Developing a circumpolar monitoring framework for Arctic freshwater biodiversity

Joseph M. Culp, Jennifer Lento, Willem Goedkoop, Michael Power, Milla Rautio, Kirsten S. Christoffersen, Guðni Guðbergsson, Danny Lau, Petri Liljaniemi, Steinar Sandøy & Michael Svoboda

Arctic freshwater ecosystems are facing unique challenges through the interaction of natural and human-induced stressors such as climate change and industrial development. Much is unknown about the biodiversity of Arctic freshwaters, although it is believed to have already been affected by climate change. A pan-Arctic monitoring strategy is critically needed to improve abilities to detect and understand ongoing and future changes in Arctic freshwater ecosystems. The challenging issues that Arctic freshwater monitoring must address include: the large diversity of Arctic freshwater ecosystems, varying levels of stressor impacts across the Arctic, lack of historical baseline research and monitoring coordination, and poor among-country standardization of sampling protocols. In response, the Arctic Council's Freshwater Expert Monitoring Group of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna) is developing a framework for monitoring Arctic freshwater biodiversity that will lead to regular reviews of the state of freshwater ecosystems across the circumpolar Arctic. The parameters of primary focus for the monitoring framework are classified by focal ecosystem components (FECs), which are biotic or abiotic factors that are ecologically pivotal, charismatic and/or sensitive to changes in biodiversity. FECs are placed in the context of expected ecosystem change through the development of testable impact hypotheses (or predictions) that outline a cause-effect framework regarding how change in environmental and anthropogenic stressors is expected to affect FECs. These prediction statements provide both guidelines for future scientific data collection and a focus for management decision-making. Here we discuss the design of a proposed monitoring framework and the development of impact hypotheses that focus on climate change effects. We emphasise the connectivity between science, monitoring and management necessary to implement the framework across the Arctic.