The erosion of global biodiversity is not the only global crisis of our time. It has been argued that changes in climate, biodiversity, infectious diseases, energy supplies, food, freshwater, human population and the global financial system are part of one contemporary global challenge, and that they need to be addressed as such. If this is not done in an integrated and sustainable way, efforts to address one challenge may very well worsen one or more of the others considerably. Also, global markets seek the exploitation of Arctic resources, resulting in greater interconnections between the Arctic and the rest of the world.
To safeguard Arctic biodiversity and the services we receive from it, three spatial levels of stressors must be addressed
- global and circumpolar stressors like climate change and long-range transport of contaminants by air and sea water;
- regional stressors like overexploitation, expanding boreal and invasive alien species, and
- more ‘localized’ stressors like mineral extraction, oil development and ship accidents.
Here we provide a set of suggested priorities for actions defined according to these three geographical scales. These priorities flow from the suggested actions in the technical chapters and this synthesis. They are intended to provide guidance to CAFF in development of recommendations from this report. The alleviation of stressors with circumpolar effects on species and ecosystems generally requires international cooperation for effective management.
- Conserving the unique Arctic biome will require all possible efforts to curb human-induced global warming.
- Global and regional actions to reduce both legacy and new environmental contaminants entering Arctic ecosystems should continue and, where necessary, intensify under existing international conventions.
Effective conservation of Arctic biodiversity needs to be global in scope and requires significant international cooperation to succeed. Any action to solve one global challenge should take others into account so that measures to solve one stressor do not worsen others.
- Since many fish, birds and mammals move between different regional and national jurisdictions, management can benefit from regional cooperation.
- To maximize the resilience of Arctic ecosystems, effective protection of large representative tracts of habitat, including hotspots for unique Arctic biodiver- sity and northern ‘refugia’ areas, is of paramount importance. This includes Arctic islands together with mountainous areas and multi-year sea-ice refuges, where unique marine Arctic biodiversity has the best chance of surviving climate change.
- A major oil spill in ice filled Arctic waters would be detrimental to biodiversity and very difficult to clean up, particularly under problematic weather, light and ice conditions. However, if oil development is undertaken, a precautionary approach adhering to regulations and guidelines specific to the Arctic and based on the best available science would reduce risks, including that development activities in the most sensitive areas are avoided.
- Focused harvest management of fish, birds and mam- mals is needed on those species and populations that have experienced major declines for which harvest is one of the causal factors
- To protect staging and wintering wetland areas for Arctic waterbird migrants from both habitat loss and overharvest, concerted international efforts should be conducted to conserve a network of key areas and address overharvest.
- To effectively protect Arctic native species and ecosystems from devastating effects of invasive alien species, appropriate efforts are needed to prevent their establishment in the Arctic. Early detection and preventative actions should focus on areas of human activity and disturbance.
Although local stressors can entirely be managed by national or local authorities, bilateral or international cooperation on common standards can be beneficial.
- To protect Arctic biodiversity from severe impacts from local development and industrial activity, biodiversity conservation needs to be a cornerstone of natural resource management and land and marine planning.
- Improved monitoring and research is needed to survey, map, monitor and understand Arctic biodiversity including integrated, repeated data collection following recommended standardized protocols and priorities, and involving Arctic citizens in the survey and monitoring, if we are to move ahead with science- informed decisions in the Arctic. Support for national and international coordinated efforts such as the CBMP and the BAR Code of Life is important to fill critical data gaps on population abundances and trends for many Arctic terrestrial and marine species as well as on changes in the functioning and services of Arctic ecosystems.
In order to effectively respond to these suggested priorities, international cooperation and direct action at the national level are required. Many such efforts are already underway, and the Arctic countries possess strong legal frameworks that can form the basis for effective conservation of Arctic biodiversity. The Arctic Council has also established mechanisms for regional cooperation and scientific collaboration on research and monitoring e.g., the CBMP. Nevertheless, such agreements and initiatives are of little use if not backed up by secure long-term funding, enforcement and popular support.