|From the Chair
Freshwater ecosystems represent exceptionally diverse
systems. Around 10% of species on Earth live in freshwater systems, including
one-third of all known vertebrates, yet these ecosystems occupy <1% of the Earth's
surface. Similarly, Arctic freshwater ecosystems are limited in area but
represent unique and diverse assemblages of organisms, and provide important
ecological services (water supply and regulation, harvested fish species) to Arctic
communities. These systems are expected to undergo change due to increasing
pressures from climate change and development, yet we have a very limited
understanding of and capacity to monitor these ecosystems and detect those changes.
This issue of e-CBMP focuses on Arctic freshwater
research and monitoring activities. You will read about new and ongoing Arctic
freshwater research and monitoring programs that advance our understanding of
how natural- and human-induced drivers affect these ecosystems now and in the
The CBMP is excited to announce the establishment of
its Freshwater Expert Monitoring Group (FEMG), co-led by Canada and Sweden (read more below). FEMG will
develop an integrated, pan-Arctic monitoring plan in the aim of facilitating a
more integrated, powerful and collaborative approach to monitoring Arctic
Enjoy the spring 2010 edition of the e-CBMP and watch
for our spring issue that will focus on coastal ecosystems.
Mike Gill, Chair
Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program
|CBMP News and Updates
of CBMP's Freshwater Expert Monitoring Group
The CBMP recently formed the Freshwater Expert
Monitoring Group (FEMG), composed of scientific and indigenous community experts,
to develop an ecosystem-based approach to pan-Arctic biodiversity monitoring.
FEMG's monitoring plan will employ optimal sampling
schemes, common parameters and standardized monitoring protocols; biodiversity monitoring activities will be inventoried, critical monitoring
gaps identified and strategies to fill these gaps proposed. The FEMG will use existing monitoring and data, draw on expertise from other relevant
disciplines, incorporate both community- and science-based approaches, develop
standardized protocols and analytical tools, and use emerging technologies. (FEMG will release periodic
assessments to inform decision and policy makers and the public.)
In preparation for
its first meeting in summer 2010, the FEMG drafted a 3-year
work plan and an overview document outlining aims, objectives and
implementation schemes. Anticipated outcomes include: (1) recommendations of the spatial scale needed for pan-Arctic
monitoring of freshwater biodiversity; (2) a strategic list of standardized
methods and monitoring metrics; (3) collation of existing and recent freshwater
programs in the Arctic; (4) consideration of data management and archiving
issues; (5) an annotated list of scientists engaged in Arctic freshwater
research; and (6) an initial report on the state of Arctic freshwater
A summary of the FEMG's goals and objectives will be presented
at the June International Polar Year Science Conference in Oslo, Norway.
Canadian Freshwater Experts Meet to Discuss
Monitoring Strategies for the Arctic
kick start the CBMP Freshwater Expert Monitoring Group (FEMG), Canadian experts
met in Victoria, B.C., on December 7 & 8, 2009, to discuss how
Canadian research and monitoring can be better integrated and summarized to
meet future monitoring needs of the North.Over 20 participants from a broad
cross-section of scientific research, industry, natural resource management
and indigenous stakeholders met for a lively dialogue about how Canada could
contribute to the goals of CBMP's FEMG. The agenda included overview
presentations on the CBMP and FEMG objectives, and the potential linkages
between the CBMP and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP).These were followed by breakout group
discussions for lake and river ecosystems with output from the workshop
providing specific recommendations on key elements of a freshwater monitoring
program for the Canadian Arctic, how to monitor these freshwater ecosystems,
trends that should be detected, a list of key biodiversity indicators, a
network model for Canada and approaches to co-ordinated data management and
reporting.Participants defined current
monitoring gaps and research needs for the Canadian Arctic and potential
solutions to remedy these deficiencies.Workshop organizers are completing a summary report of the meeting which
will be made available on the CBMP website.
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.CBMP Releases the Arctic Species Trend Index Report
The CBMP released the Arctic Species Trend Index (ASTI) report in partnership with CAFF, WWF, UNEP-WCMC and ZSL at the March 2010 State of the Arctic Conference in Miami, USA. In this report, vertebrate population-abundance data were used to produce an indicator of the trends in Arctic biodiversity over the past 34 years (1970 as the baseline). This index tracks 965 populations of 306 species, representing 35% of all known vertebrate species found in the Arctic. While this report highlights trends seen over 34 years, further work is needed to produce a more robust index that adequately represents all taxa, biomes and regions and to develop a better understanding of how the Arctic's wildlife is responding to both natural and human-induced changes. Visit www.ASTI.is to find out more the Arctic Species Trend Index and download a copy of the report. Photo: Joelle Taillon.
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Project in the Old Crow Flats, Yukon
Nanh Nakhweenjit K'atr'ahanahtyaa: Environmental Change and Traditional Use of
the Old Crow Flats in Northern Yukon is an IPY project that has been monitoring
and evaluating the hydrology, limnology and wildlife biology of the Old Crow
Flats (OCF) ecosystem since 2007. The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, the Vuntut
Gwitchin Government, Environment Yukon and researchers from six universities
have partnered on this project that is one of many IPY efforts to develop
community-based freshwater ecosystem monitoring programs in the Arctic.
OCF water, sediment, algae and animal tissue samples are collected by local
community members, then research teams assess and monitor spatial and temporal
trends in lakewater balance, biological productivity, algal communities and
The datasets collected from each lake are evaluated to determine the relationships
between the ecosystem components. The links between lake ecosystem
characteristics and climatic trends will be used to understand and anticipate
current and future states of the OCF ecology. Back to top.
U.S. Geological Survey, Yukon River
U.S. Geological Survey in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
and northern university faculty have initiated a 5-year study of the putative
effects of warming induced lake drying on biodiversity, hydrology, soil carbon
and landscape dynamics in Yukon River Basin wetlands. The biodiversity studies
will be conducted by a suite of PhD graduate students who will use space-for-time
sampling within a Generalized Random Tessellation Stratified (GRTS)
spatially-balanced survey design to build spatially explicit models of
biodiversity in wetlands. This sampling model will be adapted to provide the
framework for subsequent long term monitoring in boreal wetlands. The
empirically based and spatially explicit models of biodiversity, combined with
remote-sensing-assisted projections of the future abundance, distribution, and
characteristics of lakes will be used to project warming-induced changes in
boreal wetland biodiversity, hydrology, and carbon sequestration that may
result from a suite of climate warming scenarios. Post-project implementation
of the monitoring design will provide a mechanism for testing and refining
projected climate induced changes in boreal wetlands. Contact Brad Griffith, 907-474-5067, for further information on the biodiversity component of the
project or Peter Murdoch for overall project information. Back to top.
Climate Variability and Change, and Tundra Lakes in the Northwest Territories, Canada
goal of this project is to understand the effects of climate variability and
change (using permafrost degradation as an analogy for changes under a
warming climate) on the supply of nutrients to tundra lakes, and on the
biological communities within the lakes.
From earlier work, it became evident
that some of the small lakes' food webs may include small fish as a top-down
control on the food-web structure. We were also interested in the food web of
Noell Lake, as two of our study lakes drain into Noell.
In July 2009 we
conducted food-web surveys on Noell Lake and the two small lakes that drain into
Noell, and in August on nine small lakes northeast of Inuvik. Of the eleven small lakes originally thought to be fishless, four lakes do not host fish.
The other seven locations hosted either ninespine stickleback, pond smelt, or northern pike.
In one case both stickleback and pond smelt were present. In one
small lake, we also collected a juvenile burbot. At Noell Lake, the expected
suite of fish species was collected, including lake trout. We also collected submerged
macrophytes, pelagic zooplankton and benthic invertebrates using a seine net
and zooplankton net tows.
Samples of all food-web organisms are currently under
laboratory analyses to determine the structure/function of the food webs in
these lakes using species.
We are conducting identification/quantification,
stomach content analysis (on fish), paired with stable isotope analysis (δ13C,
δ15N, and δ34S). This work contributes to
biodiversity research in Arctic freshwater systems by characterizing species
composition and energetic dependencies within lake-food webs.
All field work was aided by
members of the community of Inuvik and Aurora Research Institute (ARI).
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Dolly Varden Char Management Planning in Gwich'in Settlement Area
The Gwich'in Renewable
Resources Board (GRRB) was established under the Gwich'in Comprehensive Land
Claim Agreement as the central body for wildlife, fish and forest
management in the Gwich'in Settlement Area (GSA). Char management is a major
focus of GRRB operations:
declines in the early 1990s initiated the Rat River Working Group (RRWG) to be
developed with a mandate to manage the Rat River char population. The group
includes all responsible management authorities in the GSA
and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR).
RRWG developed the Rat River Char Fishing Plan in 1996 and use it to guide
successful management of northern form dolly varden char in the GSA.
in char populations have prompted the Committee on the Status of
Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) to consider listing northern form dolly varden char under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).
assessment prompted the creation of the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan by representatives from several governing bodies. This plan determines
co-management regulations in the GSA and ISR and may be adopted as an existing
management strategy if char are listed under SARA. Community input is being
sought on a draft of the plan during consultations in early 2010.
report was commissioned to synthesize traditional knowledge (TK) of dolly varden for
use in the COSEWIC assessment process. The TK in this report was verified
by relevant GSR and ISR community members in a workshop held in
February 2010. Back to top.
Arctic Coastal Plain
1995 to 2008 over 450 freshwater lakes between the Colville
and Chipp rivers on the Arctic Coastal Plain were surveyed for fish presence, water
quantity and water chemistry. Thirteen
fish species were encountered, with ninespine stickleback occurring most
frequently, being found in 43% of the surveyed lakes. Least cisco and broad whitefish were found in
36% and 20% of the lakes, respectively. Ninespine stickleback were widely dispersed across the region, while
least cisco and other whitefishes tended to be found in lakes associated with
stream systems that allowed access. Arctic grayling and ninespine stickleback were found in shallower lakes
than other species; 26% of the lakes containing Arctic grayling were
less than 2.5 m deep, while 33% of those containing ninespine
stickleback were less than 2.5 m. Few
other species were found in lakes shallower than 2.5 m.
These studies were partially funded by
ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc. Submitted
by Lawrence Moulton, MJM Research (under contract to ConocoPhillips Alaska,
Back to top.
in Small Tundra Streams
and habitat use were investigated in small tundra streams of eastern
NPR-A, in the Alaskan Arctic Coastal Plain, from 2001 to 2009. Stream
systems studied were tributaries to
Fish Creek, which discharges into the Beaufort Sea adjacent to the
Colville River. Fourteen fish species were documented in the streams
during the period
of study. Arctic grayling dominated the
catches, representing over 57% of the catch, followed by ninespine
stickleback at 35%.Broad
whitefish fitted with radio tags moved extensively within the streams, with
some moving out of the drainage into the adjacent Colville River
for wintering, then returning for feeding in the following summer. Radio-tagged burbot and arctic grayling also
moved extensively within the streams, but remained within the drainage. Shallow lakes up to 420 ha with strong
connections to streams were used for feeding during summer, with fish moving
out of the lakes to winter within deep sections of the streams. Four species of Pacific salmon were caught
sporadically through the study period.
These studies were partially funded by ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc. Submitted
by Lawrence Moulton, MJM Research (under contract to ConocoPhillips Alaska,
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Climate Change, Water Sources and Influences on Biological Communities in Arctic Streams
Climate change in Arctic regions will alter the balance among river-basin water sources, i.e., rainfall, glacier melt, snowmelt and groundwater, and has the potential to modify streamflow quantity and quality regimes. Changes in diversity and composition of water-source contributions, such as modifications to key physicochemical determinants (particularly water temperature and channel stability), will have significant implications for biotic communities. Aquatic organisms may be vulnerable to these changes and must either adapt physiologically and/or genetically, or migrate to more suitable habitats to persist; this is likely to impact species distribution and community structure of invertebrate and fish biodiversity.
Both stream systems show clear longitudinal patterns in macroinvertebrate communities and where groundwater flow is a significant contributor to streamflow, diversity and abundance is higher. Changes in source contributions are quantified by ionic composition and stable isotopes.
Alexander Milner and David Hannah (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham), and Lee Brown (School of Geography, University of Leeds) have been investigating these changes in two studies of Arctic stream systems: a five-year study of the glacier-fed Karsevagge system (near Abisko), Lappland, and a study that's just begun of the Bayelva system (near Ny Ålseund), Svalbard.
The Karsevagge system is unique because it includes two large lakes that should influence channel stability downstream and enhance water temperature. However, preliminary data indicates that this is not the case because of the apparent shallowness of the lakes, the rapid flow-through and the minimal increase in water temperature.
For more information on this research, please contact Alexander Milner.
Images: (Top) Gaging station on the Karsevagge; (bottom) Bayleva system. Back to top.
The Arctic Tern Migration Project website
publishes research results of the first-ever
scientific study to use tracking devices to follow a full annual cycle
of Arctic tern migration. The site includes background information on the bird, the migration study along
with maps and photos.