Kiruna, Sweden, May 15, 2013-

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Arctic Biodiversity Assessment. Photo: Carsten Egevang/ARC-PIC.comThe Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council has released the “Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA),” a report containing the best available science informed by traditional ecological knowledge on the status and trends of Arctic biodiversity and accompanying policy recommendations for biodiversity conservation.

"The Arctic Biodiversity Assessment is a tremendous achievement," says Gustaf Lind, chair of the Senior Arctic Officials of the Arctic Council. "The recommendations will help shape Arctic conservation in the years to come and will prove itself an invaluable tool to the Arctic Council. The ABA articulates exactly how the environment is changing and signals to policymakers what needs to be done to secure the ecosystems and species that people rely on for life and livelihood. This is the information we need right now to help us achieve a sustainable future."

“Governments recognize the important work being carried out by CAFF for biodiversity monitoring and assessment and this report is another vital assessment tool for all of us who work to protect biodiversity,” said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary for the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Arctic Biodiversity Assessment: Synthesis. Photo: Lars Holst Hansen/

"The assessment, which explores the potentially dramatic consequences of climate change and other factors that adversely affect species and their habitats in the Arctic, will provide critical information to policy makers on what is needed to secure the ecosystems and species that local communities rely on for their livelihoods. In essence, the report gives us a preview of what may happen in other parts of the world if we do not get serious about achieving the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets.”

Arctic biodiversity is being degraded, but decisive action taken now can help sustain the vast, relatively undisturbed ecosystems of tundra, mountains, fresh water and seas and the valuable services they provide, says the report. This globally unique opportunity for proactive action can minimize or prevent problems that would be costly or impossible to reverse in the future.

"As climate belts move north, large parts of the Arctic may lose their specific Arctic ecosystems and biodiversity," says Hans Meltofte, chief scientist for the ABA. "The Arctic is home to thousands of unique cold-adapted species, many of which are found only there. But with climate change and increased interest in the region, if we do not act now we may lose the incredible assets and fascination that Arctic biodiversity offers us all."

Arctic Biodiversity Assessment. Photo: Carsten Egevang/

The key findings of the ABA deal with the:

  • significance of climate change as the most serious underlying driver of overall change in biodiversity;
  • necessity of taking an ecosystem-based approach to management; and
  • importance of mainstreaming biodiversity by making it integral to other policy fields, for example, in development, plans and operations.


Services and values to people

The Arctic is home to over 21,000 species, including many globally significant populations of unique and highly cold-adapted mammals, birds, fish, invertebrates, plants, fungi and microorganisms, some found nowhere else on Earth. In addition to its intrinsic worth, Arctic biodiversity provides innumerable services and values to people. More than a tenth of the world’s fish catches by weight come from Arctic and sub-Arctic seas. The Arctic is the breeding ground for millions of migratory birds that fly to every continent, connecting the region with the rest of the world and contributing to global biodiversity.



Arctic Biodiversity Assessment Report for Policy Makers (Inuktitut)Mark Marissink

ABA Chair

Mark [DOT] Marissink [AT] naturvardsverket [DOT] se

+46 10 698 1334        


Hans Meltofte

ABA Chief Scientist

mel [AT] dmu [DOT] dk

+45 2988 9278  


Tom Barry

CAFF Executive Secretary

tom [AT] caff [DOT] is

+354 861 9824                 


Courtney Price

Communications officer

courtney [AT] caff [DOT] is

+354 821 3609


Arctic Biodiversity Assessment Report for Policy Makers (Russian)Media material

Photos for press use, story outlines, backgrounders and more resources:  



The ABA, involving over 250 scientists has been produced by some of the world’s leading experts and has been presented to the Foreign Ministers of the Arctic Council countries at the Arctic Council Ministerial on May 15. The ABA synthesizes scientific findings on status and trends in Arctic biodiversity. This major circumpolar effort provides a much needed description of the state of biodiversity in the Arctic. The ABA:

  • creates a baseline for use in global and regional assessments of Arctic biodiversity which will inform and guide future Arctic Council work;
  • provides up-to-date knowledge gathered from scientific publications supplemented with insights from traditional knowledge holders;
  • identifies gaps in the data record;
  • describes key mechanisms driving change; and
  • presents science-based suggestions for action on addressing major pressures on Arctic biodiversity.


Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna

CAFF is the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council and consists of National Representatives assigned by each of the eight Arctic Council Member States, representatives of Indigenous Peoples' organizations that are Permanent Participants to the Council, and Arctic Council observer countries and organizations. CAFF’s mandate is to address the conservation of Arctic biodiversity, and to communicate its findings to the governments and residents of the Arctic, helping to promote practices which ensure the sustainability of the Arctic’s living resources. For more information: 

Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is a high level intergovernmental forum to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.  Arctic Council Member States are Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States of America. In addition to the Member States, the Arctic Council has the category of Permanent Participants who include the Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC), Aleut International Association (AIA), Gwich'in Council International (GGI), Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) and the Saami Council (SC). On May 15, 2013 Canada took over the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council from Sweden. For more information:  




migratory shorebirds. Photo: Jan van de KamWorld Migratory Bird Day 2013 highlights importance of ecological networks for migratory birdsneed for greater international response

Bonn/Nairobi 10 May 2013 – The annual migration of an estimated 50 billion birds—  around 19 per cent of the world’s 10,000 bird species—is one of the world’s great natural wonders, yet the critical staging areas migratory birds need to complete these journeys are being degraded or are disappearing completely.

These increasingly vulnerable sites, which act as stepping stones on migration routes, serve as a place for the birds to rest, feed and breed during their annual migration cycles. As a result of the degradation, some species may be extinct within a decade, while others are facing population losses of up to nine per cent each year.

Celebrated in over 65 countries on 11-12 May, World Migratory Bird Day 2013 will highlight the importance of ecological networks for the survival of migratory birds, the important human networks dedicated to their conservation, the threats migratory birds face, and the need for more international cooperation to conserve them.

Events to mark World Migratory Bird Day will include bird festivals, education programmes, presentations, film screenings and birdwatching trips.

“I fully support the global campaign to raise awareness about the threats to migratory birds from habitat destruction, overexploitation, pollution and climate change,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “I call for greater international efforts to restore and preserve migratory birds and the network of sites they need to survive as an important part of the environment on which we all depend.”

Launched in Kenya in 2006, World Migratory Bird Day is organized by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA)—two intergovernmental wildlife treaties administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 

Many migrating birds—such as Cranes, Storks, Shorebirds and Eagles—travel thousands of kilometers across flyways that span countries, continents and even the entire globe. Yet pressures resulting from a growing human population, rapid urbanization, pollution, climate change and unsustainable use of natural areas are causing the loss, fragmentation and degradation of natural habitats along the birds’ migration routes and threatening their survival.

Similar to a human transport system of harbors, airports and roads, migratory birds depend on these international networks of natural sites for food, safety, breeding and moulting—as well as for stopover areas which act as refueling stations between breeding and non-breeding areas. 

Stopover sites of international importance for migratory waterbirds include the Wadden Sea, shared by Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark; Banc d’Arguin on the west coast of Mauritania; Bahia de Santa Maria in Mexico and the Saemangeum tidal flat in the Yellow Sea in South Korea .

Migratory waterbird species that depend on a network of intertidal habitats along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF) are showing rapid decline and are amongst the world’s most-threatened migratory birds. The decline is mainly caused by the fast pace of coastal land reclamation occurring in this densely populated region, particularly around key coastal staging areas in the Yellow Sea.

According to a 2011 report commissioned by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the rates of decline in the region are among the highest of any ecological system in the world. At least 24 waterbird species using the flyway are heading towards extinction and many others are facing losses of five to nine per cent per year. According to the IUCN report, species such as the Spoon-billed Sandpiper could become extinct within a decade.

“Migratory birds and the challenges they face in many ways underline the ambition of multilateralism in a globalized world—it is only when countries work together in common cause that the survival and conservation of these species be ensured,” said UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“There are many reasons why migratory birds should be conserved—their beauty and behavior are a source of joy and inspiration for millions upon millions of people,” he added. “But they also are part of the web of life that underpins nature’s multi-trillion-dollar ecosystem services, while being in some countries, including Kenya , part of the nature-based tourism that generates 10 per cent of the nation’s GDP.”

This year, World Migratory Bird Day events will be celebrated in countries which share the African-Eurasian Flyways. In Kenya, for instance, a regional event will take place on the shores of Lake Elementaita—part of the Kenya Lakes Systems, a network of sites that supports 11 globally threatened bird species.

The area also sustains 75 per cent of the near-threatened Lesser Flamingo, and Lake Elementaita is known to be one of the world’s major breeding colonies of the Great White Pelican. The event is being hosted by the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) in cooperation with the UNEP/CMS and UNEP/AEWA Secretariats.

“The key message behind World Migratory Bird Day is that countries, dedicated organizations and people around the world need to work together to ensure that migratory birds can continue to travel, refuel and reach their destinations,” said Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary of the CMS.

The global World Migratory Bird Day campaign is backed by a growing number of international partners, including: BirdLife International, Wetlands International, the Secretariat of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP), the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) and UNEP.

In order to protect crucial staging grounds and thus conserve bird species, sophisticated systems such as the AEWA Critical Site Network (CSN) Tool are helping to summarize current knowledge about the network of sites used by migratory waterbirds in the African-Eurasian region.

The Report on the Site Network for Waterbirds in the AEWA Agreement Area, prepared by Wetlands International and BirdLife International using the CSN Tool information as a basis, revealed that less than half of the critical sites of AEWA waterbird populations had adequate protection.

“If maintained and continuously improved, this information can significantly help conservation efforts, but it is also revealing some disturbing gaps as the recent site network report has shown,” said Marco Barbieri, Acting Executive Secretary of AEWA. “The bigger challenge, which has become obvious from the AEWA report, is that countries need to increase their efforts to fill the gaps in terms of adequate legal protection status and management of these sites.”


Further quotes

“Very often migrant birds are under huge pressure at the exact points where they are most vulnerable. Birds battling to reach the sea-shore descend into a limitless line of nets. Tiny falcons funnel through forests to be trapped in their thousands. Exhausted shorebirds find that the mudflats where they once refueled are now a sea of concrete, or circle wearily because their roosting sites have vanished” - Dr. Marco Lambertini, Chief Executive, BirdLife International.

“What does concern them (the waterbirds of the East Asian - Australasian Flyway) is that the network of sites they have traditionally depended on for safety, food, breeding and moulting is changing rapidly and usually for the worse. Areas of inter-tidal coastal flats of East Asia have undergone a steep and continuing decline in recent decades, threatening the migration routes of migratory shorebirds” - Spike Millington, Chief Executive of East Asian – Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) Secretariat.

“Migratory waterbirds are spectacular and engaging ambassadors of wetlands. They connect people across the globe and the concerns about their conservation have played an important role in the creation of our organization” - Ms Jane Madgwick, Chief Executive Officer, Wetlands International.

“One of the truths about climate change is that no one species or habitat is immune from its effects. Therefore, the effort to meet the climate challenge and the effort to protect bird migration are deeply intertwined. Altered timeframes for migration (as temperatures rise), changed flight patterns (due to changing ecosystems) and reduced bird populations (due to extreme weather and drought) all provide ample evidence that the changing climate is already affecting migratory birds” - Ms. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“Migratory species are interesting because they highlight some of our own contradictions. We constantly aspire to move more freely around the world, yet we do exactly the opposite for migratory birds. We put hurdles on their journeys all the time. We make their travels more and more complicated. Nature actually dictates these movements of these species and we tend to forget that we are part of nature and should listen a little bit more to its rules” - Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Director, IUCN Global Species Programme and Director, SOS – Save Our Species.

Further statements marking World Migratory Bird Day 2013 can be found here: 


Notes to editors

About World Migratory Bird Day

Launched in 2006, World Migratory Bird Day is a global initiative devoted to celebrating migratory birds and promoting their conservation worldwide. It is organized by the Secretariats of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) - two international wildlife treaties administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

For more information, please visit: 


About the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (also known as CMS or Bonn Convention) aims to conserve terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range. It is an intergovernmental treaty, concluded under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme, concerned with the conservation of wildlife and habitats on a global scale. Since the Convention’s entry into force, its membership has grown steadily to include 118 (as of 1 January 2013) Parties from Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

CMS and its related Agreements on migratory birds bring together governments and other stakeholders to coordinate and further develop global flyways policy, to ensure that all flyways in the world benefit from some kind of coordination mechanism that promotes cooperation at ground level among the countries involved. This includes working towards establishing a viable network of sites which can be used by migratory birds, to both ensure their survival as well as make sure they will continue to be able to be a source of inspiration and fascination for people all over the world for generations to come. For more information, please visit:


About the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA)

The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) is an intergovernmental treaty developed under the auspices of CMS dedicated to the conservation of migratory waterbirds that migrate along the African-Eurasian Flyway. The Agreement covers 255 species of birds ecologically dependent on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle. The treaty covers 119 Range States from Europe, parts of Asia and Canada, the Middle East and Africa. Currently, 71 countries and the European Union (EU) have become a Contracting Party to AEWA (as of 1 June 2013). For more information, please visit:


World Migratory Bird Day 2013 Events Around the World 

All registered World Migratory Bird Day events can be found on the WMBD website:



Florian Keil, Information Officer, UNEP/ AEWA Secretariat, +49 (0) 228 8152411, Mobile : +49 0151 14701633, +254 0713085464,  contact [AT] worldmigratorybirdday [DOT] or

Francisco Rilla, Information Officer, UNEP/CMS Secretariat, +49 (0) 228 8152460,  frilla [AT] cms [DOT] int Veronika Lenarz, Public Information, UNEP/CMS Secretariat, +49 (0) 228 8152409,  vlenarz [AT] cms [DOT] int

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Director of Communications and Spokesperson, +254 733 632 755, +41 795965737,  nick [DOT] nuttall [AT] unep [DOT] org UNEP Newsdesk, +254 725 939 620,  unepnewsdesk [AT] unep [DOT] org





DeKalb, Illinois, USA, May 3, 2013- The film "Status and Trends in Arctic Biodiversity" has won the 2013 documentary award of the annual Green Lens Environmental Film Festival in DeKalb, Illinois.

The Green Lens Environmental Film Festival is an annual environmental film competition sponsored by the Northern Illinois University´s Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy. This third edition was held from April 20th to 25th, 2013, in DeKalb, Illinois, USA, under the theme "The Planet in Focus". The documentary film "Status and Trends in Arctic Biodiversity", a collaborative work of the Arctic Council Working Group for the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and GRID-Arendal, was awarded first place in the documentary category at the festival.

The film addresses the current environmental situation in the Arctic and ongoing pressures on its ecosystems. Particular emphasis is placed on the new set of challenges and stressors brought about by climate change and the increase of industrial activities in the region. In view of these challenges, CAFF has set out to provide policymakers and conservation managers with the best available scientific and traditional knowledge on Arctic biodiversity. The film highlights the key issues that surfaced in the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment

You can watch the documentary here:


Bonn, Germany, May 2, 2013- The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the Arctic Council’s Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group (CAFF), have signed a resolution of cooperation, 29 April 2013 in Budapest, Hungary, to better integrate efforts to protect and conserve Arctic migratory species. The signing was kindly hosted by the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation in the margins of their 60th General Assembly.

Evgeny Syroechkovskiy and Bert Lenten sign the Resolution of Cooperation between CAFF and the Convention on Migratory Species

In the face of increasing threats to Arctic biodiversity, understanding biodiversity changes is extremely important for migratory species conservation. The Arctic is extremely important as a breeding and feeding area for hundreds of migratory species that migrate out of the region and connect with all other continents on Earth. 

CMS and CAFF objectives and activities complement one another. CAFF provides a vehicle for knowledge and action in the Arctic region while CMS provides an important global framework for biodiversity efforts for migratory species. CMS can help place Arctic migratory species within a global framework while CAFF can help inform CMS on the status and trends of migratory species in this globally significant region.

At a global scale 5 major flyways are identified covering the Western Hemisphere, Africa-Eurasian, Central Asia, East Asia–Australasia and the Pacific area. These flyways have in common that they start in the Arctic, providing important breeding grounds for many species of migratory birds e.g. several species of geese, swans, ducks, waders but also raptors and passerines. The Arctic is also home to several species of migratory marine mammals that are of interest to CMS.

“The signing of this cooperation agreement sets the scene for our organizations to work more closely together, with the aim of improving the conservation status of the migratory species that use the Arctic during their annual cycle” said Mr. Bert Lenten, Deputy Executive Secretary who signed on behalf of CMS.

Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, Chairman of the CAFF Board, who signed on behalf of CAFF, added that “The challenge that CAFF faces is that many of our species are migratory species that only spend part of their annual cycle within this region. CMS is the only Multilateral Environmental Agreement that deals with migratory species and is therefore identified as a key partner for CAFF. By combining our efforts to conserve ’our migratory species’ within and outside the Arctic region, we expect to achieve more together than each of us can separately.”

Cooperation is also relevant on issues of common interest between CAFF and some of CMS’s species agreements and memoranda of understanding. This is already evidenced by CAFF’s resolution of cooperation with the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), an intergovernmental treaty dedicated to the conservation of migratory waterbirds and their habitats across Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago.

Mike Gill, chair of the CBMP was awarded the Queen's Jubilee Medal in honour of his commitment to Arctic biodiversity conservation. Joseph Culp was unable to attend the ceremony.Mike Gill, chair of CAFF's Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) and Joseph Culp, Co-chair of the CBMP's Freshwater Monitoring Group have received the prestigious Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal for their dedication to Arctic nature.

Gill is a great lover of biodiversity, and his passion is displayed through his tireless conservation efforts. We wish to congratulate Mike and Jospeh on this award and recognize their unrelenting quest for Arctic biodiversity well-being.

Nominations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal flowed in from across Canada highlighting the achievements of Canadians who have dedicated themselves to service to their fellow citizens, their community and their country. A commemorative medal was presented over the past year to 60,000 deserving Canadians in celebration of their significant contributions and achievements.

On Tuesday February 19th, 2013, Environment Canada bestowed the Medal upon 78 employees across the country. Recipients and their guests were linked together through videoconference to hear opening remarks from Deputy Minister Bob Hamilton. Following the videoconference, celebrations continued with family and friends gathered to share the momentous occasion with the recipients. Several of the medal recipients were selected for their achievements within Environment Canada while others were selected for their contributions to the Canadian population outside of their daily functions. Some of the achievements have had an international or global reach. Some highlight one of the most extraordinary gifts of volunteering. Many highlight world class leadership.

Mike Gill

Mike Gill has demonstrated exemplary leadership, partnering skills and visioning to successfully build the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program. He is a great communicator and motivator and is committed to excellence. Through his leadership the program has achieved status on the world stage as a major contributor to biodiversity observing networks. 

Joseph Culp

Joseph Culp is a senior research scientist and a professor at the University of New Brunswick. He has been instrumental in building Environment Canada's research capacity in the effects of anthropogenic impacts on river ecology at both the national and international level. Dr. Culp's leadership and consensus building ability make him an excellent co-lead of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program for freshwater.


Congratulations to the outstanding recipients of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal! Additional information about the Diamond Jubilee Medal program is available at Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.


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