State of monitoring by Arctic Marine Area

Click on map regions to discover the state of monitoring of sea ice biota, plankton, benthos, marine fishes, seabirds, and marine mammals:

State of monitoring

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. These limitations affect biotic groups unevenly.

Traditional and local knowledge (TLK) is a valuable source of information for marine areas, and the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) Marine Plan worked to address this issue by trying to engage and include Traditional Knowledge (TK) and TK holders within its design and implementation, a lack of funding, support, and capacity hindered its effect within the Marine Expert Networks and this report. With the understanding of the importance to utlize both science and TLK in order to understand the current state of the marine environment, examples are provided of the type of information that TK holders have to offer in the State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report.

 


Advice for monitoring

Coordination

  • Better coordination allows for increased value for investment in monitoring programs, better opportunity to compare results, and more ability to draw meaningful conclusions from data.
  • Strategically locate Arctic research stations and monitoring vessels, and use all collected specimens, to allow the collection and analysis of as many CBMP Focal Ecosystem Components (FECs) as possible.
  • Ensure research stations operate all year to better study FECs year-round.
  • Combine national monitoring with collaborative approaches that allow for sufficient integration and standardization to conduct syntheses across the circumpolar region.
  • Standardize how data are collected, managed and made available. This is a key component in ensuring circumpolar Arctic comparability and should be an important consideration in the implementation of monitoring plans.
  • Encourage states to increase the implementation of existing internationally coordinated monitoring plans.
  • Connect monitoring initiatives and report across scales so that results are meaningful for local, sub-national, national, regional and global decision-makers.
  • Continue to increase coordination between CBMP and other regional and global monitoring initiatives e.g., the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEOBON), International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES).

Boxcore. Photo: Leah Sloan, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, The Hidden Ocean 2016, Chukchi BorderlandsBoxcore. Photo: Leah Sloan, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, The Hidden Ocean 2016, Chukchi Borderlands Diving. Photo: Hidden Ocean Expedition 2005Diving. Photo: Hidden Ocean Expedition 2005


Methods

Increased attention to methodology allows for more precise and comparable results, standardized data collection, and ability to link regional monitoring to circumpolar efforts.

  • Ensure that Arctic monitoring programs are ecosystem-based and include as many CBMP FECs as possible to include functionally important taxonomic groups and improve our understanding of how the ecosystem functions, and how its components are related. Such monitoring programs can serve to underpin management of human activities in the Arctic marine environment.
  • Standardize methodology, including taxonomic identification in order to allow production of comparable data and results.
  • Ensure training of personnel performing sampling and analyses.

Retrieving equipment. Photo: NASA GSFCRetrieving equipment. Photo: NASA GSFC Crane. Photo: Caitlin Bailey GFOE, The Hidden Ocean 2016, Chukchi BorderlandsCrane. Photo: Caitlin Bailey GFOE, The Hidden Ocean 2016, Chukchi Borderlands


Traditional and local knowledge (TLK)

Utilizing TLK and involvement of TK holders allows for increased understanding of relationships and changes underway in Arctic ecosystems, current and historical trends, and serves to build valuable partnerships on the ground in Arctic communities.

  • Use TLK within the design and implementation of monitoring plans. The TLK of people living along and off the Arctic Ocean is an invaluable resource for understanding changes in Arctic marine ecosystems and its inclusion should be supported by national governments.
  • Increase engagement and partnerships with local residents and easy to access technology in monitoring programs. Indigenous communities are important ‘first responders’ to catastrophic events. More importantly, their knowledge systems provide a wealth of knowledge that should be involved in the analysis of collected data for increased understanding of current trends and filling historical gaps.
  • There is a need for TLK on a range of FECs and to engage networks of TLK holders and Indigenous organisations.
  • Use both TLK and scientific information on the analysis of harvest levels and status when evaluating overall population health and managing hunts.

Fishing hole in Greenland. Photo: Lawrence Hislop, UNEP GRID ArendalFishing hole in Greenland. Photo: Lawrence Hislop, UNEP GRID Arendal In the Belcher Islands, Johnassie Ippak (left) and Lucassie Ippak (second from left) of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, and graduate student Carie Hoover (right) of the University of British Columbia assist Fisheries and Oceans Canada research scientist Dr. Steven Ferguson (second from right) on a research project exploring the effects of climate change on Arctic marine mammals. The research involves, in part, attaching satellite transmitters to ringed seal to track and study their movements. Photo: DFO, 2008In the Belcher Islands, Johnassie Ippak (left) and Lucassie Ippak (second from left) of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, and graduate student Carie Hoover (right) of the University of British Columbia assist Fisheries and Oceans Canada research scientist Dr. Steven Ferguson (second from right) on a research project exploring the effects of climate change on Arctic marine mammals. The research involves, in part, attaching satellite transmitters to ringed seal to track and study their movements. Photo: DFO, 2008


Community-based monitoring networks and community relationship building

  • Increase the span of networks in the CBMP to include Community-based monitoring networks.
  • Communicate information on changes and the results of monitoring between scientists and the public in both directions. This is crucial to the development of effective management strategies and human activities.

Local man retrieves eider from net. Photo: Grant GilchristLocal man retrieves eider from net. Photo: Grant Gilchrist Local community members walking transect line for eider monitoring. Photo: Samuel Iverson Local community members walking transect line for eider monitoring. Photo: Samuel Iverson


Knowledge gaps

Filling gaps in knowledge helps us better understand key elements and functions of the ecosystem that can help explain change and understand the system.

  • Encourage the monitoring of relevant physical parameters alongside some FECs that are particularly sensitive to their effects, including sea ice biota and plankton. 
  • Expand monitoring programs to include important taxonomic groups and key ecosystem functions. These gaps are likely due to logistical challenges or lack of expertise in specific fields.
  • Expand monitoring programs to include those utilizing both TK and science; involvement of Indigenous organizations and build capacity to provide a co-production of knowledge platform.

Searching for ice associated marine mammals. Photo: Josh London, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries ServiceSearching for ice associated marine mammals. Photo: Josh London, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries Service Searching for marine mammals. Photo: Josh London, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries ServiceSearching for marine mammals. Photo: Josh London, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries Service


Marine Expert Networks

Proactive biodiversity monitoring can help anticipate and provide future knowledge needs. Each CBMP Marine Expert Network has provided advice for their area of expertise to help Arctic biodiversity monitoring programs deliver relevant information and advice for policy-makers.

Sea ice biota

  • Establish an annual monitoring programme from landfast sea ice at selected Arctic field stations in Canada (Resolute, Cambridge Bay), Greenland (Kobbefjord, Disko Bay, Zackenberg), Norway (Kongsfjorden, Billefjorden, Van Mijenfjorden), and the U.S. (Barrow).
  • Establish a standardized monitoring protocol, including sample collection, preservation, microscopic and genetic analyses, taxonomic harmonization, and data sharing.
  • Establish opportunistic monitoring from drifting sea ice during cruises of opportunity.
  • Collect macrofauna samples in drifting sea ice via ship-based activities, scuba diving, electrical suction pumps, under-ice trawl nets, and remotely operated vehicles.

Gammarus wilkitzkii. Photo: Shawn Harper, University of Alaska FairbanksGammarus wilkitzkii. Photo: Shawn Harper, University of Alaska Fairbanks Looking up from a dive hole. Photo: Peter Leopold, NPILooking up from a dive hole. Photo: Peter Leopold, NPI

Plankton

  • Follow standardized protocols for monitoring plankton, including sample collection and preservation, microscopic and genetic analyses with taxonomic harmonization.
  • Ensure that full data sharing occurs between scientists, and is deposited in publicly-accessible national data centers. Continue to consolidate older data.
  • Train highly qualified personnel to perform plankton sampling and species-level analyses, including the use of molecular techniques.
  • Establish long-term funded annual monitoring programmes of plankton from selected Arctic field stations or Arctic campaigns/cruises in Canada, the U.S. and Russia, which together with the ongoing monitoring in Greenland, Iceland and Norway will secure a pan-Arctic coverage.
  • Develop species indexes and if possible, identify indicator taxa for monitoring.

Clione limacina. Photo: Peter Leopold, NPIClione limacina. Photo: Peter Leopold, NPI Collecting plankton samples. Photo: Fernando UgarteCollecting plankton samples. Photo: Fernando Ugarte

Benthos

  • Develop a time- and cost-effective, long-term and standardized monitoring of megabenthic communities in all Arctic regions using regular national groundfish assessment surveys. Expanding monitoring on micro-, meio- and macrobenthic groups is encouraged.
  • Gather information from research programs in regions without regular groundfish-shellfish trawl surveys. These are usually short-term and do not guarantee spatial consistency in sampling, but provide valuable information on benthic biodiversity and community patterns.
  • Generate information on benthos from little-known regions, such as the Arctic Basin and Arctic Archipelago, on cryptic or difficult taxonomic groups, and on biological “hotspots”.
  • Systematic studies of macrobenthos (grab investigations) and megabenthos (trawl bycatch of regular fishery surveys including both annual studies, as in the Atlantic Arctic, and periodic studies as in the Northern Bering and Chukchi Seas) are the most suitable and practical approach to long-term monitoring.
  • Standardize methodology, including taxonomic identification, across regions to assist in regional comparisons.
  • Recognize and support the use of TLK as an invaluable resource for understanding of changes in Arctic benthic communities.

Seastar. Photo: Gonzalo Bravo, Laval UniversitySeastar. Photo: Gonzalo Bravo, Laval University Katrin Iken (left) and Bodil Bluhm (right) sifting thorough mud for benthos samples. Photo: Kevin Raskoff, California State University, Monterey BayKatrin Iken (left) and Bodil Bluhm (right) sifting thorough mud for benthos samples. Photo: Kevin Raskoff, California State University, Monterey Bay

Marine fishes

  • Conduct pan-Arctic taxonomic analyses to clarify zoogeographic patterns that are important for detecting and understanding change.
  • Establish and conduct a monitoring plan that is independent of fisheries-related programs to assess changes in fish abundance and distributions. Use information from non-commercial fish species caught in groundfish surveys to provide a first step in this direction.
  • Use information from TK holders for monitoring marine fishes.
  • Connect monitoring initiatives across scales.
  • Conduct laboratory studies to examine the possible effects of abiotic and biotic changes (e.g. temperature, salinity, acidity and diseases) on fish species
  • Ensure that data on fisheries (commercial as well as artisanal) are accurate and registered in catch databases (such as the Food Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations). Information from logbooks is also relevant as it can be used to estimate the bycatch and the effects of fisheries.

Greenland halibut. Photo: Fernando UgarteGreenland halibut. Photo: Fernando Ugarte Fishing for capelin, Ilulissat Greenland. Photo: Carsten Egevang/ARC-PIC.comFishing for capelin, Ilulissat Greenland. Photo: Carsten Egevang/ARC-PIC.com

Seabirds

  • Develop methods for assessing diet to increase our understanding of changes in the ecosystem and how they affect seabird populations.
  • When selecting sites for new monitoring, consider proximity to hotspots for marine activities, access to the sea, and inclusion of plankton monitoring.
  • Expand colony-based monitoring and strive to include a more complete array of parameters, in particular, diet and measures of survival.
  • Consider a higher frequency of monitoring as current levels make it difficult to identify mechanisms or causes of change in populations.
  • Conduct targeted surveys and individual tracking studies of seabird interactions at sea to improve our understanding of seabird interactions at sea, where seabirds spend most of their time.
  • Continue to conduct at sea surveys on an opportunistic basis.

Eiders in a blizzard. Photo: Grant GilchristEiders in a blizzard. Photo: Grant Gilchrist Little auk. Photo: Bjorn Stefanson/Shutterstock.comLittle auk. Photo: Bjorn Stefanson/Shutterstock.com

Marine mammals

  • Implement existing international monitoring plans such as those for ringed seals and polar bear, with adaptive management principles to address the eleven Focal Ecosystem Component marine mammal species.
  • Expand marine mammal monitoring efforts to include parameters on health, passive acoustics, habitat changes, and telemetry tracking studies.
  • Obtain more knowledge about population sizes, densities, and distributions of marine mammal populations in order to understand the relationships between sea ice loss and climate change and to manage Arctic marine mammal populations in an appropriate manner.
  • Involve indigenous and local peoples in the design and implementation of monitoring programs so that scientific knowledge and TLK holders are working collaboratively.
  • Pursue a multidisciplinary and multi-knowledge approach and a high degree of collaboration across borders and between researchers, local communities and Arctic governments to better understand complex spatial-temporal shifts in drivers, ecological changes and animal health.

Bearded seal. Photo: Michael Cameron, Alaska Fisheries Science Center NOAA Fisheries ServiceBearded seal. Photo: Michael Cameron, Alaska Fisheries Science Center NOAA Fisheries Service Searching for marine mammals. Photo: Josh London Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries ServiceSearching for marine mammals. Photo: Josh London Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries Service


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