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Arctic Biodiversity Assessment - Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010: Selected Indicators of Change Report

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
June 3, 2010


In 2008, the United Nations Environment Program passed a resolution expressing ‘extreme concern’ over the impacts of climate change on Arctic indigenous peoples, other communities, and biodiversity. It highlighted the potentially significant consequences of changes in the Arctic. The Arctic Biodiversity Trends – 2010: Selected Indicators of Change report provides evidence that some of those anticipated impacts on Arctic biodiversity are already occurring. Furthermore, although climate change is a pervasive stressor, multiple stressors, such as long range transport of contaminants, harvesting of wild species, and resource development are also impacting Arctic biodiversity.

- From Introduction of Key Findings of Arctic Biodiversity Trends – 2010: Selected Indicators of Change

The Arctic Council released a new report entitled Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010: Selected Indicators of Change on May 27, 2010. The report, published by the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) working group of the Arctic Council, synthesizes scientific findings on the status and trends for

22 indicators of change, including Arctic species, ecosystems, and ecosystem services.



Ecosystem Services

1. Polar bears

2. Wild reindeer and caribou

3. Shorebirds – red knot

4. Seabirds – murres (guillemots)

5. Seabirds – common eiders

6. Arctic char

7. Invasive species – human-induced

8. The Arctic Species Trend Index

9. Arctic genetic diversity

10. Arctic sea-ice systems

11. Greening of the Arctic

12. Reproductive phenology in

terrestrial ecosystems

13. Appearing and disappearing

lakes in the Arctic

14. Arctic peatlands

15. Effects of decreased

freshwater ice cover

duration on biodiversity

16. Changing distribution of

marine fish

17. Impacts of human

activities on benthic habitat

18. Reindeer herding

19. Seabird harvest

20. Changes in harvest

21. Changes in protected areas

22. Linguistic diversity

Polar bears are one of the 22 indicators included in Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010. Their range is limited to areas in which the sea is ice-covered for most of the year. They are therefore particularly vulnerable to decreases in sea ice. There are approximately 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in the wild, living in 19 subpopulations within the Arctic. The availability, reliability, and age of data on these subpopulations vary, but according to a 2009 assessment, one of the 19 subpopulations appears to be increasing in number, 3 are stable, and 8 are declining. Data are insufficient to provide an assessment of the other 7 subpopulations. Concerns for the future of this iconic species, and for the other 21 indicators, are discussed in the Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010 report.

Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010 is an Arctic Council contribution to the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity. A full scientific assessment building upon the report is currently in preparation and will be delivered to the Arctic Council in 2013.

The full report can be viewed and downloaded at

Distribution and current trend of polar bear subpopulations throughout the circumpolar Arctic

Date: 06/04/2010 Description: Distribution and current trend of polar bear subpopulations throughout the circumpolar Arctic. IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group. 2009. [Accessed 1 February 2010].
© IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group

Key findings in the report include:

  • Unique Arctic habitat for flora and fauna, including sea ice, tundra, lakes and ponds formed by thawing of permafrost, and permafrost peatlands have been disappearing over recent decades. As a result, species thriving in the Arctic today may not be able to survive there in the future.
  • Although the majority of Arctic species examined in this report are currently stable or increasing, some species of importance to Arctic people or species of global significance are declining.
  • Climate change is emerging as the most far-reaching and significant stressor on Arctic biodiversity. However, contaminants, habitat fragmentation, industrial development, and unsustainable harvest levels continue to have impacts. Complex interactions between climate change and other factors have the potential to magnify impacts on biodiversity.
  • Since 1991, the extent of protected areas in the Arctic has increased, although marine areas remain poorly represented.
  • Changes in Arctic biodiversity are creating both challenges and opportunities for Arctic peoples.
  • Long-term observations based on the best available traditional and scientific knowledge are required to identify changes in biodiversity, assess the implications of observed changes, and develop adaptation strategies.
  • Changes in Arctic biodiversity have global repercussions.

The Arctic Council, created in 1996, is a high level intergovernmental forum that promotes cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic States, in particular relating to sustainable development and environmental protection. Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants also are involved in the Council. Member States of the Arctic Council are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States.

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