State of the Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Report: Monitoring Status and Advice


Monitoring Status

The START is the first assessment under the CBMP–Terrestrial Plan and is an important step towards improving our understanding of Arctic terrestrial biodiversity, its status, whether it is changing and why. START is also an update of the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment and proved to be very challenging, mainly due to the lack of comprehensive data. 

The CBMP–Terrestrial Plan stresses the need to have consistent long-term ecosystem-based monitoring of common FECs throughout the Arctic with standardised methodology. The START shows that the availability and use of data varied across and among FEC and their attributes. While Chapter 3 identified knowledge gaps for each FEC, Chapter 4 describes the overall state of terrestrial biodiversity monitoring in each Arctic state and provides advice to improve future monitoring.

Monitoring Advice

Assessing status and trends of biodiversity, particularly in remote locations like the Arctic, and attributing causes of change is very challenging. Knowledge is limited for a variety of reasons including limited resources, remoteness and logistics, availability of expertise, ecological complexities, natural variability, and heterogeneity. As is clear from the START, these challenges and limitations vary greatly across FECs and their attributes. Nevertheless, this assessment has made substantial progress in improving our understanding of the state of Arctic terrestrial biodiversity and in the development of a more coordinated and harmonised circumpolar approach or programme. It is clear, however, that major improvements are necessary.

Peregrine falcon research. Photo: Knud Falk / Søren MøllerPeregrine falcon research. Photo: Knud Falk / Søren Møller  vegetation plot survey. Photo: Lawrence Hislopvegetation plot survey. Photo: Lawrence Hislop

Ecosystem-based Monitoring and Reporting

Monitoring and reporting should encompass all key taxonomic groups and their likely relationships, linking responses to main biotic and abiotic drivers of change.

  • Photo: USFWSPhoto: USFWSBetter coordinate between disciplines and knowledge systems both within and among Arctic states and Indigenous organizations, including experts in abiotic drivers of change (the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program) and other monitoring initiatives.
  • Promote long-term integrated studies across biomes and taxonomic groups for examining trophic dynamics and other key interactions.
  • Improve integration of factors that underpin changes in phenology, demography, and abundance.


Improved coordination of monitoring is necessary to implement a comprehensive, integrated, ecosystem-based monitoring program envisioned by the CBMP. Coordination is necessary to help achieve additional advice for monitoring presented in the START

  • Design statistically rigorous sampling methodologies and protocols.
  • Encourage states to implement the CBMP Terrestrial Plan to secure long-term funding for existing monitoring.
  • CAFF, including the CBMP, should take a coordinating role to follow-up on advice from this report. Specific tasks are found in the CBMP Strategic Plan 2021-2025.


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

  • Standardize how data is collected, managed, and reported, including field and sampling protocols, data collection methods, terminology, database harmonization and management, tools for data archiving and specimen libraries, including identification and curation.
  • Create a harmonized, accessible, and long-term taxonomic framework for Arctic monitoring.
  • Complete baseline studies and structured inventories to improve circumpolar data across FECs.
  • Promote multi-species studies and long-term time series data.

Laying out plots. Photo: Skip WalkerLaying out plots. Photo: Skip Walker Monitoring reindeer. Photo: Lawrence HislopMonitoring reindeer. Photo: Lawrence Hislop

Indigenous Knowledge

The CBMP Terrestrial Plan aims to utilize both Indigenous Knowledge and science. Despite efforts, Indigenous Knowledge has not been systematically included in the START. To obtain a full assessment of the status and trends, better understand relationships and changes, and fill key knowledge gaps, there must be improved engagement with Indigenous Knowledge holders, Indigenous governments, and Indigenous monitoring programs not only in development of assessments but in collaboratively building more comprehensive monitoring programs and initiatives. 

  • Ornithologist and reindeer herder discuss nesting locations. Photo: Julia DarkovaOrnithologist and reindeer herder discuss nesting locations. Photo: Julia DarkovaImprove understanding of the research and monitoring priorities of PPs and Indigenous governments,
  • organizations, and Peoples.
  • Develop long-term partnerships between scientists and Indigenous Knowledge holders to co-develop mutually relevant research and monitoring priorities and programs with equitable participation in all stages of monitoring, beginning with research design, and continuing through implementation, analysis, interpretation, and communication of results.
  • Seek guidance on how institutional resources can align with and support existing Indigenous-led monitoring efforts, the development of new Indigenous-led monitoring programs, and Indigenous models of land stewardship that include monitoring components.
  • Consider and articulate the ways in which programs and findings can support Indigenous land stewardship.
  • Support Indigenous-led monitoring capacity through investments in northern-based research, learning and digital infrastructure and by supporting education, employment, and leadership opportunities for Indigenous Peoples.
  • Ensure monitoring agreements detail mechanisms for the protection and responsible use of data and Indigenous Knowledge, including basic principles of data sovereignty.
  • Increase engagement of Indigenous Peoples within CBMP.
  • Work with PPs to develop strategies to more effectively recognize and reflect Indigenous Knowledge in the CBMP.

Local Knowledge and Citizen Science

Local Knowledge exists on a spectrum from long-term, place-based experiential knowledge held by local residents, including harvesters, to knowledge of more recent residents. As such, monitoring efforts to work with Local Knowledge must interact with a wide range of diverse knowledge holders. 

  •  E5C8645 Lawrence Hislop web E5C8645 Lawrence Hislop webDedicate more time to collaboration with Local Knowledge holders in monitoring design, analysis and
  • Encourage and support citizen science platforms that engage Arctic residents, as well as visitors. Platforms should reflect strong scientific goals, have transparent methods for evaluating data quality, build communities of observers, engage a strong volunteer base, and devote consistent efforts to communicating results.
  • Identify and collaborate across existing platforms to increase awareness and participation in citizen science and consider new approaches to address knowledge gaps.
  • Invest in digital infrastructure as a prerequisite for fully accessible platforms to inform biodiversity monitoring.

Knowledge Gaps

Currently, there is some monitoring for all FECs, but it varies in coverage, duration, frequency and access to institutional support and resources.

  • Expand and coordinate long-term in situ time series across regions and across FECs.
  • Implement ecosystem-based approaches that better monitor and link biological attributes to environmental drivers.
  • Increase partnerships with Indigenous Knowledge holders and organizations.
  • Increase and support contributions from Local Knowledge holders and citizen science.
  • Work with Arctic Council Observer states to collect and compile knowledge on Arctic biodiversity.
  • Improve data collection on rare species and species of concern.

Download the SAFBR Key Findings and Advice for Monitoring

Download the SAFBR full report

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