IAB2: Safeguarding habitats for Arctic species under changing environmental conditions

Date: Wednesday October 10, 2018

Location: Saivo, Lappia Hall

Time: 8:30-10:00

The Arctic Biodiversity Assessment highlighted the need to develop and implement mechanisms that best safeguard Arctic biodiversity under changing environmental conditions, such as loss of sea ice, glaciers and permafrost. This session explores species distributions, species habitat needs, the vulnerability of habitats under changing environmental conditions and paths forward to safeguard important areas for biodiversity.

Chairs: Mark Marissink, Swedish Environmental Protection Agency; Marina von Weissenberg, Ministry of the Environment, Finland

Format: Series of presentations followed by discussion


  1. Linking foraging behaviour and energetics to identify and safeguard marine habitat around colonies of an Arctic seabird: Allison Patterson, McGill University pdf
  2. Arctic benthic species and community distribution, sensitive ecosystems and biodiversity in the Atlantic and Pacific Gateways: Lis Lindal Jørgensen, Institute of Marine Research, Norway (IMR) pdf
  3. Velocity of climate change in the Finnish protected area network: Risto Heikkinen, Finnish Environment Institute 
  4. Present and future effectiveness of Arctic Protected Ares in Russia: Mikhail Stishov, WWF-Russia pdf
  5. Spatial prioritization approach to identify irreplaceability and cost-effective improvement opportunities in a protected area network: Santtu Kareksela, Parks & Wildlife Finland pdf
  6. Effects of overabundant geese on shorebirds breeding in Arctic Canada: Paul Smith, Environment and Climate Change Canada pdf



Linking foraging behaviour and energetics to identify and safeguard marine habitat around colonies of an Arctic seabird

Allison Patterson, McGill University; Grant Gilchrist, Environment and Climate Change Canada

Identification of important habitat for seabird species that spend most of their lifecycle within Arctic regions is a priority for the Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative. Safeguarding habitat for colonial breeding seabirds is especially important, because it is a time of year when many birds are concentrated in a small geographic area and require adequate resources for successful reproduction. Intraspecific competition at large seabird colonies forces birds to travel farther to find food, which is thought to limit colony size through density-dependent effects on reproductive success for many species. Modelling the relationship between colony size, foraging range, and reproductive success can help to explain population dynamics of colonial species and inform marine planning at colonies throughout a species’ range. We used multi-colony GPS tracking data and a bioenergetics model to estimate foraging range, chick growth rate, and fledging success as a function of colony size in thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia). We measured the foraging behaviour of murres from four colonies ranging in size from 16,000 to 400,000 pairs, using GPS tracking data from 550 birds. Foraging range scaled by 0.34 power of colony size, and this relationship explained 75% of the variation in foraging range. Trip duration increased with foraging range to the exponent 0.90. We used these relationships to model chick-provisioning rates as a function of colony size. Murres provisioning chicks with low quality prey, 30 kJ, would experience density dependent limitation on fledging success for colonies larger than 70,000 pairs. With high quality prey, 60 kJ, density dependence would not affect fledging success until colony size exceeded 700,000 pairs; however, chicks from colonies larger than 200,000 pairs will have low fledging weights (150 g) and longer nestling periods regardless of prey quality. Our model quantifies how density dependence can limit reproductive success for colonial species through changes in foraging behaviour of adults and it provides a framework for identifying ecologically important areas around seabird colonies that integrates behaviour and population dynamics. This model can be used to estimate the foraging area required for murre colonies based on colony size and to predict how changes in prey availability could affect future reproductive output. These results can inform marine planning and conservation for seabirds by delineating critical habitat requirements for Arctic seabirds, contributing to development of guidelines for fisheries management and shipping around breeding colonies, and identifying colony-specific criteria for monitoring population level responses to changing environmental conditions.


Arctic benthic species and community distribution, sensitive ecosystems and biodiversity in the Atlantic and Pacific Gateways

Jørgensen Lis L1, Logerwell Libby2, Strelkova Natalia3, Mier K2, McConnaughhey B2, Lauth B2, Cooper D2, Rand K2.

1: Institute of Marine Research, Norway
2: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, USA
3: Polar Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography, Russia

The Arctic is experiencing dramatic global changes in temperature, and at the same time has become an attractive region for human exploitation of resources. If natural and anthropogenic impacts are to be assessed, standardized temporal and spatial information on the distribution of Arctic marine species and biological communities is needed. Benthic species diversity and community structure in the Atlantic (Barents Sea) and Pacific (Bering-, Chukchi-, and Beaufort Sea) marine Gateways have been regularly monitored during the last ten years. The results show a spatially diverse community composition driven by a subset of key-species and environmental variables. Species richness, abundance and biomass varies across these communities, and trait analyses indicates ecosystem function sensitive and vulnerability. This information will contribute to the ecological knowledge needed to advance and advocate ecosystem-based management efforts in the Arctic as a framework for cooperation, planning and development. This addresses the ABA recommendations under the category “Identifying and safeguarding important areas for biodiversity” by identifying important benthic communities and habitats.


Velocity of climate change in the Finnish protected area network

Heikkinen, R.K.1, Leikola, N.1, Virkkala, R.1, Aapala, K.1, Kuusela, S.1, Luoto, M.2, & Aalto, J.2,3

1 Finnish Environment Institute, Biodiversity Centre, Helsinki, Finland
2 Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
3 Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland

Climate change causes accelerating challenges for natural ecosystems and maintenance of species populations in protected areas (PAs) by driving species to move to higher latitudes and elevations. Global-level studies suggest that most of the PAs face a wholesale turnover of climatic conditions they harbor, with most severe overall changes occurring in high-latitude areas. However, projected velocity of climate change is dependent spatially on the climate change model and Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) used, and is strongly controlled by the topographic heterogeneity of landscape. Importantly, earlier velocity assessments have been conducted at coarse spatial scales (ca. ≥1km2) which ignore the potential buffering capacity of local climate. We examined fine-scale climate change velocities in the Finnish PA network using data on observed climate (1981-2010; 50m x 50m) in comparison to three climate change scenarios (RCP2.6., RCP4.5, RCP8.5) and two future time slices (2040-2069 and 2070-2099). The produced fine-scale velocity data enable a unique comparison of climatic changes across Finland, between different types of PAs, and assessing where topographic heterogeneity provides pockets of retaining suitable local climate. This project and its results will have importance for one of the three cross-cutting themes listed among the Congress goals, namely “The significance of climate change as the most serious underlying driver of overall change in biodiversity”. In addition, the project provides material for the discussions on the implementation of a number of Arctic Biodiversity Assessment policy recommendations, especially (2) “Incorporate resilience and adaptation of biodiversity to climate change into plans for development in the Arctic”; (5) “Advance the protection of large areas of ecologically important marine, terrestrial and freshwater habitats, taking into account ecological resilience in a changing climate”; and (16) “Research and monitor individual and cumulative effects of stressors and drivers of relevance to biodiversity, with a focus on stressors that are expected to have rapid and significant impacts and issues where knowledge is lacking”.


Present and future effectiveness of Arctic Protected Ares in Russia

Mikhail Stishov, WWF-Russia

Conservation effectiveness and effectiveness of management were assessed for about 40 protected areas in Russian Arctic with using original methodology for PA conservation effectiveness assessment of WWF-Russia and Rapid Assessment and Prioritization of Protected Area Management Methodology developed by WWF respectively. Assessed protected areas include all arctic PAs of 4 administrative regions of Russian Federation except tiny nature monuments. Effectiveness of separate conservation functions of PA, their current, potential and perspective effectiveness including perspective effectiveness under expected climate change, as well as expected treats and possibility of their mitigation are determined and analyzed. Comparative analysis of conservation and management effectiveness is conducted as well as comparative analysis of the effectiveness of PA belongs to different categories and different management level (national or regional). Also there is comparison of the effectiveness of arctic PA and PA in other regions of Russia (south of Far East, Altai mountains). The general results show that current conservation effectiveness of arctic PA in Russia is high enough but will decrease for present protected values under expected climate change, so that PA network in all investigated regions requires certain adaptation.


Spatial prioritization approach to identify irreplaceability and cost-effective improvement opportunities in a protected area network

Santtu Kareksela, Parks & Wildlife Finland

Achieving even a small proportion of the global 15 % restoration target seems to be a huge task. Trying to avoid harmful opportunism while seeking beneficial opportunities, is challenging our current operational practices for cost-effective conservation resource allocation. At the same time changing environment and economic and recreational land-use can create risk of degradation even to the most strictly protected areas. Here I will present two spatial prioritization analysis approaches, considering the network of protected Natura 2000 areas in Finland, to demonstrate how the modern ecological decision support tools can help us to identify irreplaceability and cost-effectiveness related to improvement and preservation of protected area networks. In the first analysis example I will introduce a method to identify irreplaceability within a protected area network, i.e. areas that have highest contribution to the network’s overall biodiversity representation. In the second example I will demonstrate a spatial prioritization analysis for identifying most cost-effective areas for ecosystem improvement (restoration and management of Natura 2000 habitats) using the protected Natura 2000 area network in Finland as a real-life case example. Both analysis examples apply Zonation method to rank areas according to their ecological value, while considering factors like complementarity (irreplaceability), condition (state of the ecosystem patch), connectivity, and costs of the solution. In addition, the systematic analysis method offers quantitative measures to investigate the trade-offs related to complex conservation decision making process. Results of the analyses are currently used in real-life planning processes by the Parks and Wildlife Finland, governing the protected Natura 2000 areas in Finland.


Effects of overabundant geese on shorebirds breeding in Arctic Canada

Paul Smith, Environment and Climate Change Canada

Shorebirds are the most diverse and abundant group of birds in many Arctic locations, but more than 60% of shorebird populations breeding in Arctic Canada are believed to be declining relative to 1970s levels. This proportion of declining species is higher than for shorebirds breeding elsewhere in North America, and higher than many locations around the globe. These declines could arise from a variety of factors such as climate change or anthropogenic habitat loss in shorebirds’ temperate and tropical non-breeding areas. However, overabundant geese are a less widely recognized agent of change and are having a pronounced effect on tundra habitats in several regions of the North American Arctic. This ecosystem change from overabundant geese could be contributing to shorebird declines at local or regional scales. We review the extent of spatial overlap between shorebirds and geese to demonstrate the geographic scale of the issue. We present results from our ongoing studies of breeding shorebirds (2000-2018) at a site near a colony of Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) on Southampton Island and from a site with new/intermittent goose breeding at Coats Island, Nunavut. At Southampton Island, nest survival for several shorebird species is below that required for maintenance of stable populations while nest survival is higher at the less impacted Coats Island site. Shorebirds’ reproductive success varies widely across years and is closely related to the abundance or activity of nest predators, primarily arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus). These predators, potentially drawn to areas with breeding geese, are believed to be an important mechanism whereby geese might indirectly affect shorebirds’ reproductive success. Habitat degradation is another potential mechanism but the effects are less clear. Some shorebird species select concealed nest sites while others do not. Extreme habitat degradation might lead to avoidance of areas by shorebirds requiring concealed nest sites, but to date we found little evidence of a relationship between shorebirds’ nest habitat and nest survival. The current evidence for large-scale effects of overabundant geese on Arctic-breeding shorebirds is therefore mixed, with several important components of the story being explored. A more thorough understanding of abundant geese as a potential ecosystem stressor and agent of biodiversity loss is urgently needed. This understanding will contribute to population and harvest objectives for geese that acknowledge the needs of other ecosystem components.

Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Subscribe to our YouTube Channel
Join our LinkedIn Group
Check us out on Google+
Follow Us on Instagam
Follow Us on Flickr