Protecting and strengthening the Arctic’s ecosystems has been a priority for the Council during Canada’s Chairmanship…

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With its harsh climate and unique living conditions, the Arctic is home to many species of flora and fauna, and plays host to many others that migrate to the region throughout the year. In recent decades, environmental stressors such as climate change, pollution, disturbances, and habitat degradation have had an impact on the very fabric of Arctic ecosystems. As such, protecting and strengthening the Arctic’s ecosystems has been a priority for the Council during Canada’s chairmanship. The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) working group has completed important work to further biodiversity conservation in the Arctic.

The 2013 Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA) was a landmark assessment that synthesized and assessed the status and trends of biological diversity in the Arctic and provided 17 recommendations for biodiversity. To offer guidance on implementing these recommendations, CAFF has developed the Actions for Arctic Biodiversity 2013-2021: Implementing the recommendations of the ABA. This is a comprehensive action plan for implementing the recommendations from the ABA that will guide the Council’s biodiversity work in the coming years. CAFF also hosted the December 2014 Arctic Biodiversity Congress in Trondheim, Norway to engage the wider Arctic community in these efforts. The Congress brought together 450 scientists, policy-makers, government officials, indigenous peoples, students, industry and civil society representatives to discuss challenges facing Arctic biodiversity and actions for conservation and sustainable use of the Arctic’s living resources.

A priority initiative during Canada’s chairmanship, the Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative (AMBI) implements one of the recommendations of the ABA. It aims to improve the status of priority species of Arctic breeding migratory birds along their migratory routes both inside and outside the Arctic. A four-year work plan has been prepared that covers four flyways and identifies on-the-ground actions to improve the conservation status of priority species.

The Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme (CBMP) is a key on-going program that provides harmonized and integrated biodiversity monitoring information to the Arctic Council and other international forums. This program delivers an overall Strategic Plan, national implementation reports and annual reports on the progress of the program’s freshwater, marine and terrestrial monitoring plans, a Land Cover Change Index progress report and other materials.

Released in fall 2013, Life Linked to Ice: A guide to sea-ice-associated biodiversity in this time of rapid change examines the consequences for biodiversity of the dramatic changes occurring to sea ice and offers recommendations. It builds on previous Arctic Council assessments to improve the state of knowledge in this area.

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All of the above-mentioned reports will be available to the public after the Iqaluit 2015 Ministerial meeting being held on April 24-25, 2015.

CAFF's mandate is to address the conservation of Arctic biodiversity, and to communicate its findings to the governments and residents of the Arctic, helping to promote practices which ensure the sustainability of the Arctic’s living resources. CAFF’s projects provide data for informed decision making to resolve challenges arising from trying to conserve the natural environment and permit regional growth.

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Photo: Ron Knight, CC BY