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Expanding local environmental observation efforts in the Arctic

Arctic Council Working Group ACAP (Arctic Contaminants Action Program) is working to expand the local environmental observer network, currently operating in North America, around the circumpolar Arctic. Read about their recent workshop...

During 16-19 January 2017, the city of Kiruna – a mining community in Swedish Lapland – hosted two Arctic Council meetings. A regular meeting of the Arctic Council’s Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) was preceded by the second Circumpolar Local Environmental Observer (CLEO) Workshop, devoted to a corresponding ACAP-driven initiative. The first CLEO workshop took place in Inari, Finland, on 1-3 June 2016.

The goal of the CLEO project is to build on the success of the Alaska-based Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network, which is a community-based monitoring network for rural areas, and develop the foundation for a Circumpolar Local Environmental Observer (CLEO) Network.

The Arctic region is facing rapid changes, and indigenous communities are usually the first to notice impacts of climate change and other developments in the region as they have lived in the area for centuries and have accumulated traditional ecological and local knowledge, which helps them to understand their environment. The CLEO Network can become a handy tool connecting the holders of this knowledge, eyewitnesses to different changes happening in the Arctic, and scientists and policymakers. Together, they can develop adaptation strategies that will benefit communities across the circumpolar North.

Members of the LEO Network (and the possible CLEO Network) can document their observations with the help of a mobile app for handheld devices, called LEO Reporter. LEO Reporter is a global map and data interface that allows observers to post observations through text and imagery. LEO Reporter was designed and tested in rural Alaska to provide robust field reporting capabilities even in the most remote areas.

Delegates at the Kiruna workshop followed up on the success of the meeting in Inari and discussed different models and practices of local environmental observation that exist in the Nordic countries. Such practices include: joint monitoring of climate change by reindeer herders and researchers (Laevas Reindeer Herding Community and Tarfala Research Station); joint management of protected areas by local Saami communities and state authorities (Laponia National Park); environmental observations and waste monitoring in a Kiruna school project; community-based water quality observations (Finland); and the Snowchange Cooperative, which was established in late 2000 to document and work with local and indigenous communities of the Northern regions.

Finland, Norway, and Sweden, as well as Saami representatives, expressed great interest in further development of the CLEO Network and discussed how they could contribute to the process.

The workshop was attended by representatives from Finland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, the United States of America, the Aleut International Association (AIA), the Saami Council and other Saami institutions, the Association of World Reindeer Herders (AWRH), the Laponia World Heritage Area, the Kiruna community and Working Group ACAP.