FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: (April 23, 2012) 

Montreal, Canada — International Polar Year 2012: From Knowledge to Action 


Distribution of populations time series data across the Arctic. CLICK TO DOWNLOAD FOR MEDIA USEA new spatial analysis from the Arctic Species Trend Index (ASTI) used data from 366 sites across the Arctic to draw recommendations to assist circumpolar biodiversity monitoring efforts. The findings were released in a report from the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP), the cornerstone program of the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), the Arctic Council’s biodiversity working group. 

The spatial distribution and quality of biodiversity monitoring across the Arctic was evaluated for use in identifying critical gaps in monitoring coverage. Maps produced in the report provide information useful for identifying gaps and setting priorities for biodiversity monitoring programs. 

Northern Scandinavia, Iceland, and the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands have had more monitoring coverage, while northern Russia, northern Greenland and the islands in the Canadian High Arctic have had relatively sparse monitoring coverage since the 1950s, according to the report. However, this discrepancy could be due to an inability to secure data from some regions, rather than an accurate account of monitoring coverage. It is also likely reflective of the challenge of conducting monitoring in remote and extreme environments. Monitoring across the Arctic increased until 2000 then declined. This might reflect a delay in reporting time, reductions in biodiversity monitoring, or a combination of both, says the report.  

“This type of spatial analysis at the scale of the ASTI hasn´t been widely applied in biodiversity monitoring” says Mike Gill, Chair of the CBMP. “This information is useful in guiding more efficient and effective Arctic monitoring programs and to better inform policy. “ 

The benefit of spatial analysis not only comes in identifying gaps in coverage, but also in helping to improve our understanding of the key drivers of change in Arctic biodiversity, says the ASTI authors. This round of ASTI analysis tested a model that explored biodiversity´s relationship to air temperature, human density and land cover. Those variables were found to only explain a small amount of change (5-11%), which indicates that analysis of other variables is needed to explain trends in Arctic vertebrate abundance. 

“This is exactly the type of information that we need to know: where do we have the most confidence in our data, what areas and species need more coverage and where should we focus our efforts,” says Tom Barry, Executive Secretary of CAFF. “This can help circumpolar scientists and community based monitoring groups to provide the missing information.” 



• Data collection efforts should focus on areas where data is currently sparse, especially where there are declining trends. 

• Sites that monitor single species should expand to focus on multiple species when feasible. This will be able to help identify whether trends are common across species and populations. 

• Areas that are more sporadically monitored, especially where there are declining populations, should be more frequently monitored, which will help quickly distinguish between naturally occurring changes and actual population reductions. 

• Monitoring efforts for vertebrate species should also include monitoring of non-biological measures to help improve understanding of the drivers of vertebrate species trends. 

• Extensive and complete regional data, from areas like the Bering Sea and northern Scandinavia, improve understanding of local factors that exert pressures on biodiversity. This data should be further analysed. 

• Measures to encourage consistent and timely reporting of monitoring results improve the capacity of ASTI to provide up-to-date information and detect emerging changes. 

• Work is needed to define key drivers behind biodiversity change, such as habitat fragmentation, impacts of climate change on habitats, and harvest, and to develop and access data sets for these drivers. This will help the ASTI better construct predictive models that explore relationships between biodiversity and these potential drivers. 

The ASTI contains information on 890 populations of 323 species of Arctic vertebrates. The ASTI allows scientists to track broad trends in the Arctic’s living resources and identify potential causes of changes, whether they are responses to natural phenomena or human-induced stressors. These recent ASTI analyses were a collaborative effort between the CBMP, the Zoological Society of London, and the World Wildlife Fund. Further information can be found at 

For more images available for media use please click here.



Further information can be found by email: caff [AT] caff [DOT] is or by contacting: 

Mike Gill, +1 867 334-3258, mike [DOT] gill [AT] ec [DOT] gc [DOT] ca 

Chair, Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program 










Tom Barry, +354 461-3350, tom [AT] caff [DOT] is 

Executive Secretary, Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna 


Photo: Roman Krochuk/shutterstock.comHere you will find a list of CAFF/Arctic Council-related events at the IPY From Knowledge to Action conference. Times and dates are set by conference organizers and are subject to change.


Monday April 23

Media event 13:00

The Arctic Species Trend Index

Room: media event

Join Anthon Frederiksen (Minister of Domestic Affairs, Nature and the Environment, Greenland), Gustav Lind (Senior Arctic Officials Chair), a Government of Canada representative, Mike GIll (Chair, CBMP), and Tom Barry(Executive Secretary of CAFF) as they present on the latest findings from a new analysis of the Arctic Species Trend Index, (ASTI) an index that illustrates overall spatial and temporal trends in fish, bird and mammal species. 


Data additions and extensions have improved the ASTI since its 2010 release. Scientists have since conducted in-depth analysis on the Arctic marine species, and additional spatial analysis.


Parallel session 13:30-15:00

2.4.4 Communities and Change: Vulnerability, Resilience and Adaptation

Room: 524C

14h00 - Participation of the Russian Indigenous Peoples in the IPY Research Project

P.V. Sulyandziga1, T.Yu. Semenova2

1Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), Russia2Russian Research Institute for Cultural and Natural Heritage, Moscow, Russia


Parallel Sessions 15:30-17:00

1.2.5 Indigenous and Local Knowledge (Research Methods/Technological Innovations)

Room: 520BC

16:45 - Arctic Indigenous and Local Knowledge and Expertise as Independent Data Sources for Capturing Socio-economic and Environmental Changes in the Bering Sea Sub Network (BSSN): Methods, Results and Their Application in Science and Policy

V. Gofman1, L. Alessa2, P. Cochran3, A. Kliskey2, M. Smith1

1Aleut International Association, Anchorage, Alaska, United States2Resilience and Adaptive Management Group, University of Alaska, Anchorage, AK, U3Alaska Native Science Commission, Anchorage, Alaska, United States


1.4.2 Human Health and Well-being, including Food Security

Room: 520EF

16:00 - Building a Framework on How to Assess Food Security in the Alaskan Arctic

C. Behe

1Inuit Circumpolar Council – Alaska, Anchorage United States of America


2.3.5 Impacts of Change and Development on Biodiversity and Polar Ecosystem Services

Room: 524C

15:30 CARMA-IPY Project Synthesis: Herd-Specific Vulnerabilities of Migratory Tundra Rangifer to Global Change

D. Russell1, A. Gunn2, R.G. White3, G. Kofinas4, S. Kutz5, C. Daniel6, P.H. Whitfield7

1Yukon College, Whitehorse Canada2Salt Spring Island Canada3University of Alaska, Fairbanks USA4University of Alaska, Fairbanks USA5University of Calgary, Calgary Alberta6ApexRMS, Ottawa Canada7Environment Canada, Vancouver Canada


Poster Sessions 17:00-19:00


Terrestrial Expert Monitoring Group: Developing a Plan for the Circumpolar Arctic


freshwaterpresentBiodiversity of Arctic Freshwaters: Developing the CAFF-CBMP Integrated Monitoring Plan




Closed Meeting 17:00-19:00

CBMP Terrestrial Expert Monitoring Group

Room: 512F


Tuesday April 24

Parallel sessions 10:00-12:00


2.3.5 Impacts of Change and Development on Biodiversity and Polar Ecosystem Services

Room: 520D

10:30 - Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) - Marine Plan Integrated Monitoring to Strengthen Decision-Making

J. Watkins1, K. Crane2, M. Gill3, G.R. Hindrum4

1Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa, Canada2National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington, USA3Environment Canada, Whitehorse, Canada4Directorate for Nature Management, Trondheim, Norway


 2.5.4 Accessing, Sharing and Preserving Data as a Legacy of IPY

Room: 524C

11:15 - Arctic Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI): Pan-Arctic Cooperation among Ten Mapping Agencies

M. Skedsmo1, F. Taylor2, O. Palmer3, M. Guðmundsson4

1Norwegian Mapping Authority, Tromsø, Norway2Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada3Lantmäteriet, Kiruna, Sweden4National Land Survey Iceland, Akranes, Iceland

The Arctic SDI is a pan-Arctic cooperative initiative among ten National Mapping Agencies from Canada, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States.


4.1.1 Communicating Polar Science

Room: 515AB

11:00 - Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA), Communication and Outreach

R. Shearer1, M.S. Olsen2, L-O. Reiersen3, S. Wilson3, J. Pawlak3, H. Thing4, L. Mathiasen5, J. Bendtsen5

1Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Ottawa, Canada2Danish Energy Agency, Copenhagen, Denmark3AMAP secretariat, Oslo, Norway4University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark5Alpha Film, Copenhagen, Denmark


3.2.2 Perceptions of Arctic Change

Room: 513EF

11:15 - The Relationship between Politics and Arctic Monitoring and Assessment - Changing Perspectives?

L.-O. Reiersen, S.J. Wilson

1Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) Secretariat, Oslo, Norway


2.4.5 Polar Governance, Policy, and Management

Room: 516D

11:45 - The Arctic Council - An Emerging Actor in Arctic Shipping Regulation? : Turning Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment Recommendations
into Action

P. Graczyk1,2

1University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway2University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland


Plenary Panel: Adaptation to Change


Dr. Gustaf Lind (Sweden), Chair, Arctic Council and Swedish Ambassador for the Arctic

Mr. Jack Hébert (United States), President and CEO, Cold Climate Housing Research Centre

Mr. Duane Smith (Canada), President, Inuit Circumpolar Council of Canada.

Mr. Jon Edvard Sundness (Norway) CEO, Tschudi Shipping Company

MODERATOR : Mr. Andrew Revkin (United States) Journalist, NY Times and Senior Fellow, Pace University


Parallel Session 15:30-17:00



2.5.4 Accessing, Sharing and Perserving Data as a Legacy of IPY

Room: 524C

15:45 - Coordinating for Arctic Conservation: CBMP´s Distributed Biodiversity Montiroing Data Network



M. Svoboda1, K.F. Lárusson2, Ó. Erlingsdóttir2, M. Gill1, T. Barry2

1Environment Canada, Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program, 91780 Alaska Highway, Whitehorse, Canada2Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, Akureyri, Iceland


Closed Meeting 17:00-19:00


CBMP Terrestrial Expert Monitoring Group

Room: 512F


CBMP Marine Expert Monitoring and Implementation Meeting

Room: 512G


Wednesday April 25

Parallel Sessions 10:00-12:00


1.4.1 Natural Resource Exploration, Exploitation and Commercial Activities including Tourism (Arctic Development)

Room: 520D

10:30 - Key Drivers and Futures for Arctic Marine Use: Outcomes of the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment

L. W. Brigham

1University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, USA


Parallel Sessions 13:30-15:00

2.4.4 Communities and Change: Vulnerability, Resilience and Adaptation

Room: 524C

13:30 - Reindeer Herders' Vulnerability Network Study (EALÁT): From Knowledge to Action on Climate Change Adaptation

A. Oskal3,1, R.G. Corell1,5, S.D. Mathiesen1,2,3, J.M. Turi3,1, O.H. Magga4

1UArctic EALÁT Institute at ICR, Kautokeino, Norway2Norwegian School of Veterinary Science,Tromsø, Norway3International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR), Kautokeino, Norway4Sámi University College, Kautokeino, Norway5Global Environment and Technology Foundation,Washington DC, USA


Plenary Panel: Adaptation to Change


Dr. Mike J. Gill (Canada): Chair, Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Project and Head, Biodiversity and Species at Risk Section, Environment Canada

Mr. Mikael Thinghuus (Greenland): Group CEO, Royal Greenland Fishing Company

Dr. Paul Holthus (USA): Executive Director, World Ocean Council

Dr. Jacqueline McGlade (United Kingdom): Executive Director, European Environment Agency



Parallel Sessions 15:30-17:00



1.5.2 Polar Observing Systems and Remote Sensing

Room: 520BC

15:45 - Terrestrial Expert Monitoring Group: Developing a Plan for the Circumpolar Arctic

J. Payne1, T. Christensen2, M. Svoboda3, M. Gill4

1North Slope Science Initiative, Anchorage, Alaska, USA2Aarhus University, Aarhus C Denmark3Environment Canada, Whitehorse, YT, Canada4Chair, Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program, Whitehorse, YT, Canada



Closed Meeting 17:00-19:00


CBMP Marine Expert Monitoring and Implementation Meeting

Room: 512G


Thursday April 26

Parallel Sessions 13:30-15:00


3.1.5 Information to Support Decision-Making

Room: 514AB

14:15 - Coordinating for Arctic Conservation: Implementing Integrated Arctic Biodiversity Monitoring, Data Management and Reporting

M. Gill, M. Svoboda

1Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program, Whitehorse, Canada


Side event 17:00-19:00


CBMP Arctic Biodiversity Data Service (ABDS) launch, Seabird Information Network (SIN)


Room 510AC


Mike Gill and Michael Svoboda will present on the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program's development of the Arctic Biodiversity Data Service (ABDS), the interoperable, web-based system in development for displaying, accessing and managing various Arctic biodiversity data types and layers. The ABDS is a powerful new tool to gather, aggregate and disseminate biodiversity data, leading to more efficient and effective reporting to various user groups including scientists, natural resource managers, and policy makers.


The ABDS will be presented in the context of theSeabird Information Network's (SIN) Circumpolar Seabird Data Portal, an excellent an exciting example of the power of sharing biodiversity information through the web.


walrus. Photo: Carsten Egevang, ARC-PIC.comCommunity-based observations reveal new scientific information

May 11, 2011, Bristol Bay, Alaska: The finding from research conducted by the Aleut International Association, a permanent participant of the Arctic Council, showed that in 2009 and 2010 walrus harvest areas in The Walrus Island State Game Sanctuary in Bristol Bay, the eastern-most arm of the Bering Sea, have shifted. These findings from community-based observations are corroborated by other scientific reports but these are new data that pinpoint a food security problem.

The shift in walrus harvest locations is a direct result of changes in the timing of the walrus migration to the arctic.  Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, a report released by the Arctic Council in 2004, predicts that changes in harvested species’ ranges and availability could present serious challenges to food security for indigenous peoples of the arctic.  This is an example where necessity dictates that hunters go further for the same food.  Traveling further costs more in fuel and may be more dangerous.  The shift in harvest locations documented in this research is an adaptive measure that hunters are taking.

Possible causes may include depletion of food, human disturbance, and climate change (changes in sea ice extent and warming seas).

These data could be used to inform policy makers for possible reassessment of walrus management in the area and for providing support to walrus harvesters as a climate change mitigation measure. 

The research is part of the Bering Sea Sub Network (BSSN) funded by the US National Science Foundation under the Arctic Observing Network program and is a project of the Conservation Flora and Fauna Working Group of the Arctic Council.



Victoria Gofman

Aleut International Association

victoriag [AT] alaska [DOT] net 






Images for press use

Map 1. Density analysis of walrus harvest locations used over a person’s (n=22) lifetime including Round Island Map 2. Density analysis of walrus harvest locations from September 2009 – August 2010 (n=11 subsistence harvesters) 

Melting pond on Greenland ice. Photo: Jim Yungel/NASADecember 1, 2011-  An international team of scientists who monitor the rapid changes in the Earth’s northern polar region say that the Arctic is entering a new state – one with warmer air and water temperatures, less summer sea ice and snow cover, and a changed ocean chemistry. This shift is also causing changes in the region’s life, both on land and in the sea, including less habitat for polar bears and walruses, but increased access to feeding areas for whales.

Changes to the Arctic are chronicled annually in the Arctic Report Card, which was released today. The report is prepared by an international team of scientists from 14 different countries.

“This report, by a team of 121 scientists from around the globe, concludes that the Arctic region continues to warm, with less sea ice and greater green vegetation,” said Monica Medina, NOAA principal deputy under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. “With a greener and warmer Arctic, more development is likely. Reports like this one help us to prepare for increasing demands on Arctic resources so that better decisions can be made about how to manage and protect these more valuable and increasingly available resources.”

Among the 2011 highlights are:

  • Atmosphere: In 2011, the average annual near-surface air temperatures over much of the Arctic Ocean were approximately 2.5° F (1.5° C) greater than the 1981-2010 baseline period.
  • Sea ice: Minimum Arctic sea ice area in September 2011 was the second lowest recorded by satellite since 1979.
  • Ocean: Arctic Ocean temperature and salinity may be stabilizing after a period of warming and freshening. Acidification of sea water (“ocean acidification”) as a result of carbon dioxide absorption has also been documented in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
  • Land: Arctic tundra vegetation continues to increase and is associated with higher air temperatures over most of the Arctic
    land mass.

In 2006, NOAA’s Climate Program Office introduced the State of the Arctic Report which established a baseline of conditions at the beginning of the 21st century. It is updated annually as the Arctic Report Card to monitor the often-quickly changing conditions in the Arctic. Peer-review of the scientific content of the report card was facilitated by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment (AMAP) Program.

The Report Card tracks the Arctic atmosphere, sea ice, biology, ocean, land, and Greenland. This year, new sections were added, including, greenhouse gases, ozone and ultraviolet radiation, ocean acidification, Arctic Ocean primary productivity, and lake ice. The Arctic Report Card is available online. 



Courtney Price

CAFF Communications Officer
courtney [AT] caff [DOT] is
+354 462 3357

Arctic Fox. Photo: Carsten Egevang,

May 12, 2011, Arctic Council Ministerial, Nuuk, Greenland

Unique Arctic habitats for flora and fauna, including sea ice, tundra, lakes, and peatlands have been disappearing over recent decades, and some characteristic Arctic species have shown a decline. The changes in Arctic Biodiversity have global repercussions and are further creating challenges for people living in the Arctic. 

The above statements are examples on the key findings describing changes in Arctic biodiversity that is presented in ‘The Arctic Biodiversity Trends – 2010: Selected Indicators of Change’, a new report synthesizing scientific findings on the status and trends for selected biodiversity in the Arctic issued by the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Working Group under the Arctic Council.

A constant issue noted as critical is the need for Arctic wide monitoring programmes. CAFFs Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme (CBMP – has developed the first arctic wide marine ecosystem monitoring programme which has been endorsed by the Arctic Council.  This plan is now starting to be implemented will help short the gap between the collection and analysis of data to its availability to decision makers. 


Arctic Biodiversity – affected by multiple stressors

The Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010 Report, produced by some of the world’s leading experts of Arctic ecosystems and biodiversity, was the Arctic Council’s contribution to the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity in 2010.

In 2008, the United Nations Environment Program passed a resolution expressing ‘extreme concern’ over the impacts of climate change on Arctic indigenous peoples, other communities, and biodiversity.  It highlighted the potentially significant consequences of changes in the Arctic.  The Arctic Biodiversity Trends – 2010: Selected Indicators of Change report indicates that some of those anticipated impacts on Arctic biodiversity are already occurring.

The report is based on twenty-two indicators and provides a snapshot of the trends being observed in Arctic biodiversity today.  The polar bear is one of the most well-known species impacted by changes in the Arctic, but it is not the only one.  The indicators show that the Arctic has changed dramatically during recent decades and that unique Arctic habitats for flora and fauna are disappearing.  Furthermore, some species of importance to Arctic people or species of global attention are declining.

The report presents a broad spectrum of changes in the Arctic ecosystems and biodiversity.

  • Polar bears are highly specialized for and dependent on sea ice for their habitat. Therefore they are particularly sensitive and vulnerable to the documented significant reductions in sea ice cover in parts of the Arctic and to the thinning of multi-year ice in the polar basin. Status and trends for many populations are not available, but research on some populations demonstrates that they have decreased over the past several decades, and population and habitat modelling have projected substantial future declines in the distribution and abundance of polar bears.
  • The vegetation comprising tundra ecosystems – various species of grasses, sedges, mosses, and lichens – are, in some places, being replaced by species typical of more southern locations, such as evergreen shrubs.
  • Trees are beginning to encroach on the tundra at its southern margin and some models project that by 2100 the tree line will have advanced north by as much as 500 km, resulting in a loss of 51% of tundra habitat
  • In recent years, on average, the southern limit of permafrost in northern peatlands has retreated by 39 km and by as much as 200 km in some parts of Arctic.  Peatlands are significant for the floristic diversity of the Arctic because their species comprise 20–30% of the Arctic and sub-Arctic flora.  Moreover, many bird species with conservation priority are strongly associated with tundra and mire habitats.
  • Cold water coral reefs, coral gardens, and sponge aggregations provide a habitat for a variety of fish and invertebrates and thus represent biodiversity hotspots in the Arctic seas.  These habitats are vulnerable to fisheries and other human activities such as oil and gas exploration.

Depending on the magnitude of these and other changes, certain ecosystems may no longer be considered ‘Arctic’.  The result may be that many of the species thriving in the Arctic today are not able to survive there in the future.

A key finding in the Report is that climate change is emerging as the most far-reaching and significant stressor on Arctic biodiversity, though contaminants, habitat change, industrial development, and unsustainable harvest levels continue to have impacts. 

The importance of Arctic ecosystems for biodiversity is immense and therefore a more thorough examination of the state of affairs is needed.  Thus, leading Arctic scientists are currently engaged in making a full and comprehensive Arctic Biodiversity Assessment, which is will be completed in 2013.

A primary challenge is to shorten the gap between when data is collected to when it has been processed and presented to decision makers to allow for a quicker response time.  CAFF has recognised this challenge and in recent years worked towards developing a solution.

This approach has focused on not just developing traditional assessments but also addressing the creation of a framework to allow for the collection, processing and analysis of data on a continuous basis – the CBMP.  The aim being through the ABA not to produce a traditional one off static assessment but rather to create a baseline of current knowledge and at the same time developing the engine which will feed data into this baseline allowing it to become a dynamic living tool.  One which is sustainable and can produce regular and more flexible assessments and analyses. 



Tom Barry at +354 861 9824



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