e-CBMP Newsletter
Fall 2009
CBMP composite

Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program            Volume 2 Issue 2

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In This Issue
Letter From the Chair
CBMP News & Updates
CBMP Events & Initiatives
Partner News
Marine Research
New Marine Resources

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Arctic Council Logo 

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TopFrom the Chair
Dear Friends,
AMSA logoAlmost on a daily basis, there are media reports about changes in Arctic marine ecosystems. To date, the focus has been mostly on loss of sea ice and climate warming with little information about the diverse wildlife and human cultures that inhabit and are dependent on these marine ecosystems. Fortunately, there are many scientists and local resource users dedicated to gaining a better understanding of marine ecosystems and how these respond to pressures such as climate change. This information is critical for arctic communities who need to adapt to a changing environment, as well as to the rest of the world whose local environments are ultimately dependent on a healthy and functioning Arctic marine environment.

topThe fall 2009 e-CBMP newsletter is dedicated to people who work to provide a greater understanding of our Arctic marine ecosystems. This issue highlights various arctic marine biodiversity monitoring projects and initiatives including research to document marine species and their distributions, and the utilization of emerging information technology to manage, depict and integrate diverse information on Arctic marine ecosystems. We hope you enjoy the latest issue of e-CBMP.

Mike Gill, Chair
Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program

CBMP News and Updates
ExpertExpert Monitoring Groups─Current Status
The Marine Expert Monitoring Group (MEMG) continues to work on the development of an integrated, pan-Arctic biodiversity monitoring plan that streamlines current monitoring efforts and improves our ability to detect, understand and report on important trends in Arctic biodiversity.

The Freshwater EMG is assembling its international steering committee. Canadian work continues and the first workshop is scheduled for December 2009 in Victoria, Canada.

The CBMP received funding support from Canada and the U.S. to begin development of a Pan-Arctic Protected Areas Monitoring Plan. This work will leverage existing protected areas monitoring capacity across the Arctic to implement a small suite of standardized and integrated biodiversity monitoring parameters. The outcome will be more powerful monitoring that allows individual protected areas the ability to understand changes occuring within their own region.  Arctic national Focal Points are being assembled and the first workshop is scheduled for March or April 2010 in Anchorage, U.S. (Read more here.) Back to top.

arcticseasCBMP─Monitoring in Arctic Seas: Progress of the Marine Expert Monitoring Group 
Arctic Council LogoAt the November 2007 Arctic Council Senior Arctic Official meeting, Norway offered to co-lead a CBMP Marine Expert Monitoring Group (MEMG) that would develop an integrated monitoring plan (IMP) for the Arctic seas. In July 2008, the U.S. became the co-lead of the MEMG. By August 2008, Canada, Russia and Greenland/Denmark appointed experts to the group, and since then AMAP, PAME, Iceland and the Aleut International Association have also joined the group.

Since August 2008, the MEMG has held monthly telephone conferences and organized one expert workshop in Tromsø, Norway, in January 2009, to prioritize monitoring and research issues for joint Arctic marine monitoring (48 scientists/experts attended this workshop). Prior to the workshop, the MEMG produced a background paper that defined the overall monitoring issues and prioritized focal marine areas/ecosystems for an IMP.

A report based on the outcomes of the Tromsø workshop was produced and includes a comprehensive list of issues/hypothesis and related monitoring programs in the focal marine areas that will be recommended as an IMP. The Tromsø Background Paper will soon be available in print and on the CBMP website.

The MEMG organized a meeting in Washington, DC, in April 2009, to begin preparations for the second MEMG workshop in Coral Gables, Florida, November 4 to 6, 2009. After the second workshop, the pan-Arctic Integrated Monitoring Plan will be finalized and presented to Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group of the Arctic Council. US Navy Photo by Chief Yeoman Alphonso Braggs. Back to top.

CBMP Events & Initiatives
  • Upcoming Events
    • State of the Arctic Report Cards
    • Arctic Species Trend Index Report
    • Seabird Information Network Web-Based Data Portal
    • CBMP Workshops
  • Upcoming Initiatives
    • Pan-Arctic Protected Areas Monitoring Plan
    • Community-Based Monitoring Program Development Manual
CBMPEventsUpcoming Events
AMSA logoIn collaboration with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Association and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, the CBMP launched the 2009 State of the Arctic Report Cards on October 22nd, 2009. This year's report cards include, among other topics, updates on the current status of circumpolar Rangifer (wild caribou and reindeer) populations, Arctic marine mammals and murres.

In partnership with the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, World Wildlife Fund, Zoological Society of London and UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the CBMP will launch the Arctic Species Trend Index (ASTI). The ASTI report combines 965 datasets involving 306 Arctic vertebrate species (35% of all known Arctic vertebrate species) to track broad trends in the Arctic's living resources. The ASTI can be disaggregated by biome, region, guild, taxa, etc., to investigate patterns in Arctic vertebrate trends over 35 years, between 1970 and 2005. The report will soon be available online, in print and summarized in a video.

PuffinThe CBMP will soon release the Seabird Information

(SIN) web-based data portal. SIN is a collaborative project created with the Circumpolar Seabird Group, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada and the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.  SIN presents arctic seabird-colony data in user-friendly format for scientists and decision-makers. The portal 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. The results of this initiative will also demonstrate how biological information can be integrated with other indicators to facilitate better understanding and more effective management of the Arctic's ecosystems. SIN represents the completion of the pilot development of the CBMP's web-based data portal.  The portal is now being expanded to include other arctic biodiversity trend data and relevant a-biotic data. Photo: Carsten Egevang.

Two CBMP workshops are scheduled in the coming months:

  • Second International Arctic Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Plan: November 3 to 6, 2009, Coral Gables, U.S.
  • Canadian Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Monitoring Plan: December 7 and 8, 2009, Victoria, Canada
Back to top.
CBMPInitiativesUpcoming Initiatives
The CBMP has begun planning for the development of a Pan-Arctic Protected Areas Monitoring Plan. The Arctic contains an extensive network of protected areas spanning eight countries and a number of environmental envelopes (biogeoclimatic gradients). In fact, seven of the ten-largest protected areas in the world are found in the Arctic. These protected areas represent an important operational platform by which standardized monitoring on a pan-Arctic scale can be implemented. The CBMP will be working with national and regional governments responsible for the management of Arctic protected areas to develop a suite of common parameters that can be monitored across the Arctic's protected areas.

ice coastThis scheme will result in more cost-effective and powerful biodiversity monitoring that will allow protected areas practitioners a better ability to identify important trends occuring within their own protected area.  It will also facilitate the uptake of new and best monitoring protocols in use and promote their adoption across the Arctic.

The CBMP will soon release the Community-Based Monitoring Program Development Manual for scientists and community members. The manual reviews existing programs and provides a step-by-step guide for communities and scientists to develop their own community-based monitoring programs.

Back to top.
Partner News
juvenile yellow-billed loonThe BioDiversity Research Institute received funding for the project "Meeting the Conservation Needs of the Yellow-Billed Loon" and will be working in partnership with Joel Schmutz of the U.S. Geological Survey on the North Slope of Alaska. For more info. Juvenile Yellow-Billed Loon  (Photo: Len Blumin/Wikipedia.org)

"The Future of Arctic Conservation", by Phil Wookey and Michael Usher, was published in The Circle, No. 2, 2009.

The Norsk Polarinstitutt/Norwegian Polar Institute Polarmiljøsenteret/Polar Environmental Centre has an opening for a full-time, permanent research position in avian ecology in polar regions. For more information, contact Research Director Kim Holmén, email, phone: +47 77 75 05 30, or Kit Kovacs, email, phone: +47 77 75 05 26. The application deadline is 31 October 2009.

Back to top.

beaufortseaBeaufort Sea Offshore Waters Survey
Funded by Minerals and Management Service, in the summer of 2009, NOAA and university scientists conducted the first survey of marine fish in the offshore waters of the Beaufort Sea since 1977. Zooplankton, seabird and marine mammals were also included in the survey.

pollockThe objective of the survey was to establish a baseline for the effects of oil development and climate change. Methods of research included: bottom trawls to assess distribution and abundance of benthic fish and invertebrate species; hydroacoustics and mid-water nets were used to survey pelagic fish conductivity-temperature-depth instruments collected oceanographic data; bongo nets were used to sample distribution of zooplankton.

In total, 38 fish and 174 invertebrate species were identified; 6% of the bottom-trawl catch was comprised of fish, while invertebrates made up the remaining 94%.

The four most-abundant fish species were Arctic cod, eelpouts, Bering flounder and walleye pollock; the most-abundant invertebrates were brittle stars, opilio snow crab, mollusks and seastars. The pelagic community was dominated by Arctic cod and young-of-the-year sculpin and eelblennies.

The results suggest that climate change may have resulted in range expansion by some species, such as pollock. This survey was also the first to document commercial-sized opilio snow crab in the North American Arctic.

For more information, click here. Back to top. Pollock photo: Sue Daly.

oceanOcean Acidification and Ocean Fertilization Reports

The impacts of ocean acidification will be seen earliest in the Arctic and the Southern oceans. Twenty-five percent of atmospheric CO2 derived from burning fossil fuels and land-use changes is absorbed by oceans where it dissolves and forms carbonic acid. As more CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere, greater amounts are absorbed by the oceans and that causes significant changes to ocean chemistry and leads to progressive acidification.

Since 1992, UNEP-WCMC has been working in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Convention of Biological Diversity to prepare ocean acidification and ocean fertilization reports for peer review. It's hoped that the publication of these reports will be the catalyst that places both issues higher on the political agenda.

(The reports and will be published in late 2009. They will be available for review at the fourteenth meeting of the Subsidiary Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice in early 2010.) Back to top.

zooplanktonArctic Zooplankton Research

Canada's Three Oceans (C3O) is a Canadian International Polar Year project led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Its purpose is to observe and monitor physical and biological change along a 15,000-kilometre transect line through the three oceans surrounding northern North America. The Arctic zooplankton biogeography study is a core part of C3O and it will document how seasonally ice-covered marine ecosystems respond to a warming ocean, and will enable data-based prediction of the impacts of these responses on higher trophic-level organisms and the carbon cycle. The zooplankton-biogeography group (ZBG) is tracking how the Arctic Ocean zooplankton community responds to climate forcing, that has the potential to profoundly affect Arctic marine food-webs, from zooplantkon all the way up to humans.

Arctic Council LogoThe ZBG has been analysing the species composition of several hundred zooplankton samples collected in the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans since 2000. This analysis includes careful examination for the establishment of southern (invasive) species in Arctic waters, and for trends in the relative abundance of endemic Arctic species.

ZBG is using molecular genetic analysis to track northward expansion of a Bering Sea sub-population of the Arctic copepod Calanus glacialis. A relatively small alteration in oceanic conditions in the Arctic could result in a northward range expansion of this sub-population and signal ecological change long before conditions are conducive for the reproduction of a Pacific endemic species within the Arctic basin. Back to top.

surveys20092009 Biodiversity Surveys in the Bering and Chukchi Seas
Arctic Council LogoDuring 2009, NOAA conducted two special marine-biodiversity science activities. The NOAA UAS Program supported a set of field tests of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to determine its effectiveness for surveying the sub-Arctic pack ice for ribbon, spotted, bearded and ringed seals (collectively called ice seals). The tests were conducted as part of a research cruise by the National Marine Fisheries Service (Alaska Fisheries Science Center) in the eastern Bering Sea from May 13 to June 11, 2009, aboard the NOAA ship McArthur II.

The UAS used in these tests was the Boeing ScanEagle, owned and operated by the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. This platform was specifically designed for launching from, and recovery by, a ship at sea.

During surveys, the UAS typically carried a digital SLR camera (Nikon D300) in a belly module component of the aircraft body, although some flights were also conducted with an integrated E/O video camera that was controlled from the ground  station. Once on site in the Bering Sea, 10 UAS flights were conducted at the edge of Bering Sea ice between May 21 and June 8, 2009. The digital SLR camera payload (D300) was carried on eight of these flights and collected over 25,000 images of sea ice.

These images are currently being analyzed for the presence of ice seals. Overall, the ScanEagle performed well in a variety of weather conditions, and the images collected have the necessary resolution to distinguish the different species, ages, and occasionally, even genders of ice seals. For more information, click here.

The second of the biodiversity science activities was a multi-disciplinary research cruise under the Russia-USA Long-term Census of the Arctic (RUSALCA) project that observes physical environmental changes in the Northern Bering and Chukchi seas and to evaluate ecological impact of these changes.

To provide the next point in an observational timeline, the summer 2009 cruise team repeated sampling conducted in summer 2004. Permanent moorings in the Bering Strait provided information on environmental changes between the major field operations.

The work was conducted in close co-operation with Russian science agencies and the Russian Navy, and observations were taken in U.S., Russian, and international territory. (Data are shared between the U.S. and Russia.)

Surveys were conducted of zoo- and icthyo-plankton, juvenile and adult fishes, benthic biota and marine mammals. Biodiversity results will be compared with physical and biochemical characteristics of the various water masses.

An upcoming special issue of Deep Sea Research will highlight biodiversity results from the first RUSALCA cruise in 2004. A post-cruise results meeting will be held in late 2010.

This work is a U.S. contribution to the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme's Arctic climate monitoring and impact assessment objectives, as well as to the marine-biodiversity objectives of the CBMP. Back to top.

New Marine Resources

Draft Marine Environment Atlas

In co-operation with Oceana, Audubon Alaska compiled an extensive geospatial database depicting the Arctic marine environment. One product resulting from this effort is the draft Atlas of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, a collection of 44 thematic maps that cover physical oceanography, water column and benthic life, fish, mammals, birds and people. The study area includes the southern Beaufort Sea from Point Barrow (U.S.), east to Banks Island (Canada); the southern Chukchi Sea from Point Barrow (U.S.), west past Wrangel Island (Russia); and the northern Bering Sea from St. Lawrence Island (U.S.) through the Bering Strait.

The purpose of the atlas is to provide a broad understanding of the species and their distributions, the seascapes and habitats they use and the dynamics of the ecological and oceanographic processes at work.

The draft atlas will be circulated for public review until November 2009. For more information, contact Melanie Smith at (907) 276-7034. Following the review period, the atlas is expected to be published in late 2009. Back to top.

worldWorld Marine-Protected Areas Database Launched
On World Oceans Day (June 8, 2009) the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre launched the World Database on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)-WDPA-Marine. As one of the foremost repositories of information on MPAs, WDPA-Marine is intended to help managers and decision-makers better understand marine environments where human activity is regulated or restricted in order to maintain the integrity and biodiversity of the ecosystem.

The database was produced with contributions from many governments, regional partners, NGOs and academics and allows users to view information about MPAs in a web browser or by using Google Earth, and to download data and/or combine it with other data in the same or other portals.

The WDPA-Marine includes data from the Arctic region and it's hoped that more Arctic MPA ecosystem and biodiversity data will be added. Back to top.

protectProtect Planet Ocean "Super Site"
UNEP-WCMC and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature-World Commission on Protected Areas Marine are joining forces to create a "super site" under the Protect Planet Ocean banner. The site will include new ways to view, check and verify MPAs data, and new information on MPAs and World Heritage, climate change, open ocean, socio-economic assessment and livelihoods, as well as human health and diseases. Back to top.

guideNew Identification Guide to Arctic Invertebrates
invertabrates bookIllustrated Keys to Free-Living Invertebrates of Eurasian Arctic Seas and Adjacent Deep Waters Volume 1 is a new identification guide published in 2009 by the NOAA Alaska Sea Grant College Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, in co-operation with the Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences. The 192-page soft-cover book includes identification keys to 12 taxonomic groups. The volume editors are S.V. Vassilenko and V.V. Petryashov and the series editor is B.I. Sirenko, from the Zoological Institute, St. Petersburg.

This is the first volume in a series that represents an unprecedented attempt to provide the international science community with a comprehensive set of tools for Arctic marine-species identification.

Translated into English from Russian records, the taxonomic expertise dedicated to this and future volumes is based on Russia's history of Arctic invertebrate taxonomy and exploration of the Arctic seas and fauna.

The book is a contribution to the Census of Marine Life's Arctic Ocean Diversity project and the International Polar Year. For more information, click here. Back to top.

AMSAreportArctic Marine Shipping Assessment Report
Arctic Council LogoIn April the Arctic Ministers approved the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report (AMSA). The AMSA report is the culmination of four years of work by a range of industry experts and scientists under the guidance of the Arctic Council's Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) working group. It's the first comprehensive circumpolar assessment that examines a broad range of Arctic-specific shipping issues and concerns.

Three themes encompass recommendations based on the expert findings from the different sections of the AMSA. The first, Enhancing Arctic Marine Safety, the second, Building Arctic Marine Infrastructure, but it's the five recommendations in the third theme, Protecting Arctic People and the Environment, that may have implications for Arctic marine biodiversity:

Identify areas of heightened ecological and cultural significance in light of changing climate conditions and increasing multiple marine use, and where appropriate, encourage implementation of measures to protect these areas from the impacts of Arctic marine shipping, in co-ordination with stakeholders and consistent with international law.

Take into account the characteristics of Specially Designated Arctic Marine Areas and explore the need for internationally designated areas for the purpose of environmental protection.

Arctic states should consider ratification of the IMO International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments, as soon as practical and assess the risk of introducing invasive species through ballast water and other means so that adequate prevention measures can be implemented.

Enhance the mutual co-operation in the field of oil-spill prevention, and in collaboration with industry, support research and technology transfer to prevent release of oil into Arctic waters.

Arctic states engage with relevant international organizations to address impacts on marine mammals due to ship noise, disturbance and strikes in Arctic waters; and consider working with the relevant IMO in developing and implementing mitigation strategies.

The future of the Arctic region is uncertain. With this in mind, the best way forward is to take a precautionary approach regarding the potential impacts of shipping on Arctic ecosystems.

The full Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report is available for download here. Back to top.

AMSA & CAFF Project Datasets Datasets Available Online
CAFF and AMSA project datasets are available at the Arctic Data portal.