By Falk Huettmann and Sue Hazlett
The Arctic represents a region of the globe directly affected by climate change, human disturbance and natural variation. In addition to acting as the global weather machine, it is considered one of the last remaining “wilderness” areas. However, the warming of the Arctic, a prospect of an ice-free maritime route across the top of the world, and the International Polar Year (IPY), has piqued an interest in the Arctic not previously seen. Prospects of shipping routes, tourism, oil and gas development, and new commercial fisheries have started a land rush by various nations to claim a piece of the northern oceans. The Arctic is in danger of being given away piecemeal as each nation asserts claims and then rushes to develop or exploit their territory to aid in establishing ownership. A wider public discussion on the protection and management of this unique zone has not happened, and despite, or perhaps because of, globalization, protection is still difficult to implement. So far, if at all, only haphazard conservation measures have been considered. Most lack either focus, enforcement, or a performance review. The recent listing of polar bears in the US is a prime example, and Alaska is in the process of appealing the listing for fear protection will interfere with oil development and related transportation in the Alaskan Arctic. Other species in decline include the ivory gull, thick-billed murres, Kittlitz’s murrelets, some eider duck species, various shorebirds, and Arctic cod. Many other crucial components of the Arctic biodiversity have not even been assessed, calling for the Precautionary Principle, as promoted by IUCN. Science-based adaptive management, a management method widely suggested to attain sustainability, has not been applied to the Arctic. In our presentation we describe and assess the existing protection schema, and the pros and cons of increased protection in the Arctic, as well as how it links with global sustainability in monetary, biodiversity, and other terms. We are in a strong position to do this assessment because for the first time, we were able to assemble over 45 data sets in a consistent format and as GIS layers for the entire circumpolar Arctic (see list at the end of this post).
So what would be the best level of protection for the Arctic and how would this be accomplished? With the Antarctic Treaty for instance, half of the Polar regions have basically been protected for decades. In contrast, few Arctic conservation zones exist, and they were virtually derived ad hoc, without any relevant principles of democratic governance and management practices. There has consistently been a history among nations of protecting ‘rock and ice’, and most current protected areas within the Arctic are of this type. If individual nations are each left to decide the level and area of protected areas, this concept would likely be the case for any future mandated protection. Many decisions were made without proper data and driven by specific agendas. Promotion of economic growth and nationalism have driven management decisions in the Arctic rather than a consideration of biodiversity, indigenous people and potential ecological services. As more development occurs, protection appears to continue to be an ad hoc process that would just protect an area with no perceived economic value. This is also true if protection is mandated to a certain percentage of the overall Arctic, or of each country’s territory (the Rio Convention figure is a meager 10%). It is known from elsewhere that a small fragmented network of conservation features does not achieve well. The purpose of our presentation is to put forth the concept of considering the Arctic as an entire ecosystem, take long-distance animal migration and energy flows into account, and propose the proper use of Strategic Conservation Planning to implement conservation plans on an international level before wholesale development of the Arctic begins.
As an example of such strategic planning, we propose using a MARXAN optimization modeling analysis. MARXAN has been widely applied in many countries and types of marine ecosystems for creating marine protected areas (MPAs). Using some basic scenarios, the model helps finding the best available distributions of protected zones given the specified inputs for each scenario to satisfy the large amount of stakeholders. Data used in the model were taken from various research publications that mapped ranges of arctic species, oceanic conditions, and human impacts in the Arctic, for a total 45 circumpolar GIS layers (see list at the end of this post).
20% Viable Seabirds & their Habitats
10% Economy & Ecology Compromise
Images above: Scenario results (Draft1) of a MARXAN run for the optimization of a) Protection of Seabirds (Ivory Gulls and Thick-billed Murres) and their relevant Habitats, and b) 10% compromise between General Economy and Ecology. Red cells indicate highest priorities to achieve goals.
However, such tools are only a first step and require further fine-tuning, approval and use by various governments, stakeholders and legislation. We would highly welcome the wider public discussion, challenge and update of our modeling work. It is extremely likely that developing the Arctic will involve the loss of species, habitats, and sustainability detrimental to existing legislation. We are proposing that the real legacy of the International Polar Year is indeed a large protected circumpolar park that achieves the larger sustainability goals in the framework of adaptive management. Science-based adaptive management of Arctic resources can only be achieved when based on sound and mutually accepted data. Such a database, presented at a central web portal, still needs to be assembled and constantly be improved. It can only go hand-in-hand with high-quality monitoring efforts that feed into such efforts and link directly with policy.
We conclude that an immediate large-scale protection (e.g. over 30%) of Arctic resources is warranted, and that the business as usual outlook in the mid- and long-term future will be devastating for most national Arctic resources and destroying global resilience. Thus, adding protection to Arctic management is not only a best professional practice, in full agreement with the original sprit of the conservation laws, or an ideology, but an inherent part of a global survival strategy.
Below is a list of circumpolar data sets compiled by the authors and that inform the Marxan runs of this investigation (for the images above)
Number & Data Set Name:
3: Human Settlements
4: Mean Ice Cover
5: Sea surface salinity
6: Sea surface temperature
7: Phosphate concentration on sea surface
8: Silicate concentration on sea surface
9: Ocean currents
10: Bioclimate zones
11: Arctic physiological zones
12: Travel- and Shipping routes
13: Current areas of interest to fishing industry
14: Future areas of interest to fishing industry
15: Predicted distribution of Zooplankton (Calanus glacialis)
16: Predicted distribution of Zooplankton (Calanus hyperboreus)
17: Predicted distribution of Zooplankton (Metridia longa)
18: Predicted distribution of Zooplankton (Metridia pacifica)
20: Areas if interest to Oil & Gas Exploration
21: Bearded Seal distribution
22: Ringed Seal distribution
23: Known Ringed Seal pup sites
24: Narwhale distribution
25: Walruss distribution
26: Polar Bear distribution
27: Orca distribution
28: Beluga whale distribution
29: Known Beluga autumn concentration sites
30: Known Bluewhale migration corridors
31: Known Finwhale migration corridors
32: Land area
33: Known marine biodiversity hotspots (ArcOD)
34: Known Arctic biodiversity hotspots
35: Large Lakes
36: Major Rivers
37: Muskoxen distribution
38: Ivory Gull distribution
39: Major Thick-billed Murre colonies
40: Protected Areas
41: Known Bird flyways
42: Sites of known nuclear pollution
43: Sites of known Caesium pollution
44: Sites of known PAH pollution
45: Planning Units (100km)
This text is currently in review with the 2008 Beringia Days Proceedings, where it was presented last week.
-EWHALE lab- Biology and Wildlife Department, Institute of Arctic Biology
419 IRVING I, University of Alaska Fairbanks AK 99775-7000 USA
Phone 907 474 7882 Fax 907 474 6716
School of Fisheries and Ocean Science
147A O’Neill Building, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK 99775
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Tuesday, 21 October 2008 22:33
Changing the Arctic: Adding Immediate Protection to the EquationWritten by Guest Contributor
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