Management and conservation of wildlife in the Arctic

August 2, 2012, 3:47 pm
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This is Section 11.2 of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment
Lead Author: David R. Klein; Contributing Authors: Leonid M. Baskin, Lyudmila S. Bogoslovskaya, Kjell Danell, Anne Gunn, David B. Irons, Gary P. Kofinas, Kit M. Kovacs, Margarita Magomedova, Rosa H. Meehan, Don E. Russell, Patrick Valkenburg

Background (11.2.1)

The term "wildlife" is used in this chapter in the modern sense inclusive, relevant to the Arctic, of non-domesticated birds and mammals living primarily in natural habitats in both terrestrial and marine environments. Wildlife management is an applied science that had its main development in continental Europe and North America. Aldo Leopold pioneered the development of modern, science-based wildlife management in the United States early in the 20th century, publishing in 1933 the first college-level text on wildlife management[2]. The initial focus of wildlife management was on species hunted or harvested by humans and has been parallel to, but distinct from, fishery management. Where practiced in most countries of the world today, however, it encompasses all aspects of conservation of wildlife species (including amphibians and reptiles) whether hunted or not, and encompasses harvest regulation, habitat protection and enhancement, wildlife population inventory and monitoring, and related ecosystem dynamics and research. Aldo Leopold’s writings on environmental ethics and philosophy[3] have also played a major role in the developing conservation and environmental movements following the Second World War.

Wildlife provided the foundation for the establishment of people and the development of their cultures in the Arctic. Wildlife was the primary source of food for humans living in the Arctic, and provided materials for clothing, shelter, fuel, tools, and other cultural items. Arctic-adapted cultures show similarity but also diversity in their dependency on specific species of wildlife. Caribou and reindeer, both the wild and semi-domesticated forms (all are the same species, Rangifer tarandus, reindeer being the term used for the Eurasian forms, and caribou for those native to North America), are of primary importance to most inland dwelling peoples throughout the Arctic. Marine mammals support indigenous peoples in coastal areas of the Arctic. Birds are also important in the annual cycle of subsistence harvest of wildlife in most arctic environments. Many wildlife species of the Arctic that are migratory, especially birds, but also marine mammals and some caribou and wild reindeer herds, are dependent during part of their annual life cycles on ecosystems outside the Arctic. As a consequence, efforts to ensure the conservation and sustainable human harvests of migratory species require management and conservation efforts that extend beyond the Arctic. The indigenous peoples of the Arctic include the marine mammal hunting Iñupiaq and Inuit of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland; the Dene who hunt the caribou herds of arctic Canada; the hunting, fishing, and reindeer herding Saami of the arctic regions of Fennoscandia and adjacent Russia; the reindeer herding and woodland hunting Dolgans of the central Siberian Arctic; and nearly twenty other cultural groups present throughout the circumpolar region (see Chapter 12).

Past climate changes have had major influences on the ebb and flow in availability of wildlife to indigenous peoples and thus have influenced the distribution of indigenous peoples in the Arctic and the development of their cultures. The accelerated climate warming observed in recent decades (Chapters 2 and 4), however, is resulting in major and more rapid changes in the ecology of arctic wildlife (Chapters 7, 8, 9), necessitating reassessment of structures for the management and conservation of arctic wildlife. As northern cultures developed, including those of indigenous and non-indigenous arctic residents, their relationships to wildlife were also influenced beyond strictly subsistence dependency through trade or other economic relationships, both internal to their own cultures and with other cultures. Trade in animal parts, especially skins and ivory of marine mammals; the semi-domestication of reindeer; and trapping and sale of fur-bearing animals go far back in time. Over the last two to three centuries cash income has become important for indigenous and non-indigenous residents from selling meat and hides and as well as through home industries producing sale-able craft items from animal parts (see Chapters 3 and 12). Arctic wildlife is valued by many living outside the Arctic for its attraction for viewing and photographing, especially whales, seabirds, polar bears (Ursus maritimus), and caribou; for incorporation in art depicting the arctic environment; and for associated tourism. Sport and trophy hunting of wildlife bring many to the Arctic, with associated economic benefits to local residents through services provided. Others value the Arctic through virtual recognition of and fascination for the role of wildlife species in the dynamics of arctic ecosystems, many of whom may never visit the Arctic but learn about arctic wildlife through the printed and visual media. Responsibility for management and conservation of wildlife in the Arctic clearly falls heavily on the residents of the Arctic, now especially through empowerment of indigenous people, but also on the global community that benefits from the exploitation of arctic resources and shares in the appreciation of the wildlife and other values of the arctic environment. A consequence of conservation efforts affecting wildlife and their habitats, generated largely outside the Arctic, has been the many [[protected areas|"protected areas" (UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, national parks, wildlife refuges, nature preserves, and sanctuaries) established by arctic countries, often with the encouragement and support of international conservation organizations such as the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). A sense of global stewardship toward the Arctic is critical for the future of arctic wildlife and its peoples.

Present practices (11.2.2)

Throughout most of the Arctic natural ecosystems are still functionally intact (see Chapters 7, 8, 9). Most threats to wildlife typical for elsewhere in the world – extensive habitat loss through agriculture, industry, and urbanization – are absent in much of the Arctic or are localized. Similarly, introduced and invading wildlife species are few throughout most of the Arctic and tend to be localized at the interface between forest and tundra. Changes, however, are accelerating. Contaminants from the industrialized world to the south have reached arctic food chains, threatening the health and reproduction of some wildlife, especially marine mammals and birds, and the humans who include them in their diet[4]. Energy and mineral extraction developments in the Arctic, although localized and widely scattered, tend to be of large scale, for example the Prudhoe Bay oil field complex in Alaska, the mining and associated metallurgical developments in the Taymir and Kola regions of Russia, and the hydroelectric development in northern Quebec. These contribute to the pollution and contamination of the arctic waters, atmosphere, and lands and result in local loss of wildlife through habitat destruction, excessive hunting, and other cumulative impacts. Protection of critical wildlife habitats in the Arctic is becoming increasingly recognized as essential for both the conservation of arctic wildlife and management of its harvest by arctic residents as pressures from outside the Arctic for exploitation of its resources increase[5].


caption Figure 11.1. Management and conservation of wildlife in the Arctic is driven by internal and external forces that involve wide-ranging interests and uses of wildlife. These include traditional harvest and dependency by indigenous peoples, the effects of resource extraction and associated industrial development, tourism, and valuation of wildlife at national and international levels through legal structures and conservation efforts. (Source: ACIA)


Management of wildlife and its conservation, as practiced in most of the Arctic, is conceptually different in the minds of arctic dwellers in contrast to most people living at lower latitudes where management efforts often focus on manipulation of habitats to benefit wildlife (Fig. 11.1).Thus, "management of wildlife" in the Arctic may seem to some inappropriate terminology that has developed through its application outside the Arctic. Arctic residents have often seen little justification for conventional wildlife management throughout much of the Arctic in the past, and have questioned the need for science-based wildlife management when harvest levels have posed little threat to sustained viability of the species harvested (e.g., [6]). To the contrary, many arctic peoples see the current health of arctic ecosystems as evidence of their effectiveness as conservationists over the centuries and their often aggressive resistance in the past to commercial overexploitation of marine mammals and birds for oil and skins[7]. Prior to the presence of Europeans in the Arctic, the archaeological evidence indicates that communities and entire cultures either moved or died out as a consequence of changing climate and associated unsustainable levels of wildlife harvest[8], as was also the case at lower latitudes[9]. As well, these perceptions grow from historical conditions of "internal colonialism" in which southern populations viewed the arctic resources as open to access and available for exploitation, contrasting to indigenous views of territoriality with soft borders and property held in common by groups[10]. In recent years, many indigenous residents have resisted systems for wildlife management and conservation imposed from outside the Arctic, particularly when these rely heavily on new and strange technologies and are based on tenets that are unfamiliar or inappropriate to arctic cultures[11].

Increased emphasis by those living outside the Arctic on conservation of the flora and fauna of the Arctic and associated emphasis on maintaining its biodiversity, and valuing all its ecosystem components and relationships, has understandably appeared hypocritical to many arctic indigenous peoples dependent on sustainable harvest of arctic wildlife (e.g., [12]). Thus, some indigenous peoples have questioned the justification for wildlife management in the Arctic as a discrete aspect of ecosystem or land use management, when in much of the Arctic the need is for integrated land, coastal, and oceanic plans for management.

The legacy of relations and emergent conditions require the development of wildlife management approaches in the Arctic that foster collective action among a highly diverse set of stakeholders and also assume high ecological uncertainty[13]. Research on the sustainability of common property resources of the past two decades, which has questioned conventional approaches of "state control" as reflected in Hardin’s[14] Tragedy of the Commons, points to social institutions as key determinants of human behavior and ecological change[15]. The findings of institutional analysis identify design principles that are critical for effective institutional performance, and note how effective institutions of wildlife management can reduce transaction costs among actors and build trust among players. In some regions of the Arctic, the settlement of indigenous land claims has provided opportunities to create new institutional arrangements with these principles in mind, and thus giving local communities a greater role in the practice of wildlife management if not in determining the premises on which it is based (e.g., [16]).

Throughout much of the Arctic, harvesting of wildlife for food and furs through hunting and trapping has, nevertheless, been the most conspicuous influence that residents of the Arctic have had on arctic wildlife in recent decades. It was the overexploitation of wildlife during the period of arctic exploration and whaling in the 18th and 19th centuries that led to the extinction of the Steller sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas) in the Bering Sea and the great auk (Pinguinus impennis) in the North Atlantic, and drastic stock reductions and local extirpation of several other terrestrial and marine mammals and birds.

In many regions of the Eurasian Arctic, the adoption of reindeer herding by indigenous hunting cultures led to the extirpation or marked reduction of wild reindeer and drastic reductions of wolves (Canis lupus), lynx (Lynx lynx), wolverines (Gulo gulo), and other potential predators of reindeer (Chapter 12). In recent decades heavy grazing pressure by semi-domestic reindeer has altered plant communities in parts of the Fennoscandian and Russian Arctic, that has in some areas been exacerbated by encroachment into traditional grazing areas of timber harvest, agriculture, hydroelectric development, and oil and gas exploration (e.g., [17]). Large-scale extraction of non-renewable resources accelerated in the Arctic during the latter half of the 20th century with consequences for some wildlife species and their habitats, especially in Alaska from oil production, in Canada from mining for diamonds and other minerals, and in Russia primarily from extraction of nickel, apatite, phosphates, oil, and natural gas[18].

Among the factors that influence arctic wildlife, harvest of wildlife through hunting and trapping is potentially the most manageable, at least at the local level. At a more regional level, these influences come through decisions on wildlife habitat as a land use issue. Indigenous peoples throughout much of the North are asserting their views and rights in wildlife management, in part through increased political autonomy over their homelands or involvement in cooperative management regimes[19]. However, people still feel largely limited in controlling the influences on wildlife and wildlife habitats brought about through climate change, or large-scale resource extraction in both the marine and terrestrial environments, changes largely resulting from the effects of, and pressures generated by, people living outside the Arctic. Similarly, arctic residents are generally poorly informed about conditions and management of migratory species in their wintering environments far from the Arctic, especially waterfowl and some whale species, and seek greater involvement in management of migratory species governed by international treaties. The influence that Canadian arctic peoples had, however, in the negotiations leading to the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants has shown the potential for concerted action by arctic peoples at the global level[20].

Throughout most of the Arctic where efforts have been directed at conservation and management of wildlife, the primary focus has been on regulation of the harvest of wildlife to ensure the long-term sustainability of the wildlife populations and the associated human harvest from them. Secondly, protection of wildlife habitats from loss or degradation has been acknowledged as essential for the sustainability of wildlife populations, however, where large-scale development activity has occurred local interests in wildlife have often been poorly represented in land use decisions. Although there are similarities throughout much of the Arctic in the distribution of wildlife species and their use by humans, there are major local and regional differences in the importance of specific wildlife species in the local subsistence and cash economies. These differences relate to past traditions of use of wildlife, relative availability of wildlife for harvest, and the role that wildlife play in the local economy. For example, in Eurasia, commercial harvest of wildlife is generally supported by legal structures that assign wildlife ownership to the land owner, in contrast to North America where wildlife remains the property of the state and commercial harvest of wildlife is prohibited or discouraged.

Along with the increasing political autonomy of indigenous peoples in recent decades, these arctic residents are developing their capacity to influence when, where, and how industrial activity may take place in the Arctic. Part of this process has been the consolidation of the efforts of indigenous peoples across national boundaries to achieve a greater voice in management of wildlife and other resources through international groups such as the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and the Indigenous Peoples Secretariat of the Arctic Council. In addition to the eight arctic countries that make up membership of the Arctic Council, indigenous organizations have representation as Permanent Participants of the Council and include the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the Saami Council, the Aleutian International Association, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, and the Gwich’in Council International.

Through the resulting increased political voice and sharing of interests, the stage appears set for indigenous peoples of the Arctic to become major participants in the management and conservation of arctic wildlife. The legal institutions, however, encompassing treaty and land rights and other governmental agreements vary regionally and nationally throughout the Arctic, posing differing opportunities and constraints on how structures for wildlife management and conservation can be developed.

Conservation of wildlife in the Arctic requires sound management and protection of habitats at the local, regional, national, and international levels if the productivity of those wildlife populations that arctic peoples are dependent upon is to be sustained. Wildlife populations and their movements in both the marine and terrestrial environments often transcend local, regional, and national boundaries, thus successful management and conservation of arctic wildlife, requiring scientific investigation, monitoring, and management action, must also transcend political boundaries through international agreements and treaties[21]. Many of the pressures on arctic wildlife originate outside the Arctic, such as contaminants in marine wildlife, habitat alteration through petroleum and mining developments, and climate changes exacerbated by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases. It seems clear that responsibility for maintaining the biodiversity that characterizes the Arctic, the quality of its natural environment, and the productivity of its wildlife populations must be supported through a sense of stewardship at both the local and global levels.

The role of protected areas (11.2.3)

A goal of ecosystem conservation in the Arctic as elsewhere is maintenance of the health of the unique complex of ecosystems that characterize the Arctic, and in doing so, to attempt to ensure the protection and sustainability of the unique biodiversity for which the Arctic is valued both by arctic residents and the rest of the world community. An important process in the efforts to achieve this goal has been the identification of natural habitats of critical importance in the life cycles of wildlife species, and their subsequent protection through legal processes at local, regional, national, and international levels of government. Although "protected areas" are often established with the well-being of a single species or a group of related species being the primary focus (e.g., Ramsar sites for waterfowl, Round Island in Alaska for walrus (Odobenus rosmarus); see Fig. 11.2), all forms of life that are encompassed within these units generally benefit. Conversely, other areas may be protected primarily in recognition of the unique biodiversity that they encompass. In 1996, CAFF developed a Strategy and Action Plan for a Circumpolar Protected Area Network. Execution of the plan was designed to perpetuate the dynamic biodiversity of the arctic region through habitat conservation in the form of protected areas to represent arctic ecosystems, and to improve physical, informational, and managerial ties among circumpolar protected areas. As a result of CAFF’s efforts, jointly with other international governmental and non-governmental organizations, and local, regional, and national governments and interests, nearly 400 protected areas (greater than 10 square kilometers [km2]) were established throughout the Arctic in 2000, totaling over 2.5 million km2[22].


caption Figure 11.2. Protected areas (>500 hectares) in the Arctic by IUCN Categories I-VI (compiled by UNEP-WCMC as quoted in CAFF[1])


Selection of areas needed for protection in the interest of wildlife conservation is not a task easily accomplished even when there is broad public and governmental support for the process. Identifying those areas of critical habitat needing protection for the effective conservation of wildlife in the Arctic requires comprehensive habitat inventories and assessment of all existing and proposed land uses within areas under consideration. Part of these assessments is the weighing up of consequences of the present and proposed uses of the areas under consideration for protection (e.g., subsistence, commercial, and sport hunting; reindeer grazing; transportation corridor construction; and other resource extraction uses). Establishment of protected areas critical to effective conservation of wildlife, and acceptance and respect for their legal protection, generally requires advance involvement, open discussion, and often compromise among all potential users of the areas and representatives of the governments with legal responsibility for their establishment. An example of the complex process for justification and establishment of protected areas for wildlife conservation was initiated in northern Yukon Territory of Canada and adjacent Alaska through an agreement between Canada and the United States establishing the International Porcupine Caribou Board. Through these international efforts a report on the sensitive habitats of the Porcupine Caribou Herd was prepared[23] and is being used in an ongoing process of providing justification and protection of critical habitats within existing protected areas in Alaska and Yukon Territory, and in the regional planning process and establishment of additional protected areas in northern Yukon Territory. Non-governmental organizations can and have played an important role in the establishment of protected areas for wildlife conservation in the Arctic. Another example is the "Conservation First Principle" concept under development for the Canadian North through shared governmental and non-governmental efforts.

Protected areas set aside by governmental action, merely through establishment of their boundaries, do help to bring about public recognition of the importance of their role in wildlife conservation. Unless their establishment is accompanied by enforceable laws that govern their use, however, the areas remain protected in name only and remain vulnerable to overexploitation of the wildlife, and habitat alteration and destruction through competing land uses. Political pressures generated by large and often multinational industries interested in protected areas as loci for energy or mineral extraction, mass tourism, or other developments destructive to wildlife and their habitats, may be successful in persuading governments to allow them into these areas. Examples of where the protection offered to arctic areas set aside for wildlife conservation has been violated are widespread throughout the Arctic (e.g., seismic exploration for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and atomic bomb testing in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, both in Alaska; illegal harassment of walrus in the Wrangel Island Reserve and uncontrolled poaching of wildlife in Kola Peninsula reserves by military personnel, both in Russia).

Although the importance of existing protected areas and the need for establishment of additional protected areas for effective conservation of wildlife in the Arctic are internationally recognized, climate change adds an additional layer of complexity in use of protected areas as a tool in wildlife conservation. If plants and animals change their distribution in response to a changing climate as is expected (Chapters 7, 8, 9), critical habitats of wildlife (seabird nesting colony sites, reindeer/caribou calving grounds, waterfowl and shore-bird nesting and staging areas, marine mammal haul-out areas) will also change in their distribution over time. Consequently, anticipating the needs for new protected areas important for conservation as wildlife and their habitats change in their distributions on the landscape will be an extremely difficult process. The process will necessarily need to be dynamic, with ongoing assessment of wildlife habitat use and dependency. This should enable recognition of the continued importance of some existing protected areas, and conversely, recognition that others that become abandoned by wildlife may no longer be needed, though they may retain value for protection of plant species or other ecosystem components. Wildlife management and conservation in an Arctic under the influence of climate change must be adaptive to ecosystem-level changes that are not feasibly reversible within the human timescale, such as the northward movement of boreal ecotones into the Arctic along with the associated wildlife. Thus, protected areas will have value as areas where climate-induced or other externally influenced changes within ecosystems can be observed and monitored, free of major direct human impacts.

The establishment and use of protected areas is an essential component of conservation of wildlife and their habitats in the Arctic and in the protection of the biodiversity that characterizes arctic ecosystems. However, protected areas alone cannot ensure the sustained integrity of arctic ecosystems under the influences of a changing climate and accelerating pressures from resource extraction, tourism, and associated construction of roads, pipelines, and other transportation corridors. Of major concern is the fracturing of habitats through development activities, especially transportation corridors that may restrict the free movement and exchange of plants and animals between habitats even though significant parts of these habitats may have protected status. Ecological requirements for subpopulations of both plants and animals may be encompassed within protected areas, but the long-term integrity and sustainability of arctic ecosystems and the wildlife and other organisms within them requires opportunity for genetic exchange between components. Although critical habitat units may merit rigid protection, the intervening natural environment must be managed so that movement of species within entire ecosystems remains possible. Establishment of protected areas should be consistent with subsistence harvesting activities and not designed to exclude them. Management of the harvest of wildlife must be adaptable to changes that may take place in the population status of wildlife species.

Transportation corridors, especially roads and their associated vehicle traffic, may fracture habitats and limit free movement of species within ecosystems, however, they also provide corridors for the movement of invasive plant and animal species, with often detrimental consequences for native species with which they may compete, prey upon, parasitize, or infect. "Invasive species" is an all-inclusive generic term. It includes plants and animal species truly exotic to most regions of the Arctic and subarctic, such as the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), house mouse (Mus musculus), and Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) that have inadvertently been introduced by humans. There are, however, invasive species native to adjacent biomes, such as the moose (Alces alces) and snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), that have expanded into parts of the North American Arctic from the boreal forest with consequences for arctic species and ecosystems. Humans have also been responsible for the deliberate introduction of plant and animal species into the Arctic. Examples are the introduction of lupine (Lupinus spp.) and coniferous trees to Iceland associated with erosion control and forest reestablishment, which through their subsequent dispersal have become nuisance species in areas where they crowd out native or introduced forage species for domestic livestock, and threaten preservation of the natural biodiversity. Among animals, the deliberate introduction of Arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) to the Aleutian and Commander Islands in the 18th century for harvest of their pelts led to the marked reduction or extirpation of populations of marine birds, waterfowl, and other ground nesting birds. The intensive, decades-long efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to eliminate the Arctic foxes on many of the Aleutian Islands has resulted in rapid reestablishment of successful bird nesting on islands from which the foxes have been removed, but this has involved a great expenditure of effort and money. It can be expected that the appearance of invasive species in the Arctic will increase through deliberate and accidental human activities, as well as by natural dispersal assisted by transportation corridors and parameters of climate change that may favor the new species over native plants and animals.

It is important to remember that the decrease in biodiversity with increasing latitude that is a characteristic of arctic ecosystems is partly a consequence of the slow rate of dispersal of species into the Arctic following deglaciation. It is very likely that climate change, especially the climate warming projected to occur throughout much of the Arctic (see Chapter 4), and other forces will accelerate the "natural" movement of plant and animal species into the Arctic. It remains for human judgment to determine whether invading plant and animal species are to be considered part of the natural ongoing process of ecosystem change in the Arctic, whether they pose threats to the natural biodiversity of arctic ecosystems, or whether they are detrimental to human efforts to manage arctic ecosystems for human exploitation. Important tasks facing managers of wildlife in a changing Arctic will be assessing consequences for native species and ecosystems of the effects of invasive species within the constraints of a changing climate. It may also be necessary, where regionally appropriate, to develop procedures that restrict invasion of species that may have undesirable consequences for native species.

Change in human relationships with wildlife and managing human uses of wildlife (11.2.4)

On the basis of early archaeological evidence, human cultures with the technologies that allowed them to live under the climatic extremes of the Arctic while exploiting its marine resources did not appear until the mid-Holocene Epoch ~7,000 years ago[24]. The entrance of humans to the Americas from Asia via Beringia 7,000 to 8,000 years earlier, however, occurred near the end of the Pleistocene Epoch when sea levels were lower, land areas greater, and the environment markedly different to how it later became in the Holocene[25]. During much of the Holocene, following the first major wave of human movement into North America, as the Pleistocene ice retreated from the land, changes in human distribution, demography, culture, and movements were predominantly tied to changes in availability of wildlife. Humans located where species that were essential components of their diets, and provided materials for their clothing, shelter, tools, and weapons, were available. This pattern of human use of the land and adjacent sea prevailed as the Arctic was settled and cultures evolved in adaptation to the wildlife and other resources available for their exploitation[26].

Wildlife species in both marine and terrestrial systems have undergone changes in their abundance and distribution in the past, and therefore in their availability for use by people in the Arctic. Some of these changes have resulted from heavy commercial exploitation of marine wildlife for their skins and oil and of terrestrial mammals largely for their pelts. Longer-term changes in distribution and abundance of wildlife in the Arctic are thought to have been largely the result of changes in climate affecting temperature, precipitation, snow characteristics, and sea-ice conditions and their influence on food chain relationships (see Chapters 7, 8, 9). All the peoples of the Arctic and the animals they hunt and use are subject to the vagaries of arctic climate. The global warming observed in the latter half of the 20th century, consistent with projections by general circulation models, has advanced most rapidly in certain parts of the Arctic, however, there have been regional inconsistencies (see Chapters 2, 4, 6). The western Canadian Arctic and the Alaskan Arctic have shown decadal temperature increases of 1.5 °C, whereas a nearly opposite cooling trend has been recorded in Labrador, northern Quebec, Baffin Island, and adjacent southwest Greenland[27]. Nevertheless, although some regions of the Arctic may not have experienced the pronounced warming in recent decades that has characterized most of the Arctic, changes in other climate-related parameters such as precipitation, frequency and severity of storm events, and thinning and reduced seasonal extent of sea ice are being observed in all regions of the Arctic (Chapter 2). Increases in ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation levels in the Arctic associated with thinning of the atmospheric ozone layer may have consequences for life processes of both plants and animals, however little is known of possible effects on wildlife (Chapter 7). However, to the extent that increased UV-B radiation levels may result in differential changes in tissue structure and survival of plant species, resulting in changes in their quality and abundance as food for herbivores, wildlife and their food chain relationships will be affected.

As a general rule the numbers of plant and animal species decline with increasing latitude from the equator to the poles, as does the complexity of species interrelationships and associated ecosystem processes. Since external influences tend to be buffered by the complexity of biological processes within ecosystems, the less complex arctic ecosystems can be expected to respond more dynamically to climate change than the more complex systems that exist at lower latitudes, and this seems to have been the case during past periods of climate change (Chapter 7). An additional compounding factor is that rates of climate-related change in much of the Arctic, reflected in climate warming and decrease in sea-ice thickness and extent, exceed those at lower latitudes.


Chapter 11. Management and Conservation of Wildlife in a Changing Arctic Environment
11.1 Introduction
11.2 Management and conservation of wildlife in the Arctic
11.3 Climate change and terrestrial wildlife management
    11.3.1 Russian Arctic and sub-Arctic
    11.3.2 The Canadian North
    11.3.3 The Fennoscandian North
    11.3.4 The Alaskan Arctic
11.4 Management and conservation of marine mammals and seabirds in the Arctic
11.5 Critical elements of wildlife management in an Arctic undergoing change


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Committee, I. (2012). Management and conservation of wildlife in the Arctic. Retrieved from


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