Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010


Indicators at a glance

Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010

Ecosystem services

Reindeer herding Indicator #18 PAGE 86

The most productive semi-domestic reindeer herds occur in northern Fennoscandia and northwest Russia. Herd sizes here have been increasing since World War II and are currently at or near historic highs. While many rangelands across northern Eurasia are in poor condition because of high reindeer densities, it is unclear whether this is affecting herd performance. The relationship between reindeer herding and local biodiversity is similarly complex, where grazing by reindeer may either increase or decrease the variety of plant species in a given area, and in some regions may even be an important factor in regional biodiversity. In addition to climate change, reindeer herding in Fennoscandia is threatened by increased resource development, and in Russia, hydrocarbon development is actually considered a greater threat to the most productive herding areas than climate change.

Seabird harvest Indicator #19 PAGE 89

Seabirds have been harvested by humans in the circumpolar Arctic for centuries for their meat, eggs, skins, and down. Harvesting is a significant factor in the population size of many species, and there are examples of overharvesting causing substantial losses in some populations, as well as rapid recovery following major changes to harvest regulations. Currently, harvest levels in the Arctic are tending to decline due to factors such as stricter hunting regulations, declining seabird populations, fewer or less active hunters, or a combination of these. In some areas, harvests for several species have declined by 50% or more. The number of birds harvested varies considerably between countries, from less than 5,000 in Norway to 250,000 in each of Canada, Greenland, and Iceland. For some species, climate change can be a serious threat to the sustainable use of seabird populations in the future, especially if the availability of important food sources is affected. The migratory nature of seabirds means international cooperation is vital for their conservation.

Indicator #20 PAGE 92

Changes in harvest

Harvesting natural resources continues to be a key feature of traditional lifestyles and economies across the Arctic. InAlaska, subsistence harvest accounts for a small proportion (about 2–3%) of the total fish andwildlife harvest, comparedwith97%takenby commercial fisheries. While no systematic statewide survey of the status of subsistence harvests has been conducted, there are indications that subsistence harvests by rural Alaskans are declining across space and time. Development impacts, environmental and ecological changes, socio-economic changes, changing tastes, in- and out-migration, and harvests by competing user groups likely all adversely affect subsistence harvests. In Canada, up to 60% of residents in small communities in the Northwest Territories rely on traditional/ country food for the majority of their meat and fish. This percentage has remained largely unchanged over the last ten years. By comparison, subsistence harvesting in the Russian Arctic has been affected by the widespread socio-economic changes following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The overall area where natural resources are harvested has been reduced, although subsistence consumption around indigenous communities has increased. Illegal harvesting and trade in valuable species also increased as law enforcement declined, leading to localized depletion of some resources.

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