e-CBMP Newsletter
Fall 2012
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Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program            Volume 6 Issue 2

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In This Issue
Letter From the Chair
Industry Monitoring Update
Partner News
Arctic Biodiversity Data Service (ABDS) Update

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TopFrom the Chair
Dear Friends,

Welcome back after your summer holidays and fieldwork!


On September 16, 2012, the Arctic sea ice extent totalled just 3.41 million square kilometres, the lowest since satellite records began. This is down from the previous low of 4.17 million square kilometres set in 2007, and about half of the 1979-2000 average (National Snow and ice Data Center). While this is beginning to have major implications for the region's wildlife (refer to the 2011 Arctic Report Cards and look for December's launch of the 2012 Arctic Report Cards for new examples), it is also opening up the Arctic to various industries including shipping, fishing, mining, and oil and gas exploration. Given that many of these industries collect information on biodiversity and the potential impacts of their operations, it becomes increasingly important to work with industry operating in the Arctic to keep the lines of communication open and investigate potential partnerships and information sharing.


This issue of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) Newsletter is dedicated to just that, providing a space for industries active in the Arctic to share some of their biodiversity research and monitoring efforts with the CBMP network. We welcome the contributions from Shell, British Petroleum, Sustainable Fishery Greenland and Alcoa. I trust that you will find this an interesting and informative departure from our typical newsletter format.


In addition you will find updates from our marine, freshwater and terrestrial groups, who are making excellent progress on the development and implementation of their respective Arctic Biodiversity Monitoring Plans. As well, an update on the continually developing CBMP Arctic Biodiversity Data Service is included.


The CBMP also looks forward to receiving nominations from the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists to identify early career experts in plankton, benthos, seabirds, marine mammals, fish and sea ice biota to help implement the CBMP's Arctic Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Plan.


Wishing you a productive and pleasant autumn,


Mike Gill, Chair
Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program


Industry and Monitoring in the Arctic


Oil exploration and production in the Arctic presents challenges around biodiversity, extreme temperatures, impacts of climate change, sea ice, remoteness and traditional knowledge and lifestyles of indigenous peoples to name a few. All these challenges need to be addressed in cooperation with local communities and in compliance with regulatory requirements.We assess possible impacts of oil and gas operations on biodiversity from a science perspective while recognizing that communities are often dependent on ecosystem services for their livelihood and culture. 
Shell works with many stakeholders, including strategic environmental and community development partners, who advise us on our projects. We also work with NGOs and academics to carry out integrated research and to identify critical habitats and engage independent scientific experts when developing Biodiversity Action Plans for projects operating within areas of high biodiversity value.

We have committed significant amounts of time and resources toward understanding baseline environmental conditions. Since 2006, in Alaska for instance, we have been part of establishing a comprehensive science program to collect information about biodiversity and the subsistence lifestyles that are unique to the Arctic. This research is expected to provide scientific building blocks for generations to come. Other major research projects taking place in various Arctic locations include:
  • Acoustic arrays to learn about whale migration and communication;
  • Tagging programs of walrus, seals, polar bears and western gray whales;
  • Use of aerial drones to ID marine mammals and observe ice conditions;
  • Use of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) for sea bottom inspection and ice thickness measurement;
  • Ice gouge and strudel scour surveys;
  • Coastal stability;
  • Water quality, sediment chemistry samples; and
  • Benthic Community Analyses
Continuous monitoring of our operations is essential to ensure we avoid, minimize and mitigate biodiversity impacts. We employ marine mammal and seabird observers on all our vessels and aircraft who have the authority to stop any operation if there is a potential wildlife conflict. We also carry out extensive monitoring of underwater sound and its effect on marine mammals to understand their behaviour in polar and cold-water areas. This monitoring is providing ground-breaking scientific research. Together with other operators we have agreed with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that we will make all scientific studies in Alaska available in the public domain.

This article only shows the tip of the iceberg of Shell's commitment to responsible operations in the Arctic, a unique region that needs to be treated with the utmost care by all its stakeholders.
Oil rig. Photo: Shell
Offshore oil rig. Photo, Shell
Indigenous community members. Photo: Shell
Aerial photo whales. Photo: Shell

Contact: Robert Blaauw: Senior Advisor Global Arctic Theme, Shell International Exploration and Production B.V.




British Petroleum: Long term ecological monitoring reports

Fish sampling crew, Photo: BP
Fish sampling crew, Photo: BP


British Petroleum (BP)P has worked on the Alaskan North Slope for more than four decades. Throughout, the company has supported studies on birds, fish, seals, whales, foxes, caribou, bears, and vegetation. Results have been published in reports, technical journals, and books. The work fulfils both regulatory requirements and the company's environmental stewardship aspirations. Importantly, the work is done in collaboration with or under contract to government scientists, NGO scientists, academic scientists, and consultants. Some projects run for no more than a few field seasons. Others, however, have continued for many years. For example, BP has sampled fish in and around Prudhoe Bay since 1981, resulting in a dataset that, among other things, shed light on the life cycle and migration of Arctic cisco (Coregonus autumnalis). 

Long-term Ecological Monitoring in BP's North Slope Oil Fields report


Recognizing the importance of long-term studies in a changing Arctic, and understanding that the detailed findings from each project would be neither accessible nor comprehensible to many non-specialists, in 2006 BP began compiling a summary of all long-term studies its  "Long-term Ecological Monitoring in BP's North Slope Oil Fields" report, usually published annually. The report is written to allow a quick, basic snapshot of trends over time, but each chapter ends with detailed references. 


From the outset, BP has hoped to see the report inspire a collaborative effort across the entire North Slope, perhaps filling information gaps while also identifying trends that warrant more intensive study or changes in management practices. For copies of the most recent summary report, please contact Bill Streever. 


Contact: Bill Streever, Environmental Studies Leader, British Petroleum, Alaska 





Sustainable Fishery Greenland (SFG) is an association among fishing companies, fish processors and organizations in Greenland. SFG  works for a sustainable fishery in Greenlandic waters, and the primary goal is to achieve MSC-certification of the prawn fishery. The major stakeholders in SFG are Polar Seafood, Royal Greenland and KNAPK (The Association of Fishermen and Hunters).


Over the last four years, substantial improvements in the management of the prawn fishery has been obtained, and the knowledge about the environmental impact of the fishery has been dramatically enhanced, all of this with the purpose of meeting the MSC standard. 


Arctic seabed. Photo: Kristy Kemp
Arctic seabed, research efforts by Sustainable Fisheries Greenland. 
Photo: Kirsty Kemp

This has inspired two industry-governed research programs. The first is a three year research of the seabed, started in 2011 and carried out by Zoological Museum in London in corporation with the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources. In this study, bottom photography and substrate samples are taken during the yearly prawn survey on both trawled and un-trawled areas to get an indication of fishing impact and to improve knowledge of what can be encountered in terms of corals and sponges. Pictures and samples are analyzed and substrate identified.


Research vessel used for Sustainable Fisheries Greenland activities. Photo: Kirsty Kemp
Research vessel used for  Sustainable Fisheries Greenland activities.  Photo: Kirsty Kemp


The second is a Ph.D. study, economically also supported by the government of Greenland. This study started in 2012, and the objectives are to define Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VME) in a Greenlandic context, do surveys to identify VMEs in a closed area and try to work with trawl cameras on commercial vessels. This study will take four years.


By initiating research programs, SFG will be able to answer some of the requests raised in the MSC standard, but the outcome should also be considered a help to improve general knowledge and to manage the fishery in a more sustainable way.


Contact: Lisbeth Due Schonemann-Paul: Corporate Sustainability and Environmental Manager, Royal Greenland




Baseline studies and consultation regarding Alcoa's aluminium project in Greenland


Community consultation with fishermen. Photo: Alcoa

In 2007, Alcoa began evaluating the feasibility for an approximately 340,000 metric ton per year aluminium smelter and related hydroelectric power facility in southwestern Greenland.  


The first step in this process was the development of a Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment, led by the Government of Greenland, which evaluated the overall sustainability of the proposed project and how it could affect environmental and social conditions within Greenland as a whole and at numerous alternative sites for the project.


After extensive public input on the Strategic Environmental Assessment, a site near the town of Maniitsoq, western Greenland, was chosen for detailed study by Alcoa through an Environmental, Social, and Health Impact Assessment. Alcoa employed a highly participatory approach to the impact assessment, building on the results and stakeholder involvement from the Strategic Environmental Assessment.  Extensive baseline studies covered ecology (caribou, Arctic char, goose, rare plants,breeding birds), cultural resources, social (natural resource livelihood, human health, socio-economic), and physical sciences (geology, hydrology, and meteorology). Many of the studies were conducted by Greenlandic and Danish specialists and involved participation by and/or consultation with local citizens.  Modelled after Alcoa and Landsvirkjun's Sustainability Initiative for the Alcoa Fjardaal smelter in east Iceland, Alcoa, in partnership with the Government of Greenland, led an extensive public consultation effort to engage interested local, national, and international stakeholders to identify the key sustainability issues in western Greenland, determine how the proposed Project could influence these issues, and identify ways that the proposed Project, either by itself or through partnerships with other stakeholders, could contribute to the sustainable development of the region.  

Baseline studies on caribou. Photo: Alcoa


The project is currently on hold awaiting decisions from the Government of Greenland and Alcoa. Should the Project proceed, work will resume on the Environmental, Social, and Health Impact Assessment and sustainability initiative and should be completed within a year of re-engagement. 


Contact: Kristján Halldórsson, Alcoa Inc.


CBMP News, Events & Initiatives


Arctic Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Plan: Communications products
marine plan brochure: click to download
Marine plan brochure: click for more information

 Watch the video on YouTube here

The CAFF International Secretariat has produced an Arctic Marine Biodiversity Marine Plan brochure to help introduce the Plan to audiences not already familiar with it. Ideally, the brochure will be given out at various meetings and events for community members, citizen scientists and voluntary monitoring groups.

The CAFF International Secretariat has produced an Arctic Marine Biodiversity Motioning Plan scientific poster to help members of the Marine Steering Group and Marine Expert Networks present during conferences and scientific events.


Marine poster: Click for more information
Marine poster: Click for more information

A similar suite of products will be produced

 for the freshwater and terrestrial monitoring groups.  


If you would like to receive high resolution versions (for print purposes) of the brochure and poster for presentations or events, please contact Courtney. 


Contact: Courtney Price, CAFF Communications Officer





3rd Terrestrial Monitoring Group workshop: Akureyri, Iceland

Attendees of the TEMG workshop in Akureyri, Iceland, September 2012
Attendees of the TEMG workshop in Akureyri, Iceland, September 2012


The Terrestrial Expert Monitoring Group (TEMG), and few invited experts, met in Akureyri, Iceland September 10-12 to discuss the development of the Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Monitoring Plan. The primary purpose was to develop a final outline, authorship and timeline of the Plan. The workshop was informed by the approaches already undertaken by the marine and freshwater expert groups.


The workshop began with a plenary review of the TEMG status. Participants detailed key objectives and monitoring questions and used this information to inform further workshop activities. The thematic groups (vegetation, mammals, birds, invertebrates, fungi) provided updates and it was decided that these thematic groups would continue to develop their work on sampling designs to be detailed in the Plan.


Participants then organized into breakout groups and discussed the various chapters of the Plan. There was focus on continuing the work in the thematic groups  and further development of detailed outlines to the sampling design chapter. Some breakout sessions were composed to ensure the production of the other chapters (e.g. approach, data, samples and information analysis, reporting, administration and implementation).


Mike Gill and Hallur Gunarsson presented on the status and development of the Arctic Biodiversity Data Service, an an online, interoperable and circumpolar data management system that will access, integrate, analyze and display biodiversity information for scientists, practitioners, managers, policy makers and others working to understand, conserve and manage the Arctic's wildlife and ecosystems.


The CAFF Secretariat and Icelandic TEMG representative hosted a dinner reception.


Contact: Tom Christensen and John Payne co-lead Terrestrial Monitoring Group  





The CBMP's Freshwater Expert Monitoring Group's "Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Monitoring Plan" was approved by the CAFF Board. It is now undergoing a final layout and will be released soon.

Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Monitoring Plan Framework Document Cover
Framework document for the Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Monitoring Plan


The Plan addresses the challenging issues that Arctic freshwater monitoring must include such as the large diversity of Arctic freshwater ecosystems, varying levels of stressor impacts across the Arctic, lack of historical baseline research and monitoring coordination, and poor among-country standardization of sampling protocols. 


The document describes a framework for monitoring the biodiversity of Arctic lakes and rivers and identifies important physical, chemical and biological factors to measure so that the present status and future state of Arctic freshwater biodiversity is recorded and assessed. The parameters of primary focus for the monitoring framework are classified by Focal Ecosystem Components (FECs), which are biotic or abiotic factors that are ecologically pivotal, charismatic and/or sensitive to changes in biodiversity. FECs are placed in the context of expected ecosystem change through the development of testable impact hypotheses (or predictions) that outline a cause-effect framework regarding how change in environmental and anthropogenic stressors is expected to affect FECs. These prediction statements provide both guidelines for future scientific data collection and a focus for management decision-making. 


The plan will be activated in January 2013 with a State of the Environment report for circumpolar freshwaters planned for completion by March 2016. An overview of the plan has been accepted for publication as part of a special issue of the journal, Biodiversity.


 Contact: Joseph Culp and Willem Goedkoop, co-leads, Freshwater Expert Monitoring Group


Partner News


CAFF and APECS are looking for early career scientists to participate in the CBMP  


CAFF has teamed up with the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) to provide early career scientists with an excellent opportunity to become involved in CAFF's Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP). 


CAFF has asked APECS to nominate representatives to participate in the CBMP, an international network of scientists, government agencies, Indigenous organizations and conservation groups working together to harmonize and integrate efforts to monitor the Arctic's living resources.


CBMP experts are developing four coordinated and integrated Arctic Monitoring Plans to help guide circumpolar monitoring efforts. Results will be channelled into effective conservation, mitigation and adaptation policies supporting the Arctic. These plans represent the Arctic's major ecosystems:

APECS is asked to nominate representative's to help implement the Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Plan within each of the following expert groups:

  • Plankton
  • Benthos
  • Seabirds
  • Marine mammals
  • Fish
  • Sea ice biota

Find out more about the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Plan.


The role of early career scientists would be to assist in the tasks of aggregating and analysing the data within each expert network which would then subsequently be published and presented in assessments with key findings to the Arctic Council.  Early career scientists would gain experience of working on an international level and also on bridging science and policy, gain experience and insight into how science can inform policy and much more.


If you are a PhD student or PostDoc working on one of the themes mentioned above and are interested in these great opportunities, then please email info@apecs.is with a single PDF of a statement of interest, noting your research interests, experience and your CV by 10 November 2012. 


The CARMA website has moved and is undergoing an update
CARMA homepage
The CARMA website has recently moved. CARMA information can now be accessed from: www.caff.is/carma. The previous URL www.carmanetwork.com will remain active and redirect you to new content.
Now that the CARMA Network website has found a new home, CARMA is actively updating the information so visit often.

Contact: Don Russell, CARMA Network



Arctic Biodiversity Data Service release: information available now, with more to come


The Arctic Biodiversity Data Service (ABDS) is CAFF and the CBMP's online, interoperable and circumpolar data management system that will access, integrate, analyze and display biodiversity information for scientists, practitioners, managers, policy makers and others working to understand, conserve and manage the Arctic's wildlife and ecosystems.


The site was released at the International Polar Year (IPY) 2012 Knowledge to Action Conference and is in its initial stages with data already available and datasets being added as they become available. Data provided will include data in various formats e.g. shape files, maps, graphs, publications and tabular data.  


The site will provide the ability to explore data by species, stressors, indices and networks. For each species ABDS links to relevant websites as well as providing data in various formats, including a data link to relevant graphs from the Arctic Species Trend Index. 


Learn more about the ABDS.




Data additions to date


ABDS "Explore species"



  • Arctic Species Trend Index (ASTI): an index that tracks trends in over 300 Arctic vertebrate species. 
  • Seabird Information Network (SIN): focuses on the development of a data entry and analysis portal system that will allow for circumpolar seabird colony information to be contributed, mapped, and shared by scientists and monitoring programs around the Arctic.
Contact: Hallur Gunnarsson, CAFF Data Manager, and Mike Gill, CBMP Chair