Ecological Risk Assessment

Management and Conservation of Wildlife in a Changing Arctic Environment

Content Cover Image

Icebergs breaking off glaciers at Cape York, Greenland. (By Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons)

This is Chapter 11 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

Climate changes in the Arctic in the past have had major influences on the ebb and flow in availability of wildlife to indigenous peoples and thus have influenced their distribution and the development of their cultures.Trade in animal parts, especially skins and ivory of marine mammals, and trapping and sale of fur-bearing animals go far back in time. Responsibility for management and conservation of wildlife in the Arctic falls heavily on the residents of the Arctic, but also on the global community that shares in the use of arctic resources. A sense of global stewardship toward the Arctic is critical for the future of arctic wildlife and its peoples.

This chapter, drawing on Chapters 7 to 9, emphasizes that throughout most of the Arctic, natural ecosystems are still functionally intact and that threats to wildlife typical for elsewhere in the world – extensive habitat loss through agriculture, industry, and urbanization – are absent or localized. There is increasing evidence that contaminants from the industrialized world to the south are entering arctic food chains, threatening the health and reproduction of some marine mammals and birds and the humans who include them in their diets. Protection of critical wildlife habitats in the Arctic is becoming recognized by those living inside as well as outside the Arctic as essential for both the conservation of arctic wildlife and its sustainable harvest by residents of the Arctic.

Management of wildlife and its conservation, as practiced in most of the Arctic, is conceptually different to that at lower latitudes where management efforts often focus on manipulation of habitats to benefit wildlife. The history of over-exploitation of marine mammals and birds for oil and skins to serve interests outside the Arctic is now being balanced by international efforts toward conservation of the flora and fauna of the Arctic, focusing on maintaining the Arctic’s biodiversity and valuing its ecosystem components and relationships. Case studies from Russia and Canada focusing on harvest strategies and management of caribou (wild reindeer) highlight the complex nature of this species. One reports the development of a co-management system, involving shared responsibility between users of the wildlife and the government entities with legal authority over wildlife, giving local residents a greater role in wildlife management.

Throughout much of the Arctic, harvesting of wildlife for food and furs through hunting and trapping has 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, largely in the 18th and 19th centuries, that led to the extinction of the Steller sea cow in the Bering Sea and the great auk in the North Atlantic, and drastic stock reductions and local extirpation of several other terrestrial and also stress the need for development of regional land and water use plans as a basis for protection of critical wildlife habitats in relation to existing and proposed human activities on the lands and waters of the Arctic.

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



Committee, I. (2014). Management and Conservation of Wildlife in a Changing Arctic Environment. Retrieved from


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