within the Arctic and northern temperate zones where it is dependent on ptarmigan (Lagopus sp.), in some areas seasonally supplemented by mammals or seabirds. Both species have received considerable long-term monitoring effort throughout the circumpolar Arctic, making them ideal candidates for future monitoring. An ‘Arctic Falcons Specialist Group’ (AFSG, 33 members) was established to exchange information and enhance circumpolar collaboration on falcon population monitoring. The work presented here is AFSG’s synopsis of Arctic-wide monitoring efforts of the falcon species and addresses the need to integrate the state of knowledge for these species within the context of CBMP monitoring priorities. Twenty-four monitoring sites, ranging in size from 100 to 84000 km2, were distributed across the Pan-Arctic but with few sites in eastern Russia and the High Arctic; 14 projects spanned >30 years of monitoring and 21 remained active by 2017, serving as a platform for future coordinated monitoring. Falcon territory occupancy and productivity showed variable spatial and temporal trends with signs of declining productivity for peregrines in some areas, while variation in gyrfalcon occupancy and productivity was linked to cyclic populations of ptarmigans except in areas where alternative prey was available. Differences in survey methods and definitions challenged direct comparisons of FEC attributes across monitoring sites, calling for increased collaboration regarding harmonization of terminology and reporting. This first overview revealed the potential for further in-depth longitudinal Pan-arctic monitoring of the falcon species as FECs in the circumpolar biodiversity monitoring.

 

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