e-CBMP Newsletter
Spring 2010
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Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program            Volume 3 Issue 1

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

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TopFrom the Chair
Dear Friends,

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 future.


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 freshwater ecosystems.


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

FEMGFormation 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.

The 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 ecosystems.

A summary of the FEMG's goals and objectives will be presented at the
June International Polar Year Science Conference in Oslo, Norway.


CdnMtgCanadian Freshwater Experts Meet to Discuss Monitoring Strategies for the Arctic

To kick start the CBMP FEMG Vict MtgFreshwater 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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ASTICBMP Releases the Arctic Species Trend Index Report
Caribou Calf
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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Events & Initiatives 
Partner NewsTop2OCFIPY Project in the Old Crow Flats, Yukon

Yeendoo 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.blueberries

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 wildlife abundance.

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.

USGS2U.S. Geological Survey, Yukon River Basin Studies

USGS Yukon River BasinThe 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.

NWTClimate Variability and Change, and Tundra Lakes in the Northwest Territories, Canada

The 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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dvcDolly 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:

  • Char 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).

  • The 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.

  • Declines 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).

  • Pre-COSEWIC 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.

  • A 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.

LAACPLakes of Alaska's Arctic Coastal Plain

Arctic Grayling Photo: Wikipedia/AKSmithFrom 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, Inc.)

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FISTSFish in Small Tundra Streams

Fish presence 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, Inc.)
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ArcticStreamsClimate 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., Karsevagge system 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.
Karsevagge system
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.

New Resources
TernThe 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.