CC4: Early warnings: approaches to measuring, modelling and assessing change in biodiversity

Date: Tuesday October 9, 2018

Location: Valtuustosali, City Hall

Time: 15:00-16:30

Determining, tracking and predicting the rapid changes underway in Arctic biodiversity is complex. This session explores new opportunities and approaches to measuring, modelling and assessing change across sub- to high Arctic species and ecosystems, and the implications for the identification of important areas, land-use planning, and management of species at risk.


Chairs: Deb Cooper, US National Parks Service; Erpur Hansen, South Iceland Nature Research Centre

Format: Series of 12 minute presentations followed by 3 minutes questions/answers after each presenter


  1. New assessment highlights climate change as a serious threat to northern ecosystems in Finland - IUCN Red List of Ecosystems (RLE): Tytti Kontula, Finnish Environment Institute, Biodiversity Centre pdf
  2. Extreme Temperature Prognoses for Russian Arctic Based on New Probability Modelling: Alexey Kokorin, WWF Russia pdf
  3. Predicting the future for endangered birds: Sirke Piirainen, University of Helsinki & Arctic Centre, University of Lapland pdf
  4. 135-year time series of Atlantic Puffin production is negatively correlated to sea surface temperature: Population control by temperature dependent survival of ectotherm sandeel prey? Erpur Hansen, South Iceland Nature Research Centre pdf
  5. An international network for large-scale tracking of seabirds in the Northeast Atlantic – SEATRACK: Hallvard Strøm, Norwegian Polar Institute pdf



New assessment highlights climate change as a serious threat to northern ecosystems in Finland - IUCN Red List of Ecosystems (RLE)

Tytti Kontula*, Minna Turunen§, Risto Heikkinen*, Linda Kartano*, Katariina Mäkelä*, Elisa Pääkkö# & Anne Raunio*. *Finnish Environment Institute, Biodiversity Centre, P.O. Box 140, 00251 Helsinki, Finland; § Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, P. O. Box 122, 96101 Rovaniemi, Finland; #Parks & Wildlife Finland Metsähallitus, Jäämerentie 6, 99600 Sodankylä, Finland

By the end of 2018, Finland has classified all its habitat types according to their risk of decline and deterioration. This second assessment uses the new IUCN Red List Criteria of Ecosystems and is pioneering in its coverage – all habitats from the Baltic Sea to the highest northern mountains (‘fells’) are assessed with uniform criteria. The new assessment clearly shows the alarming progress of global warming, especially in the Finnish subarctic ecosystems. Together with Norway’s similar assessment, Finland paves the way with its subarctic RLE for a global Arctic RLE, contributing to the IUCN’s goal to have all ecosystems of the world assessed by 2025. The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Criteria were specifically applied here to a risk assessment of the fell area of Finland. In this area the interaction of climate change and intensive grazing by herbivores, particularly reindeer and geometrid moths, regulate the state of the vegetation. Both the impact of climate change and its interactions with grazing on the habitat types of the fell area were assessed by the fell habitat expert group. The risk assessment also utilized reindeer herders’ local knowledge and observations of weather events, climate and their impacts on nature. For a number of selected fell vegetation types, the potential risk of losing suitable climate space in the future is examined also as a separate research item. Here, the range of climatic conditions where the selected vegetation types currently occur were mapped, and this information was related to the changing climate conditions under three Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP2.6., RCP4.5, RCP8.5, averaged for the years 2040–2069) based scenarios to assess the level of climate change -driven risks. The results provide supplementary material for the new Red Listing of Ecosystems in the high-latitude habitats. This presentation summarizes the key aims, methods and expected main results of the two missions described above. It fits into the Congress goal to relate the work of CAFF to other global processes (IUCN Red List of Ecosystems), to discuss implementation of ABA policy recommendation 13 (to increase and focus research efforts to better facilitate the development of ecosystem conservation and management). The presentation addresses the key ABA elements: the significance of climate change as a serious underlying driver of overall change in biodiversity and the necessity of taking an ecosystem-based approach to management.


Extreme Temperature Prognoses for Russian Arctic Based on New Probability Modelling

Alexey Kokorin, WWF Russia

Biodiversity conservation requires resilience-building measures addressing extreme temperature heat waves and other anomalies. It cannot be planned on the basis of routine prognostic modelling, which provides only growth of seasonal mean temperature. WWF is implementing long-term project of the German International Climate Initiative devoted to new protected areas and relevant climate adaptation measures in the Russian Arctic. Development of extreme temperature prognoses by pioneering probability modelling is a key element of the project. Probability means that we know how many very warm (4-70C above 1990-1999), hot (7-100C) or extremely hot (anomaly is >100C), e.g. May or June will be in 2030-s; 2050-s or 2090-s is a region. There calculations are for the first time completed by the Main Geophysical Observatory for temperatures and precipitations of six Russian Arctic regions for key months essential for biodiversity conservation, e.g. reindeer migration. The IPCC RCP8.5 scenario was used to get most conservative estimates. Specific features is revealed. In particular, percentage of very warm July-September periods in Yamal-Nenets Okrug is estimated as 5, 20 and 85% for 2030-s; 2050-s and 2090-s. Main effects are calculated for winter: 35% of hot winters in 2050-s; and 75% of extremely hot in 2090-s. As a whole, the region can be affected by dramatic changes after 2050. On the other hand, in Nenets Okrug of the Barents ecoregion high probability of extremes will be about 20 years earlier. Moreover difference in extremes between 2030-s and 2050-s is almost as large as difference between 2050-s and 2090-s, what may be explained by the suggestion that main changes of ice regime in Barents and Kara Seas are before 2050, with mainly free waters after 2050. As a whole, such features revealed for all regions from Barents Sea to Chukotka have practical implication for planning of adaptation measures aimed at biodiversity surviving. The given probability prognoses is significantly more robust basis for adaptation plans of Russian regions as well as National Adaptation Plan under the UN Paris Agreement.


Predicting the future for endangered birds

Sirke Piirainen, University of Helsinki & Arctic Centre, University of Lapland

My presentation introduces a method for predicting the future for endangered birds. Climate and habitat explain to a large extent the distribution and abundance of species but nowadays climate change and increasing pressure on land use are causing notable declines in various species populations, and even extinctions. Additionally, the joint effect of these factors has been proposed to only intensify in the future. Yet, the magnitude and mechanisms of these effects remain poorly known. From the cost-efficient conservation management point-of-view it is important to know which (currently common) species are in risk to become endangered in the future. To prevent species from becoming endangered we should also understand which factors are causing population declines. My research strongly supports the ABA recommendations of i) doing research on effects of stressors to biodiversity, with a focus on climate change and issues where knowledge is lacking, and ii) modelling future species range changes and developing quantitative indicators for stressors. In my research I use presence-absence data on 265 bird species to model their future breeding distribution areas. I use species which were observed in the common bird monitoring scheme censuses in Finland, Sweden and Norway during 1975-2015. In the analysis I use the ground-breaking concept of Hierarchical Modelling of Species Communities to build an ecological model that explains species occurrence. The model is unique in that it considers not only climate and habitat but also species traits such as migratory behaviour, taxonomic relatedness and the co-occurrence of other species. By adding various scenarios of climate change (increasing temperature) into the model, I can make predictions of future species occurrence. The results help us to understand how climate change will affect species, and how we should prepare for those changes. This type of horizon scanning is important since prevention is often more efficient and economical than trying to repair the already deteriorated situation. In fact, the results are being applied in practice as researchers are currently compiling an updated Red List of Finnish bird species. This list is given to the environmental administration to assist in decision-making. In the presentation I would like to advertise this novel, open-access modelling method and encourage other researchers to apply it for other fauna. I would also like to express the importance of long-term monitoring programs, especially for arctic species, and lastly, show my gratitude as an early career scientist to be able to participate in this event.


135-year time series of Atlantic Puffin production is negatively correlated to sea surface temperature: Population control by temperature dependent survival of ectotherm sandeel prey?

Erpur Hansen, South Iceland Nature Research Centre

Sea Surface Temperature (SST) off South Iceland waters fluctuates with the ~70 year Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) with alternating ~35 years of cold and warm periods. The eastern boundary of the Sub-Polar Gyre (SPG) varies with AMO, the contraction in warm periods opens for a greatly increased flow of warm and saline Atlantic seawater to Iceland and the Norwegian sea. This ecosystem provides an excellent opportunity for studying the ecological effects of large and rapid SST changes (>1° C in less than a decade). This presentation illustrates a strong negative correlation of a chick production of an apex predator, the Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) with seasonal SST over 135-years. This relationship is hypothetically explained by that the Puffin’s main prey the lesser sandeel (Ammodytes marinus) 0-group survival is negatively related to seasonal SST, especially in winter but also interactively when both winter and summer are warm. The sandeel annual cycle is composed of summer growth period in April-August, and dormant winter period in September-March spent buried in sand. Increased SST accelerates the sandeel´s metabolism and thus the rate of reserve depletion in winter, but during summer reduces energy allocation to growth and reserves. A critical sandeel length threshold Lth, for 0-group sandeel’s was calculated for the recent warm decade and the cold year 1981. The threshold is experimentally determined as the minimum size the 0-group sandeel’s need to attain to ‘survive’ their first winter SST profile [1]. A comparison of the modelled and observed 0-group size revealed that >60% of the fish are shorter than Lth in the warm period but the opposite in the cold year. This analysis supports the ‘ectotherm metabolic survival hypothesis’ and strongly advocates a further analysis as this principle might be of fundamental importance of high latitude ecosystem responses to climate change. 1. van Deurs, M., M. Hartvig, and J.F. Steffensen, Critical threshold size for overwintering sandeels (Ammodytes marinus). Marine Biology, 2011. 158: p. 2755-2764.


An international network for large-scale tracking of seabirds in the Northeast Atlantic – SEATRACK

Hallvard Strøm, Norwegian Polar Institute; Børge Moe, Norwegian Institute for Nature Management

Seabirds are important components of Arctic ecosystems, and are culturally and economically important for many communities. Many seabird species conduct extensive seasonal migrations, often between different marine ecosystems or between marine areas under different national jurisdictions. Until recently, it has been difficult to follow the seasonal movements of seabirds, making it particularly demanding to identify potential environmental threats to seabird populations during the critical non-breeding period. However, the recent development of Global Location Sensor (GLS) loggers has greatly enhanced our ability to track seabirds during this period, making it possible to document "hotspots" and characterize the at-sea ecology of seabirds as proposed by the Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative (AMBI). This new technology links breeding populations to their non-breeding habitats, providing essential information to marine spatial planning and seabird conservation. However, to take full advantage of this development there is need for a multi-year/-site/-species design. The SEATRACK program (2014-2018) with participants from Norway, UK, Faroes, Iceland and Russia aim to identify the year-round distribution and movements of 11 species of seabirds breeding in 36 colonies encircling the Northeast Atlantic (i.e. the Barents, Norwegian and North Seas). Output from the program include maps of important marine habitats for the different populations, and quantification of how changes in environmental conditions in non-breeding areas affect demographic trends. By 2017 almost 9,000 loggers had been deployed and data from 3,200 retrieved loggers have been analyzed and compiled. The data are available at the SEATRACK web application ( The design and major data products from the SEATRACK program are presented as well as visualizations of the seasonal marine habitats and migration pattern of Atlantic puffins, Brünnich’s guillemots, common guillemots and black-legged kittiwakes.


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