e-CBMP Newsletter
Spring 2009
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Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program            Volume 2 Issue 1

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In This Issue
Letter From the Chair
CBMP News and Updates
Arctic Bird-Breeding Survey
2010 BIP Partnershiip
Arctic Mountains
Shorebirds' Extreme Flights
Yukon's Willow Ptarmigan
Article WOLVES Update
PSS Arctic
Greenland Quest
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Letter From the Chair
Dear Friends,
 
With winter finally over and many of you preparing for another summer field season or getting ready to return to your seasonal camps, we felt that this would be a good time to provide you with an update on the CBMP's, and our partners', recent activities.
 
Over the past six months, the CBMP has continued to grow and now has 60 organizational partners and over 600 members. The program's resources have almost tripled since last year allowing the CBMP to begin implementing many of its core program activities (see CBMP News and Updates below). 
 
Furthermore, the program has become the recognized authority on Arctic biodiversity providing information and advice to a number of organizations and the public around the globe. This includes our most recent release in fall 2008, in partnership with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, of the Arctic Report Cards that received worldwide media coverage, with over 300 newspapers from around the globe running stories on issues facing Arctic biodiversity.
 
Further evidence of our growing recognition comes from requests for consultation and advice on Arctic policy development and research, and monitoring design from the United Nations and the Prince of Monaco, as well as the governments of the United States and Canada. 
 
And finally, we would like to welcome to the CBMP office Lily Gontard, our new communications specialist. Lily has a background in magazine and corporate publishing and is responsible for maintaining and developing the CBMP's internal and external communications networks. Welcome Lily!
 
We are very excited about the upcoming year and the opportunities that it brings. We believe that we have the right team to continue advancing the CBMP. We look forward to continued collaboration with all of our network partners and we wish you all a wonderful summer.

Sincerely,
 
Mike Gill, Chair
Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program
CBMP News and Updates
  • CBMP Expert Monitoring Groups Activated
  • New CBMP Website and Publications
  • Upcoming Initiatives
  • Reaching Decision-Makers and the Public

CBMP Expert Monitoring Groups Activated

The CBMP is facilitating more powerful and coordinated monitoring of the Arctic's living resources through the development of a series of five Expert Monitoring Groups representing major Arctic themes (marine, coastal, freshwater, and terrestrial). Each group functions as a forum for scientists, local resource users and managers to work together to develop more powerful and cost-effective monitoring plans that will deliver current and accurate information to managers to facilitate more effective decision-making.

Norway and the United States are co-leading the Marine Expert Monitoring Group that includes members from Russia, Denmark, Canada, the Aleut International Association and the Arctic Council's working groups: Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme and the Protection of Arctic Marine Environment. Work is well underway to develop an Integrated Arctic Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Plan.  To begin development of the plan, a background paper was developed under the lead of the Norwegian Polar Institute and Norway convened the first integrated monitoring planning workshop on January 17 and 18, 2009, in Tromsö, Norway. This workshop brought together 48 scientists and community-based experts from across the Arctic to begin identifying the key elements to be incorporated into a pan-Arctic monitoring plan. 
 
Canada has convened a team to begin development of the Freshwater Expert Monitoring Group. A background paper is currently out for review and the first workshop is planned for later this year.  
 
New CBMP Website and Publications
The CBMP launched its re-designed website (cbmp.arcticportal.org) on May 1.  Check out the new website to discover pilot and past projects, recent news, upcoming events and learn more about CBMP partnerships.
 
The CBMP has published several documents in the past three months and all are available on the CBMP website. These include:

Delivering Arctic Biodiversity Information to Decision-Makers and the Public
The CBMP, in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre, is developing the Arctic Species Trend Index (ASTI) that tracks trends in Arctic vertebrate populations and uses the same approach as the World Wildlife Fund's Living Planet Index. With help from our networks, we have been able to compile over 900 Arctic and 1,000 Boreal population datasets. Analysis is near completion and the report will be released in the summer. The index will be updated on a regular basis and we hope to obtain more data sets from researchers and organizations that have not yet had a chance to contribute.

 The CBMP is working with the Circumpolar Seabird Group, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Axiom Consulting and UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre to make Arctic seabird-colony data readily available to decision-makers. The web-based data portal is near completion and will integrate and display seabird-colony trends with other indicators, such as sea surface temperature, shipping lanes, etc..., to improve our understanding of circumpolar seabird trends and the possible causes driving these trends. This initiative represents the first step towards developing a fully operational and integrated web-portal that will display current and accurate information on status and trends in the Arctic's living resources. The results of this initiative will also demonstrate how biological information can be integrated with other indicators to facilitate better understanding and therefore, more effective management of the Arctic's ecosystems. The seabird portal will be fully operational by September of this year.
 
Upcoming Initiatives
The CBMP is beginning planning for the development of a Circumpolar Protected Areas Monitoring Framework. The Arctic contains an extensive network of protected areas spanning eight Arctic countries and a number of environmental envelopes (biogeoclimatic gradients). In fact, seven of the 10-largest protected areas in the world are found in the Arctic. These protected areas represent an important operational platform by which standardized monitoring at the pan-Arctic scale can be implemented. The CBMP will be working with national and regional governments and non-governmental agencies responsible for the management of Arctic protected areas to develop the Framework.

The Framework will:
  • Identify the best monitoring protocols in use and promote their expansion across the Arctic
  • Foster a coordinated, efficient and more powerful approach to detecting important trends in Arctic ecosystems.

In July, the CBMP will release its Community-Based Monitoring Program Development Manual aimed at assisting scientists and communities in the development of community-based monitoring programs. It reviews a number of existing community-based monitoring programs and provides a step-by-step guide to establishing a community-based monitoring program.

 Arctic Birds Breeding-Conditions Survey
fulmarThe Arctic Birds Breeding Conditions Survey (ABBCS) is a project run by the International Wader Study Group and Wetlands International Specialists Groups and it collects data on weather, abundance of rodents and predators, as well as productivity of shorebirds in the Arctic.  While primarily focused on shorebirds, it has been designed to accommodate a whole range of species. (The database is housed at Moscow State University.)

 
Information published on the project website includes breeding conditions in the Arctic and searchable data on abundance and breeding status of bird species.
 
Regular website updates include information on human impacts and information on aggregations of shorebirds. (There is also a Russian-language version of the website.)

Arctic Birds newsletter #10 was published in winter 2007/2008 and is available as a PDF on both websites.
 
We plan on continuing to monitor birds in the Circumpolar region and would like to develop partnerships with other networks that monitor Arctic biodiversity.
Partnering with the 2010 BIP
The 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (2010 BIP) is a global initiative that uses indicators to track progress of achieving the "2010 biodiversity target": significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. The 2010 BIP is composed of international organisations that regularly deliver biodiversity target indicators.
 
The 2010 BIP established links between biodiversity initiatives at national and regional levels and now includes a number of Affiliate Partners who have similar aims and objectives to the 2010 BIP, but on different scales or from other perspectives.
 
The 2010 BIP would like to welcome the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) as an Affiliate Partner. The CBMP is working with over 60 partners to harmonize and enhance long-term biodiversity monitoring efforts. A key component of the program's work is the development of a set of biodiversity indices and indicators for the Arctic region.
 
The 2010 BIP looks forward to working with the CBMP on the development of our respective biodiversity indicator initiatives.
 
More information on the 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership can be found at www.twentyten.net.
The Mountains of the Arctic─Long-Term Surveillance
GLORIADryas octopetala and Cassiope tetragona on the slopes of Aucellabjerg, northeast Greenland, 2008 (Photo: C. Lettner).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments (GLORIA) is a world-wide initiative for long-term surveillance of vegetation and temperature change on high mountain summits. During the CBMP Anchorage Workshop in November 2006, CAFF recommended the multi-summit method of GLORIA be incorporated into CBMP.
 
Today there are Arctic and Subarctic GLORIA sites in the Polar Urals, Russia (P. Moisseev), near Abisko, Sweden (U. Molau), Tröllaskagi, Iceland (S. Heidmarsson & H. Kristinsson), Zackenberg, Greenland (K. Reiter), Selawik Natural Wildlife Refuge (S. Talbot) and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Fairbanks, U.S.A. (J. Jorgenson).

The most recent site was set up in Zackenberg (in the middle Arctic) in the Northeast Greenland National Park, the largest national park in the World. The site was established by a cooperative partnership between the University of Vienna and the Danish BioBasis Programme in July 2008, as an Austrian contribution to IPY. Of the total flora of the area (140 vascular plant species), 72 were recorded in the monitoring plots at three summits that spanned an elevation range from 90 to 605 m.  For an overview of the sites visit www.gloria.ac.at. (It is expected that more Arctic sites will be established in Canada and Russia in the near future.)
Extreme Endurance Flights by Shorebirds Crossing the Pacific Ocean: Ecological Corridor Rather Than Barrier?
bar-tailed godwitMountain ranges, deserts, ice fields and oceans generally act as barriers to the movement of land-dependent animals, often profoundly shaping migration routes. We used satellite telemetry to track the southward flights of bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica baueri ), shorebirds whose breeding and non-breeding areas are separated by the vast central Pacific Ocean.
 
Seven females with surgically implanted transmitters flew non-stop 8,117-11,680 km (10 153±1043 s.d.) directly across the Pacific Ocean; two males with external transmitters flew non-stop along the same corridor for 7,008-7,390 km. Flight duration ranged from 6.0 to 9.4 days (7.8±1.3 s.d.) for birds with implants and 5.0 to 6.6 days for birds with externally attached transmitters. 
 
These extraordinary non-stop flights establish new extremes for avian flight performance and have profound implications for understanding the physiological capabilities of vertebrates and how birds navigate, and challenge current physiological paradigms on topics such as sleep, dehydration and phenotypic flexibility. 
 
Predicted changes in climatic systems may affect survival rates if weather conditions at their departure hub or along the migration corridor should change. We propose that this transoceanic route may function as an ecological corridor rather than a barrier, providing a wind-assisted passage relatively free of pathogens and predators.
 
Arcticle reference: Extreme endurance flights by landbirds crossing the Pacific Ocean: ecological corridor rather than barrier? Robert E. Gill Jr, T. Lee Tibbitts, David C. Douglas, Colleen M. Handel, Daniel M. Mulcahy, Jon C. Gottschalck, Nils Warnock, Brian J. McCaffery, Philip F. Battley and Theunis Piersma. Proc. R. Soc. B doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.1142. 11 PP.  Photo: Wikipedia/Tim Bowman.

Long-Term Studies of Willow Ptarmigan in the Yukon Territory: Are they showing collapse of Their 10-year cycle?
willow ptarmiganFrom the late 1950s to the present, two to seven study plots across the Yukon have been variously searched annually for territorial ptarmigan.
 
The results are held in a long-term database maintained by the Northern Research Institute at Yukon College.
 
Willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) are the focus although rock (L. muta) and white-tailed ptarmigan (L. leucurus) observations are also logged incidentally.

Monitoring has included studies of winter survival strategies, tests of population-change theory, reproductive strategy and interrelations (as a keystone species) with other members of the tundra community. Stable and regular cycles in abundance in broad 10-year synchrony across the territory have been demonstrated.
 
Beginning in 2000, monitoring surveys have been suggesting the regular cycling of abundance may have been disrupted. The potential consequence to the tundra ecosystem and possible climate-change connections are potentially disastrous. Already, gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) at the top of the food web are signalling problems in this system.
 
D. Mossop Northern Research Institute, Yukon College
Presented at the 11th International Grouse Symposium, September 11-15, 2008, Whitehorse, Yukon. Photo: Wikipedia/U.S. National Park Service.
Arctic Wildlife Observatories Linking Vulnerable Ecosystems (WOLVES): An IPY project update.
Snowy Owl Photo: Floyd DavidsonResearchers for the Arctic WOLVES International Polar Year project fanned out across the Canadian tundra in summer 2008 to collect data on terrestrial trophic ecology (top-down and bottom-up effects), and climate-change impacts on the terrestrial food web.
 
At Bylot Island, Alert, and Eureka in Nunavut, Cape Churchill, Man., and Herschel Island, Yukon, we gathered data on primary production, grazing impact by herbivores, arthropod abundance, shorebird breeding, goose breeding, small-mammal population size, fox breeding and avian-predator (raptors and tundra seabirds) breeding.
 
Snow fence experiments on Herchel and Bylot islands enhanced snow depths during the 2007-08 winter. Lemmings selected areas with deeper snow, indicating the value of insulative snow as winter habitat. In northern Yukon we repeated an aerial survey of fox dens, finding little difference in distribution or relative abundance of red and arctic foxes since the 1980s. Our ground of timing of bird nesting revealed earlier laying than in the 1980s. In the Eastern Arctic, the spring was very early and lemming abundance was high in most areas. On Bylot Island, Arctic foxes and raptors responded with high abundance and good reproductive success. The tracking of 12 females snowy owls marked with satellite tags on Bylot Island in 2007 revealed amazing movements, with nine birds nesting in 2008 at far-flung sites on Baffin Island and one on Prince Patrick Island, up to 1,000 km from their previous year's nesting sites. We augmented this sample with 4 owls on Herschel Island in 2008. 
 
By Don Reid, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, Whitehorse, Yukon, and Gilles Gauthier, Département de Biologie, Université Laval, Québec City, Québec.
Photo: Wikipedia/Floyd Davidson
 

PPS Arctic: monitoring the transition zone of shrub- and tree-dominated regions
PPS tree survey RussiaPPS Arctic is a multidisciplinary research cluster focussing on the southern border of the Arctic in the transition zone to shrub- and tree-dominated regions. This zone is internationally recognised for its exceptional importance in terms of climate feedback, global vegetation and settlements by indigenous people. Large-scale changes in the structure and position of this zone (as predicted) will affect the Arctic and the global climate. Main study regions are northern Norway, northwestern Russia, western, central and eastern Canada. The scientific merits are a snapshot of the status of the southern Arctic boundary for IPY. This is essential information for policy-makers and managers who assess the regional to global consequences of environmental change in the Arctic.
 
Since it began in 2007, PPS Arctic has grown in size and scope with more than 115 researchers and students from 10 countries active at over 30 study sites in the circumpolar region. The European members directed their 2008 field activities to Kola Peninsula, in Russia. North American researchers had their main field season in 2008 with activities across the entire tundra-taiga transition zone.

The expectation is that the project will demonstrate how the forest-tundra zone is changing in a variety of Arctic climate regions, how fast changes are occurring, as well as reasons for and consequences of the changes.

The project also forms the basis for future monitoring of the zone-including less-accessible and remote areas-by mapping and analysing changes and developing better usage of satellite images. Photo: PPS Arctic/G. Rees.
 
Coordinator: A Hofgaard, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Trondheim, Norway
Co-coordinator: G. Rees, Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, UK
Greenland for a Green Land Expedition
Starting in May 2009, the Emirates NBD Greenland Quest expedition will attempt to kite ski the full length of Greenland, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arctic Ocean. This 3,500-kilometre traverse has never-before been completed and is thought to be the longest unassisted Arctic journey in history.
 
Comprised of three members, Adrian Hayes, a British national living in the United Arab Emirates, Devon McDiarmid and Derek Crowe, both Canadians, the team will conduct a set of simple, but useful observations developed by the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program.  This will include locating and suverying Ivory Gull colonies and photo-documenting  Nunatak plant and insect communities.  This will provide valuable information on the nature of biological communities from a remote and inaccessible region.
 
The progress of the expedition can be followed at either the Greenland Quest website or on facebook.