KNO11: Community-based monitoring of Arctic biodiversity

Date: Thursday October 11, 2018

Location: Kero, Lappia Hall

Time: 8:30-10:00

Arctic inhabitants spend vast amounts of time on land and at sea. Drawing on personal experience, information shared with others, and knowledge handed down through generations, Arctic residents recognize subtle environmental changes and offer insights into their causes. They are community-based monitors by virtue of their day-to-day activities. In addition to their inherent community based monitoring (CBM) capacity, Arctic residents can employ standard scientific monitoring procedures in the practice of citizen science, thereby extending the reach and effectiveness of programs that rely on a limited number of trained scientists to carry out monitoring. Indigenous and other Arctic peoples wish to impart their environmental understanding to scientific discourse, not only because they have a great deal to offer, but also because this exchange represents an important step towards full participation in resource management activities. This session explores a series of case studies that highlight the value and important contributions that community-based monitoring can make to Arctic biodiversity conservation.

Chairs: Paul MacDonald, Canadian Wildlife Service; Bruce Wright, Aleut International Association

Format: Series of presentations followed by discussion

  • Conversation biology: Community-based conservation of wildlife in Labrador through ongoing dialogue and sharing knowledge systems: Paul MacDonald, Canadian Wildlife Servicepdf
  • Community-led monitoring and ecological restoration in the Arctic: history, power and resilience: Philippe Fayt and Simone Gress Hansen, Snowchange Cooperativepdf
  • The value of community-based monitoring to support green-infrastructure planning, sustainable resource use and multi-use of the landscape: Henrik Hedenås, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciencespdf
  • PISUNA - From community-based monitoring to management in Greenland: David Mitchell, IUCNpdf
  • Mainstreaming biodiversity through partnership: Arctic expedition cruise tourism and citizen science: Audrey Taylor, University of Alaska Anchorage pdf



Conversation biology: Community-based conservation of wildlife in Labrador through ongoing dialogue and sharing knowledge systems

Paul MacDonald, Canadian Wildlife Service

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) is Canada’s national wildlife agency, with core areas of responsibility including the protection and recovery of species at risk, and the conservation of migratory birds and their nationally important habitats. However, this responsibility is shared with provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments, and approaches to meeting these responsibilities vary across the country. In Labrador, a nearly 300,000 square kilometer region in north eastern Canada, CWS implements ongoing monitoring programs to track population trends. However, logistical considerations constrain the frequency and intensity of these surveys. Given the environmental pressures being experienced across the Circumpolar North, such as climate change and resource development, it is imperative that wildlife populations be monitored such that it is possible to detect negative population indicators early so action can be taken before a conservation concern arises. Although considered remote and unpopulated by many outside the region, Labrador is home to a predominantly Indigenous population who continue to interact with the lands, waters and wildlife species throughout the year, developing an extensive understanding of their local environments over large timeframes. As an Indigenous person who is also a federal public servant, I appreciate the value of working within multiple knowledge systems and follow an underlying principle that the best way to inform conservation decisions is by supporting conversations to share skills and information. In this presentation I will discuss how CWS funding and community-based programs collectively work to advance Arctic Biodiversity Assessment Policy Recommendation 14, better integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge in the assessment, planning and management of Arctic biodiversity. Involving community members in CWS activities and supporting community-led initiatives has generated mutually beneficial, ongoing, local-level information that guides conservation recommendations, promotes a better understanding of the biodiversity in Labrador, and supports the advancement of shared conservation goals. As capacity increases at the community level, I spend less of my time counting birds and more of my time speaking with community members, helping each other to better understand and protect biodiversity throughout Labrador - an approach I refer to as “conversation biology”.


Community-led monitoring and ecological restoration in the Arctic: history, power and resilience

Tero Mustonen, Snowchange Cooperative (presented by Phillipe Fayt)

The Arctic is in the middle of a monumental system shift [2] affecting the ecology, human societies and the position of the region in the global context. Monitoring of Arctic change is an increasingly interesting theme for the wider scientific community [2] as well as multinational corporations having vested interests in the Arctic resources and transport corridors and global assessments interpreting the speed, extent and quality of such change. Recent studies on effects of climate change [1] on biodiversity confirm the system shift to be on a planetary scale. Past monitoring efforts of the Arctic [2] have included the documented observations of the Indigenous and local-traditional peoples but these societies have not been seen as actors of change in themselves or an agency for independent adaptation [1]. This paper explores the top-down power histories of monitoring of the Arctic. It then provides alternate community-led examples of what has been called in scientific literature [3] “dynamic governance and conservation”, responses and establishment of “safe havens” [1] for biodiversity and Indigenous peoples in the changing Arctic. Most specifically, the paper reviews the efforts under way in the Atlantic salmon catchment area of Njâuddam River in the Finnish-Norwegian sub-Arctic. The Skolt Sámi of the river system have successfully established community-based monitoring [4] detecting arrival of southern insect species and extreme weather events. This has led the Sámi to launch wide-scale Indigenous-led river ecosystem restoration, including renewed salmonid spawning areas and habitats, natural flows and a development of oral histories and cultural indicators of change that provides an independent monitoring feed alongside scientific studies of the catchment area.


The value of community-based monitoring to support green-infrastructure planning, sustainable resource use and multi-use of the landscape

Henrik Hedenås, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; Sven Adler, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; Alessia Uboni, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Per Sandström; Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Reindeer lichens are the pivotal winter grazing resource for reindeer and caribou, but they have drastically declined in the last century across the Circumpolar North, changing the prerequisites for a sustainable reindeer husbandry. Reliable maps depicting the distribution of key resources as ecosystem services are therefore urgently needed for green-infrastructure planning, sustainable use of specific resource and multi-use of the landscape. Additionally, maps may facilitate consultations and improve the understandings of stakeholders’ needs. To produce such maps, we combined field data from the Swedish National Forest Inventory (NFI) and the community-based Reindeer Husbandry Plan (RHP) monitoring programme with auxiliary data to produce a model-based map depicting predicted cover of reindeer lichens for two Sami reindeer herding communities in northern Sweden. By including field data from the RHP the model-based map improved significantly compared to a map that only incorporates field data from the NFI. The former detected stands with especially high lichen coverage to a higher extent than the latter. Indeed, due to their rareness forest stands with especially high lichen coverage are highly underrepresented in the NFI dataset. The community-based monitoring made as part of the RHP focuses specifically on key habitat areas with high lichen coverage. Thus, when we also include the field data from the RHP in the models, we get a model-based map that is able to predict the occurrence of high coverage of reindeer lichens in the landscape. Conversely, only including data from the RHP in the models would overestimate the coverage of lichens in the landscape, since contrary to the NFI the RHP visits only a limited number of sites with low lichen coverage. Further, preliminary analyses shows that areas with high lichen coverage depicted by the model to a high extent correspond with the core winter grazing areas traditionally used by the Sami community. Community-based monitoring has recently been expanded to also include documentation and monitoring of reindeer summer grazing areas. Since concerns have been raised by the reindeer herders that climate change and increased human use may affect the status of the summer grazing land. Thus, in the future, it will be possible to combine field data from the national monitoring programs and community-based monitoring in order to predict the occurrence of important summer grazing areas.


PISUNA - From community-based monitoring to management in Greenland

David Mitchell, IUCN

PISUNA established a process that enables traditional knowledge and community-level environmental observations to be incorporated into the decision-making process and inform management actions for natural resources. A pilot phase was funded by the European Union’s BEST Initiative from 2013-2016. The process is led by a Local Resource Council (LRC) which decides on the targets of the monitoring based on the relevance for their community. Observations are recorded, collated (in a publically available in a web-based application) and then discussed by the LRC at regular intervals. On the basis of the observations and trends relative to previous years recommended management actions are formulated and submitted to the local authority or the central government, depending on the appropriate decision-making level. Suggested management actions have included changes to hunting and fishing seasons, changes to quotas and amendments to local laws such as imposing restrictions on fishing methods. The process empowers local communities to meaningfully participate in the management of natural resources that are of great importance to them, and facilitates dialogue with decision-makers promoting mutual understanding and acceptance of management decisions taken. Community level observations often fill gaps where scientific data does not exist and can provide data over a wide area and on a continual basis. The availability of this data can shorten the time between the observation of a change and a decision on management of that resource and provides a basis for adaptive management as observations not only improve the understanding of status and trends and inform management responses, but also identify whether these responses are having the desired effect and highlight where more detailed observations are required. This is particularly important in the context of increasing threats as a result of climate change. The PISUNA approach is simple, relatively low cost, builds on existing informal systems and can be easily adapted. There is therefore a large potential for replication and it represents a concrete example of how to integrate traditional ecological knowledge into the assessment, planning and management of Arctic biodiversity and involve Arctic peoples in the survey, monitoring and analysis of Arctic biodiversity (ABA recommendation 14) and promote community-based monitoring as an element in conservation and management (ABA recommendation 15). The value and benefits of the locally-led process developed by PISUNA was highlighted in Greenland’s statement at the 16th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.


Mainstreaming biodiversity through partnership: Arctic expedition cruise tourism and citizen science

Audrey Taylor, University of Alaska Anchorage; Þórný Barðadóttir, Icelandic Tourism Research Center

Many northern destinations are seeing a rise in “last chance” tourism as the public awakens to the loss of Arctic sea ice and permafrost environments. Increasingly, tourists are going to places that have previously been visited mainly by scientists, the military, and residents of Arctic communities (e.g., the Northwest Passage, northern and eastern Iceland). Many tourists access these areas via expedition cruise ship, and tourism industry stakeholders have reported a change in the number and type of passengers found on these ships. Formerly, most Arctic tourists were well-informed and curious about the remote areas they visited; today, tourists are reported to be less knowledgeable and less concerned about Arctic geography and environmental issues. At the same time, Arctic observing networks (such as the EU INTAROS program) report sparse contributions of in-situ observations relative to satellite-derived data. At-sea seabird surveys recommended by the CBMP’s Seabird Monitoring Plan are rarely accomplished on a broad geographic scale. And yet, advancement in cloud-based data sharing platforms have made possible the collection of global biodiversity data into a single highly accessible repository, as evidenced by the popular eBird avian observation database maintained by Cornell University. We propose that citizen science programs designed for use aboard expedition cruise ships could both increase tourists’ understanding of the Arctic environment, and collect in-situ biodiversity data. Citizen science (engaging volunteer participants in structured data collection) has proved to be an indispensable means of combining scientific research with education and public engagement. Citizen science “pushes the envelope” of what scientists can achieve with limited funding and personnel, and provides a powerful tool for increasing environmental awareness and scientific literacy. With international collaboration, citizen science programs designed specifically for the expedition cruise ship platform could be a powerful tool for collecting biodiversity data for seabirds, marine mammals, or indicators measuring disturbance, and could provide passengers with additional intangible benefits. Some Arctic expedition tour operators already use citizen science programs to meet their education mandate; expanding these single ship programs into a larger observing network could turn tourism into a positive vehicle for Arctic biodiversity conservation. Our talk will present tourism research data and an overview of existing ship-based citizen science programs to support our proposal. 

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