Report says prepare for uncertain future

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The State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity The State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report, released in May in Fairbanks, Alaska, at the Arctic Council ministerial meeting, identifies trends in key marine species and points to important gaps in biodiversity monitoring efforts across key ecosystem components in: sea ice biota, plankton, benthos, marine fishes, seabirds and marine mammals.

Key Findings include:

  • Food resources being lost for many Arctic species in Arctic marine environments;
  • Some Arctic species shifting their ranges northwards to seek more favourable  conditions as the Arctic warms;
  • Northward movement easier for more mobile open-water species;
  • Increasing numbers and diversity of southern species moving into Arctic waters;
  • Species reliant on sea ice for reproduction, resting or foraging experiencing range  reductions as sea ice retreat occurs earlier and the open water season is prolonged;
  • Arctic marine species and ecosystems undergoing pressure from cumulative changes in their physical, chemical and biological environment; and
  • Increases in the frequency of contagious diseases.
  • Changes in these species are likely to indicate changes in the overall marine environment. While some of these changes may be gradual, the Report notes, there may also be “large and sudden shifts,” that could affect how the Arctic marine ecosystem functions.

The Report tasks those charged with managing natural resources and public policy in the Arctic, “to identify the combined effects of stressors and potential thresholds to prepare effectively for an uncertain future.”