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Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) Newsletter

Message from the CBMP Co-chairs

We are pleased to share CBMP's third "State of the Arctic Biodiversity Report” – this time focused on the terrestrial environment – along with the 2020 updates to the State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report, released in 2017. The similarity of findings across CBMP's assessments in the terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems is striking. Climate change impacts to Arctic flora and fauna are evident, with examples of changing habitats, species declining and new species moving into the Arctic, changes in arctic ecosystems, and altered phenology accounting for pronounced vulnerabilities across these environments. Requests for more integrated monitoring, better use of emerging monitoring methods, standardized and harmonized approaches to monitoring and data management, promoting efficient use and dissemination of information, and the importance of meaningfully collaborating with Indigenous Knowledge holders and those with local knowledge are loud and clear. Meanwhile, CBMP's work is proceeding on the coastal ecosystem.


Mindful of these challenges, we are also excited to share the 2021–2025 CBMP Strategic Plan, developed with input from the Arctic states and Permanent Participants and delivered to the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Arctic States this month. It describes three goals, 13 objectives, and numerous activities to ensure that CBMP is relevant, adaptive, and sustainable in the years to come.


As it becomes increasingly important to have the best possible information on the status and trends of biodiversity in the Arctic environment, we hope you will join us by sharing this information with others, providing us your feedback, and contributing your ideas or expertise where you can.


Tom Christensen CBMP Co-chair (Kingdom of Denmark)

Catherine Coon CBMP Co-chair (U.S.)

Climate change "squeezing" Arctic animals and plants described in State of the Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Report

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Arctic plants, insects, birds and land mammals are experiencing wide ranging and diverse effects from climate change. The timing of key life events, changing habitats, and the introduction of new predators and potentially new diseases are among the impacts described in a new CBMP report based on long-term biodiversity monitoring from around the Arctic.

Species from southern ecosystems, such as red fox, moose, and voles are moving into the Arctic, and are expected to push Arctic species northwards, creating an “Arctic squeeze.”

Although the population-level effects are unknown at this time, changing frequency, intensity, and timing of extreme weather events such as winter rain and thaws make it hard for some species such as lemmings and caribou/reindeer to access food. Increased frequency of heavy rain events, and warm temperatures causing massive blackfly outbreaks, have killed Arctic peregrine falcon chicks.

Changes cascading through the ecosystem and may affect services that nature provides for people, such as pollination, nutrient cycling, and food. Changes in culturally-important food resources have implications for the food security and cultures of Indigenous Peoples and Arctic residents.

The State of the Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Report – third in CBMP's "State of the Arctic" series – was developed with by the CBMP-Terrestrial group with nearly 200 contributors. See the full report, video, summary of key findings, and data.

First Updates to the State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report

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The Circumpolar Seabird Expert Group (CBird), within CBMP-Marine, and the Marine Mammals Expert Network released their first update reports on eight seabird and 11 Arctic endemic marine mammal species since the 2017 State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report (SAMBR).

The Marine mammal group found that direct and indirect impacts of climate warming continue to be the primary threat to marine mammals in the Arctic; and that insufficient monitoring regionally and across taxonomic groups, makes it impossible to present a holistic assessment of status and trends of Arctic endemic mammals; trends for 66% of stocks are currently unknown.

CBird reports that all eight species monitored in the SAMBR continue to be impacted by climate-driven changes to food supplies and retreating sea ice, and possibly fisheries bycatch in some locations. Data from 2016–2019 show that broad population declines continue to be recorded in the Atlantic Arctic, where monitoring data tend to be most complete, particularly for kittiwakes and both species of murres. Common eiders, although generally doing well throughout all regions, changed from increasing to decreasing in two regions of the Atlantic Arctic. Some previously declining small populations of ivory gulls now appear stable, even while larger populations have declined in the Kara and Laptev Seas.


CBird representatives and collaborators also worked with CAFF's Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative (AMBI) to develop a series of reports on seabirds and plastics:

CBMP-Coastal begins work with a co-production of knowledge platform

Arctic coastal states are launching their Coastal Expert Networks to gather the science, Indigenous Knowledge, and local knowledge needed to implement the Arctic Coastal Biodiversity Monitoring Plan. In a new approach for CBMP, CBMP-Coastal's circumpolar products will be developed with a co-production of knowledge platform that uses both Indigenous Knowledge and science knowledge to understand and communicate changes in Arctic coastal biodiversity.  

The first circumpolar product will be a map of the seven coastscapes the group has defined to describe areas with similar habitats due to the combination of physiographic features and terrestrial, marine, and freshwater processes. Subsequent map layers will inventory ongoing biodiversity monitoring programs and knowledge sources from science, Indigenous Knowledge, and other local sources. The CBMP-Coastal Implementation Plan 2020-2022 provides more detail about these ongoing activities.

CBMP-Freshwater continues call for increased monitoring, promotes harmonized sampling

After highlighting impacts of climate change and development to freshwater biodiversity around the Arctic in the 2019 State of the Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Report, CBMP-Freshwater is taking steps to improve understanding of ecosystem changes by promoting harmonized monitoring across the Arctic. A summary of sample methods is underway, leading towards a handbook of standardized freshwater monitoring methods for the Arctic.


A special journal issue describing CBMP-Freshwater's is forthcoming in 2021, though several articles are already available. The Applied Ecologist has highlighted the group's assessment of freshwater monitoring around the region. The latest annual report and workplan provides more information on ongoing and planned activities.

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Implementing CBMP monitoring plans in the field

Working with INTERACT – the International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic – CBMP developed an online tool to guide users through the stages needed to implement CBMP Freshwater and Terrestrial monitoring plans at INTERACT stations.

This tool will be updated based on new monitoring developments, priorities, and lessons learned. A FEC Search Tool allows the user to search through the Focal Ecosystem Components (FEC) identified in the Freshwater and Terrestrial Monitoring.


Extreme events and their impacts on Arctic freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems

CBMP is reviewing literature on the effects of extreme weather events on biodiversity in Arctic freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. Extreme events are a key facet of climate change research, with impacts on biodiversity expected to be particularly severe in the Arctic. Scientific research has focused primarily on the impacts of single events, with less attention given to long-term recovery. Recommendations were made to bridge current knowledge gaps by taking advantage of the CBMP; however there is a need to:

  • better define what is considered extreme in terms of events and ecological impacts,
  • move beyond single-impact studies and spatial scales of observation, and
  • consider predictive modelling to address ecosystem-level impacts.

A journal article is forthcoming.

Arctic Biodiversity Data Service (ABDS)

Check out the ABDS where data generated through the CBMP is archived and accessible. The ABDS is the Arctic Node in UNESCOs Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS); and a node within the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).

Photo credits listed in order of appearance: Lawrence Hislop; Einar Guðmann,; Danita; Sigríður Kristinsdóttir; Efimova Anna/; Lawrence Hislop; Vladimir Yakolev