Climate change

Ecosystem based management

Photo: Robert Hoetink/

Mainstreaming biodiversity

Photo: Jack Dagley Photography/ 

Addressing individual stressors

Photo: Andreas Gradin/ 

on biodiversity

Identifying and safeguarding

Photo: Ventura/

important areas for biodiversity

Improving knowledge

Photo: Denis Burdin/

and public awareness

Download the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment: Report for Policy Makers

The following recommendations are aimed primarily at the Arctic Council, its member states and Permanent Participants. Success in conserving Arctic biodiversity, however, also depends upon actions by non-Arctic states, regional and local authorities, industry and all who live, work and travel in the Arctic. These recommendations may, therefore, also provide a guide for action for states, authorities, and organizations beyond the Arctic Council. Some of the ABA recommendations directly encourage cooperation with those outside the Arctic Council process.

Large tracts of the Arctic remain relatively undisturbed providing an opportunity for proactive action that can minimize or even prevent future problems that would be costly, or impossible, to reverse. The key findings of the ABA are interrelated and responding to them would benefit from a holistic approach. When taken together, three cross-cutting themes are evident:

  1. the significance of climate change as the most serious underlying driver of overall change in biodiversity;
  2. the necessity of taking an ecosystem-based approach to management; and
  3. the importance of mainstreaming biodiversity by making it integral to other policy fields, for instance by ensuring biodiversity objectives are considered in development standards, plans and operations.

A comprehensive and integrated approach is needed to address the interconnected and complex challenges facing biodiversity and to ensure informed policy decisions in a changing Arctic. In addition to many Arctic Council initiatives underway, there are other conventions and processes addressing these cross-cutting themes and many of the individual stressors acting on biodiversity. This includes many regulatory and non-regulatory measures that are in place or under development to provide consistent standards and/or approaches to development in the Arctic. Many of these can, or do, provide safeguards for biodiversity.

Care was taken in the development of the ABA recommendations to review recommendations from other major Arctic Council initiatives. Many of the recommendations overlap and are mutually supportive, emphasizing the importance of considering all recommendations together. Some of the ABA recommendations reinforce the significance to biodiversity of recommendations or actions already underway, others build upon existing recommendations or processes, and others are more specifically focused on biodiversity issues. All are important to ensure the conservation of Arctic species, ecosystems and the services they provide.


Climate changePhoto: Carsten Egevang/

1. Actively support international efforts addressing climate change, both reducing stressors and implementing adaptation measures, as an urgent matter. Of specific importance are efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce emissions of black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone precursors.

2. Incorporate resilience and adaptation of biodiversity to climate change into plans for development in the Arctic.

Ecosystem-based management
Photo: Robert Hoetink/

3. Advance and advocate ecosystem-based management efforts in the Arctic as a framework for cooperation, planning and development. This includes an approach to
development that proceeds cautiously, with sound short and long-term environmental risk assessment and management, using the best available scientific and traditional ecological knowledge, following the best environmental practices, considering cumulative effects and adhering to international standards.



Mainstreaming biodiversityPhoto: Jack Dagley Photography/

4. Require the incorporation of biodiversity objectives and provisions into all Arctic Council work and encourage the same for on-going and future international standards, agreements, plans, operations and/or other tools specific to development in the Arctic.
This should include, but not be restricted to, oil and gas development, shipping, fishing, tourism and mining.

Identifying and safeguarding important areas for biodiversityPhoto: Verdana/

5. Advance the protection of large areas of ecologically important marine, terrestrial and freshwater habitats, taking into account ecological resilience in a changing climate.

a. Build upon existing and on-going domestic and international processes to complete the identification of ecologically and biologically important marine areas and implement appropriate measures for their conservation.

b. Build upon existing networks of terrestrial protected areas, filling geographic gaps, including under-represented areas, rare or unique habitats, particularly productive areas such as large river deltas, biodiversity hotspots, and areas with large aggregations of animals such as bird breeding colonies, seal whelping areas and caribou calving grounds.

c. Promote the active involvement of indigenous peoples in the management and sustainable use of protected areas.

6. Develop guidelines and implement appropriate spatial and temporal measures where necessary to reduce human disturbance to areas critical for sensitive life stages of Arctic species that are outside protected areas, for example along transportation corridors. Such areas include calving grounds, den sites, feeding grounds, migration routes and moulting areas. This also means safeguarding important habitats such as wetlands and polynyas.

7. Develop and implement mechanisms that best safeguard Arctic biodiversity under changing environmental conditions, such as loss of sea ice, glaciers and permafrost.

a. Safeguard areas in the northern parts of the Arctic where high Arctic species have a relatively greater chance to survive for climatic or geographical reasons, such as certain islands and mountainous areas, which can act as a refuge for unique biodiversity.

b. Maintain functional connectivity within and between protected areas in order to protect ecosystem resilience and facilitate adaptation to climate change.

Addressing individual stressors on biodiversityPhoto: Andreas Gradin/

8. Reduce stressors on migratory species range-wide, including habitat degradation and overharvesting on wintering and staging areas and along flyways and other migration routes.

a. Pursue or strengthen formal migratory bird cooperation agreements and other specific actions on a flyway level between Arctic and non-Arctic states with first priority given to the East Asian flyway.

b. Collaborate with relevant international commissions, conventions, networks and other organizations sharing an interest in the conservation of Arctic migratory species to identify and implement appropriate conservation actions.

c. Develop and implement joint management and recovery plans for threatened species with relevant non-Arctic states and entities.

d. Identify and advance the conservation of key wintering and staging habitats for migratory birds, particularly wetlands.

9. Reduce the threat of invasive alien/non-native species to the Arctic by developing and implementing common measures for early detection and reporting, identifying and blocking pathways of introduction, and sharing best practices and techniques for monitoring, eradication and control.
This includes supporting international efforts currently underway, for example those of the International Maritime Organization to effectively treat ballast water to clean and treat ship hulls and drilling rigs.

10. Promote the sustainable management of the Arctic’s living resources and their habitat.

a. Improve circumpolar cooperation in data gathering and assessment of populations and harvest and in the development of improved harvest methods, planning, and management. This includes improving the use and integration of traditional ecological knowledge and science in managing harvests and in improving the development and use of community-based monitoring as an important information source.

b. Develop pan-Arctic conservation and management plans for shared species that are, or will potentially be, harvested or commercially exploited that incorporate common monitoring objectives, population assessments, harvesting regimes, guidelines for best practices in harvest methodology and consider maintenance of genetic viability and adaptation to climate change as guiding principles.

c. Support efforts to plan and manage commercial fisheries in international waters under common international objectives that ensure long-term sustainability of species and ecosystems. Encourage precautionary, science-based management of fisheries in areas beyond national jurisdiction in accordance with international law to ensure the long-term sustainability of species and ecosystems.

d. Support efforts to develop, improve and employ fishing technologies and practices that reduce by-catch of marine mammals, seabirds and non-target fish and avoid significant adverse impact to the seabed.

e. Develop and implement, in cooperation with reindeer herders, management plans that ensure the sustainability of reindeer herding and the quality of habitat for grazing and calving.

11. Reduce the threat of pollutants to Arctic biodiversity.

a. Support and enhance international efforts and cooperation to identify, assess and reduce existing and emerging harmful contaminants.  

b. Support the development of appropriate prevention and clean up measures and technologies that are responsive to oil spills in the Arctic, especially in ice-filled waters, such that they are ready for implementation in advance of major oil and gas developments.

c. Encourage local and national action to implement best practices for local wastes, enhance efforts to clean-up legacy contaminated sites and include contaminant reduction and reclamation plans in development projects.

Improving knowledge and public awareness Photo: Denis Burdin/

12. Evaluate the range of services provided by Arctic biodiversity in order to determine the costs associated with biodiversity loss and the value of effective conservation in order to assess change and support improved decision making.

13. Increase and focus inventory, long-term monitoring and research efforts to address key gaps in scientific knowledge identified in this assessment to better facilitate the development and implementation of conservation and management strategies. Areas of particular concern identified through the ABA include components critical to ecosystem functions including important characteristics of invertebrates, microbes, parasites and pathogens.

14. Recognize the value of traditional ecological knowledge and work to further integrate it into the assessment, planning and management of Arctic biodiversity. This includes involving Arctic peoples and their knowledge in the survey, monitoring and analysis of Arctic biodiversity.

15. Promote public training, education and community-based monitoring, where appropriate, as integral elements in conservation and management.

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. This should include, but not be limited to, modeling potential future species range changes as a result of these stressors; developing knowledge of and identifying tipping points, thresholds and cumulative effects for Arctic biodiversity; and developing robust quantitative indicators for stressors through the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program.

17. Develop communication and outreach tools and methodologies to better convey the importance and value of Arctic biodiversity and the changes it is undergoing.