Conservation in the Arctic

Arctic flora and fauna benefit from international collaboration

 

Convened under the auspices of the Arctic Council, a programme for the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) provides for the collaboration of scientists, indigenous peoples and conservation managers on issues affecting the conservation and sustainable utilisation of shared species and habitats in the Arctic. The irregular, even quirky, boundary of the CAFF area extends mostly well south of the Arctic Circle and includes regions in North America at latitudes below those of northern Scotland.
 
The Circumpolar Seabird Working Group (CBIRD) was established within the CAFF programme in 1993Guillemot colony © Tim Dunn/JNCC and exists in order to inform CAFF activities in respect of seabirds, especially those in pursuance of the CAFF Strategic Plan for the Conservation of Arctic Biological Diversity. CBIRD comprises seabird specialists from the eight Arcticcountries and also from the UK. Although the UK only has observer status at the Arctic Council, it makes biological sense for it to contribute to Arctic conservation initiatives, including CBIRD. We have shared species and populations; there are more than 50 breeding seabird species in the Arctic (twice as many as in the UK), but of the 25 breeding species in the UK only six do not also breed in the Arctic, and of the 25 breeding seabirds in the Atlantic sector of the Arctic, only six do not breed in the UK. The north Atlantic is contiguous with the Arctic, and the threats to seabird populations are shared; consequently, it makes sense to pool our efforts in seabird conservation.
 
Over the last ten years, CBIRD has promoted seabird conservation very effectively, publishing two Conservation Strategies and Action Plans (for the eiders and for the guillemots), four technical reports, three posters, seven progress reports, and also a regular bulletin. Current initiatives include the objective of ensuring each country signs up and adheres to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation recommendations for reducing seabird bycatch in longlines, assessment of the problem of seabird bycatch in gillnets and monitoring seabird harvests. Most recently, and of direct relevance to UK interest, CBIRD is identifying the status, trends, migration and wintering areas, and conservation gaps, of birds that breed in the Arctic but winter outside the Arctic - Birds of Arctic Conservation Concern. JNCC makes a direct contribution to the proceedings of CBIRD, and actively collaborates in issues where the conservation and ecological issues demand UK participation. While the context within which the UK operates is often Europe, seabird populations at least need to be framed in other ecological contexts such as the north Atlantic or Arctic. Initiatives within the International Murre (Guillemot) Conservation Strategy and Action Plan that have benefited from the inclusion of JNCC Seabird Monitoring Programme data, are the production of maps and posters indicating guillemot migratory movements in the north-east Atlantic, similar outputs depicting guillemot distribution globally, the establishment of a global guillemot colony database, and a paper outlining the effects of global climate change on guillemot populations. Seabird ring recovery data from the UK, sponsored by JNCC under partnership with the BTO, have also been incorporated into a database of Arctic seabird migration patterns. So the collaboration, indeed partnership, between JNCC and Arctic seabird experts is proving to be most profitable, and one that is certainly valued by FCO Polar Regions.
 
With the imminent establishment of global monitoring networks for a variety of other taxa in addition to seabirds, for example, waders, Arctic char and vascular plants (though perhaps not the polar bear), opportunities for further UK participation in CAFF will present themselves.
 
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