State of the Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Report

Monitoring: Status

The SAFBR builds on the Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Monitoring Plan and the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment. It is an important first step towards better understanding and management of our living resources in Arctic freshwater environments. The SAFBR helps identify the limitations of what existing and available biodiversity monitoring is able to tell us about the Arctic environment and provides a path forward for improving knowledge. Monitoring the status and trends of Arctic biodiversity and attributing causes of change are challenging. Complexity, logistics, funding, international coordination, natural variability, and availability of expertise and technology combine to limit available data and knowledge.

The Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Monitoring Plan recommended that participating institutions develop common, standardized protocols for Arctic freshwater monitoring as well as for appropriate storage and archiving of biological data collections. With these recommendations as a baseline, the SAFBR provides an overall status of the monitoring of lakes and rivers.

Current state of monitoring for lake Focal Ecosystem Components (FEC) in the Arctic regions of each countryCurrent state of monitoring for lake Focal Ecosystem Components (FEC) in the Arctic regions of each country  Current state of monitoring for river Focal Ecosystem Components (FEC) in the Arctic regions of each countryCurrent state of monitoring for river Focal Ecosystem Components (FEC) in the Arctic regions of each country


Key findings: Monitoring

  • All countries have data sets that allow for identification of baseline levels for most FECs, but only a few countries (such as Finland and Sweden) have an extensive spatial coverage and very few countries have long time series. Data collection was not exhaustive, and there are likely additional data that exist for each country that may contribute to the assessment of freshwater biodiversity; however, significant gaps will remain even with a more extensive search of existing data sources. 
  • Instruments such as the European Water Framework Directive promote routine monitoring of lake and river FECs. But where a country, ecoregion, or FEC is not covered by such instruments, monitoring is irregular, has poor spatial coverage, or is absent.
  • The vast expanse of the Arctic region in some countries (e.g., Canada, Russia) and the high monetary cost and logistical constraints associated with sampling in some regions (e.g., northern Canada and Russia, Greenland, Svalbard, Faroe Islands) limits the possibility of routine monitoring. This leads to sparse sample coverage in space and time, particularly where funds are not secure.
  • In countries where routine government monitoring is limited or does not occur, data must come from other sources (e.g., academic research), where unsecure funding often leads to single-event sampling, meaning that change over time cannot be examined.

Abisko Station. Photo: Philipp TheuringAbisko Station. Photo: Philipp Theuring Canning River Delta. Photo: Lisa Hupp, USFWSCanning River Delta. Photo: Lisa Hupp, USFWS Darner dragonfly nymph (Aeshnidae) feeding on a small fish. Photo: Jan Hamrsky Darner dragonfly nymph (Aeshnidae) feeding on a small fish. Photo: Jan Hamrsky  Arctic Canada. Photo: Joseph CulpArctic Canada. Photo: Joseph Culp


Advice for monitoring

The SAFBR stresses the need to establish a circumpolar network of key monitoring stations across Arctic countries for time-series monitoring and better spatial coverage. Such a network would supply high-quality data that can be used to quantify change in water quality and biodiversity of Arctic freshwaters. This monitoring network should have representative coverage across the Arctic and take advantage of ongoing and past monitoring. 

This monitoring network could be designed as a hub-and-spoke model, i.e., one central hub or station with regular monitoring and a number of spokes, or distant stations, at which monitoring is less frequent. Such a network could include both freshwater and terrestrial monitoring efforts. Existing sampling locations (and field stations) that already have a sampling history should be blended with new locations in areas with poor monitoring coverage or without a sampling record.

There is an urgent need to provide the infrastructure necessary to maintain and update the freshwater database (at CAFF’s Arctic Biodiversity Data Service) in the long term. This infrastructure should also include routines for the regular updating of this database (e.g., by interfaces that allow more direct communication with government databases).

Photo: Christian Zimmerman, USGSPhoto: Christian Zimmerman, USGS Rinsing samples. Photo: Willem GoedkoopRinsing samples. Photo: Willem Goedkoop Photo: Guðni GuðbergssonPhoto: Guðni Guðbergsson Sampling at Zackenberg, Greenland. Photo: K. S. ChristoffersenSampling at Zackenberg, Greenland. Photo: K. S. Christoffersen


Monitoring Methods

  • Harmonize sampling approaches among countries and select appropriate sampling methods and equipment to balance between maintaining consistency and comparability with historical data and alignment with common methods used across the Arctic.
  • Use a regionalized approach based on ecoregions to guide the spatial distribution of sample stations and, ultimately, provide better assessments.
  • Ensure spatial coverage of sampled ecoregions is sufficient to address the overarching monitoring questions of the CBMP across the Arctic and provide sufficient replication.
  • Maintain time series at key locations, and fill gaps where monitoring data are sparse.
  • Develop supplementary monitoring methods that provide better standardized estimates of biodiversity to maximize the likelihood of detecting new and/or invasive species.
  • Make use of recent advances in emerging technologies, including environmental DNA (eDNA) methods and remote sensing approaches.
  • Standardize data storage practices and provide access through a common data source like GBIF. 

Zackenberg light measurement. Photo: K.S. ChristoffersenZackenberg light measurement. Photo: K.S. Christoffersen  Sarek National Park, Sweden. Photo: Thomas Bresenhuber/Shuttserstock.comSarek National Park, Sweden. Photo: Thomas Bresenhuber/Shuttserstock.com Reciever station for underwater loggers, Zackenberg NE Greenland. Photo: K.S. ChristoffersenReciever station for underwater loggers, Zackenberg NE Greenland. Photo: K.S. Christoffersen Swarmed. Photo: inEthos DesignSwarmed. Photo: inEthos Design


Traditional Knowledge (TK)

  • Engage with Indigenous communities to work towards identifying and integrating their TK into efforts to assess Arctic freshwater biodiversity, including change over time.
  • Incorporate TK as an integral part of circumpolar monitoring and observational networks.

Alaska Elder. Photo: USFWSAlaska Elder. Photo: USFWS Fishing for carp, Russia. Photo: Tatiana Gasich/Shutterstock.comFishing for carp, Russia. Photo: Tatiana Gasich/Shutterstock.com Yakutian woman holding a plate of whitefish. Photo: Tatiana Gasich/Shutterstock.comYakutian woman holding a plate of whitefish. Photo: Tatiana Gasich/Shutterstock.com Sheenjek river. Photo: Alexis Bonogofsky, USWFSSheenjek river. Photo: Alexis Bonogofsky, USWFS


Citizen science

  • Engage local communities in monitoring activities through citizen science and incorporate local knowledge as an integral part of future circumpolar monitoring and observational networks.
  • Interact with local communities to enhance outreach to the public (youth in particular) and develop common observational tools.
  • Provide material for training and educational purposes for local residents at all age levels.

Selawik Science-Culture Camp, Alaska. Photo: USFWSSelawik Science-Culture Camp, Alaska. Photo: USFWS Selawik Science-Culture Camp, Alaska. Photo: USFWSSelawik Science-Culture Camp, Alaska. Photo: USFWS Listening to community members. Photo: USFWSListening to community members. Photo: USFWS Fort Yukon community meet and greet with CAFF. Photo: Courtney Price, CAFFFort Yukon community meet and greet with CAFF. Photo: Courtney Price, CAFF


Monitoring Design and Assessment

  • Establish a circumpolar monitoring network based on a hub-and-spoke model in remote areas.
  • Increase focus on the response of biotic communities to environmental changes by designing monitoring to address impact hypotheses developed in the CBMP-Freshwater Plan.
  • Ensure that the CBMP Freshwater group continues to serve as the focal point for the development and implementation of Arctic, freshwater biodiversity monitoring.
  • Provide resources to maintain and build the CBMP freshwater database for future assessments in order to maximize the benefits of this database.
  • Efforts should be made to document and preserve data from short-term research projects, research expeditions, industrial, university and government programs and to make these data accessible to the public.
  • Status assessments of Arctic lakes and rivers must explore the close association of biodiversity with spatial patterns of physical and chemical quality of aquatic habitats that can drive biological systems.
  • The CBMP-Freshwater database allows the identification of predominant sampling approaches across the Arctic and should be used to inform the development of harmonized monitoring approaches.
  • Where valuable long-term data series exist, these should be given high priority in monitoring programs, to continue to provide data for the detection of long-term trends and changes in biodiversity.

Attendees of a Fennoscandinavian writing workshop for the SAFBR. Photo: CAFFAttendees of a Fennoscandinavian writing workshop for the SAFBR. Photo: CAFF Jennifer Lento and Joseph Culp, Canadian members of the CBMP Freshwater. Photo: CAFF Jennifer Lento and Joseph Culp, Canadian members of the CBMP Freshwater. Photo: CAFF  CBMP Freshwater co-leads Joseph Culp (L) and Willem Goedkoop (R) building partnerships between Canada and Sweden in freshwater biodiversity monitoring. Photo: Michael PowerCBMP Freshwater co-leads Joseph Culp (L) and Willem Goedkoop (R) building partnerships between Canada and Sweden in freshwater biodiversity monitoring. Photo: Michael Power Freshwater CBMP meeting, Hvalso, Denmark. Photo: CAFFFreshwater CBMP meeting, Hvalso, Denmark. Photo: CAFF


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