DeKalb, Illinois, USA, May 3, 2013- The film "Status and Trends in Arctic Biodiversity" has won the 2013 documentary award of the annual Green Lens Environmental Film Festival in DeKalb, Illinois.

The Green Lens Environmental Film Festival is an annual environmental film competition sponsored by the Northern Illinois University´s Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy. This third edition was held from April 20th to 25th, 2013, in DeKalb, Illinois, USA, under the theme "The Planet in Focus". The documentary film "Status and Trends in Arctic Biodiversity", a collaborative work of the Arctic Council Working Group for the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and GRID-Arendal, was awarded first place in the documentary category at the festival.

The film addresses the current environmental situation in the Arctic and ongoing pressures on its ecosystems. Particular emphasis is placed on the new set of challenges and stressors brought about by climate change and the increase of industrial activities in the region. In view of these challenges, CAFF has set out to provide policymakers and conservation managers with the best available scientific and traditional knowledge on Arctic biodiversity. The film highlights the key issues that surfaced in the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment

You can watch the documentary here:


Mike Gill, chair of the CBMP was awarded the Queen's Jubilee Medal in honour of his commitment to Arctic biodiversity conservation. Joseph Culp was unable to attend the ceremony.Mike Gill, chair of CAFF's Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) and Joseph Culp, Co-chair of the CBMP's Freshwater Monitoring Group have received the prestigious Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal for their dedication to Arctic nature.

Gill is a great lover of biodiversity, and his passion is displayed through his tireless conservation efforts. We wish to congratulate Mike and Jospeh on this award and recognize their unrelenting quest for Arctic biodiversity well-being.

Nominations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal flowed in from across Canada highlighting the achievements of Canadians who have dedicated themselves to service to their fellow citizens, their community and their country. A commemorative medal was presented over the past year to 60,000 deserving Canadians in celebration of their significant contributions and achievements.

On Tuesday February 19th, 2013, Environment Canada bestowed the Medal upon 78 employees across the country. Recipients and their guests were linked together through videoconference to hear opening remarks from Deputy Minister Bob Hamilton. Following the videoconference, celebrations continued with family and friends gathered to share the momentous occasion with the recipients. Several of the medal recipients were selected for their achievements within Environment Canada while others were selected for their contributions to the Canadian population outside of their daily functions. Some of the achievements have had an international or global reach. Some highlight one of the most extraordinary gifts of volunteering. Many highlight world class leadership.

Mike Gill

Mike Gill has demonstrated exemplary leadership, partnering skills and visioning to successfully build the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program. He is a great communicator and motivator and is committed to excellence. Through his leadership the program has achieved status on the world stage as a major contributor to biodiversity observing networks. 

Joseph Culp

Joseph Culp is a senior research scientist and a professor at the University of New Brunswick. He has been instrumental in building Environment Canada's research capacity in the effects of anthropogenic impacts on river ecology at both the national and international level. Dr. Culp's leadership and consensus building ability make him an excellent co-lead of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program for freshwater.


Congratulations to the outstanding recipients of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal! Additional information about the Diamond Jubilee Medal program is available at Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.


December 4, 2013, U.S.A.- The Arctic Council, through the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) and the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna’s (CAFF) Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme (CBMP), has contributed to the Arctic Report Card, an annual report released today by the National Oceanic and Atmoshperic Administration (NOAA) that monitors the often-quickly changing conditions in the Arctic.

The peer-reviewed report contains contributions from 141 authors from 15 countries. For this year's issue CAFF’s CBMP developed and edited the terrestrial and marine ecosystem chapters in cooperation with others, while AMAP organized an independent peer-review process involving international experts.

The Arctic region continued to break records in 2012—among them the loss of summer sea ice, spring snow cover, and melting of the Greenland ice sheet. This was true even though air temperatures in the Arctic were unremarkable relative to the last decade, according to the report.

Major findings include:

  • Snow cover: A new record low snow extent for the Northern Hemisphere was set in June 2012, and a new record low was reached in May over Eurasia.
  • Sea ice: Minimum Arctic sea ice extent in September 2012 set a new all-time record low, as measured by satellite since 1979.
  • Greenland ice sheet: There was a rare, nearly ice sheet-wide melt event on the Greenland ice sheet in July, covering about 97 percent of the ice sheet on a single day.
  • Vegetation: The tundra is getting greener and there’s more above-ground growth. During the period of 2003-2010, the length of the growing season increased through much of the Arctic.
  • Wildlife and food chain: In northernmost Europe, the Arctic fox is close to extinction and vulnerable to the encroaching Red fox. Additionally, massive phytoplankton blooms below the summer sea ice suggest estimates of biological production at the bottom of the marine food chain may be ten times too low.
  • Ocean: Sea surface temperatures in summer continue to be warmer than the long-term average at the growing ice-free margins, while upper ocean temperature and salinity show significant interannual variability with no clear trends.
  • Weather: Most of the notable weather activity in fall and winter occurred in the sub-Arctic due to a strong positive North Atlantic Oscillation. There were three extreme weather events including an unusual cold spell in late January to early February 2012 across Eurasia, and two record storms characterized by very low central pressures and strong winds near western Alaska in November 2011 and north of Alaska in August 2012.

The major findings listed above reinforce the findings presented in AMAP’s recent assessment of snow, water ice and permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA).

The Arctic Report Card was released today at a press briefing at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco, California. For more information on this year’s report please visit the Arctic Report Card 2012 webpage.



Mike Gill


Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program

Whitehorse, Canada (PST, -8GMT)

+1 867 334 3258





Linda Joy

NOAA Communciations

Silver Springs, Maryland (EST, -5GMT)

+1 301 734 1165

Northern deer. Photo: Oleg Kozlov/

The latest Arctic Report Card (ARC), released December 2012 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with contributions from the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF)’s Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP), highlights “profound and continuing changes” in the Arctic marine ecosystem, a greening of the Arctic, and some alarming trends in shorebird species, along with other stories of how Arctic wildlife are responding to environmental changes.

The chapters in the report highlight meaningful detectable changes of regional, continental and global significance, suggest key factors responsible for the changes (be it climate, anthropogenic or both) and illustrate the connections between the Arctic marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

The terrestrial section has five chapters that focus on primary producers (vegetation), herbivores (lemmings and caribou/reindeer) and predators (Arctic fox). Another essay highlights changes in Arctic migratory wader (shorebird) populations, which introduces and emphasizes the influence of southern stressors and drivers on Arctic wildlife.

The marine section has six chapters discussing productivity and nutrients, benthos, seabirds, fish and fisheries, marine mammals and a focus on the Barrow Canyon as a region for change detection.

A greening Arctic 

Dryas octopetala. Photo: zimowa/shutterstock.comOver the past 30 years, the typically white landscapes of the Arctic have been turning green, a sign of increased plant cover as a result of warming temperatures. 

The North American Arctic has become 15.5 per cent more green while the Eurasian Arctic has increased 8.2 per cent, according to the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). The greatest “greening” has occurred in the southern most tundra, where biomass has increased 20-26 per cent. Shrubs, grasses and even some flowering plants are expanding their ranges into the Arctic, and the growing season is getting longer.





Sharp and alarming declines in some shorebird populations 

Shorebirds. Photo: Jan van de KammMore than 40 per cent of Arctic waders are in decline, with just nine per cent increasing, according to the report. 

Arctic shorebirds migrate to almost all corners of the world, along extensive migratory corridors, or flyways. When analyzed along their migratory paths, clear and worrying pictures can be apparent, especially as they are good indicators of overall global coastal ecosystem health.

The African-Eurasian flyway is the most stable, with one-quarter of the 46 shorebird populations in decline. In North America, 56 per cent of the 34 populations are in decline. In Central Asia trends are known for only three of 20 populations, and are thought to be stable. In East Asia, all populations with known trends are declining. Hunting, harvesting, pollution and habitat loss are contributing to these dramatic declines.

Unknown effects on Arctic land mammals

Arctic fox. Photo: Carsten Egevang/ARC-PIC.comThe ARC identifies that lemmings are a key species in the Arctic, as their numbers can dramatically alter the composition of the tundra food web, including the productivity of birds and mammals that depend on them for food. The regularity and predictability of lemming population cycles is decaying. Recent studies suggest a link between changes in the lemming population cycle and changes in the characteristics of the snow pack, e.g., duration and number of ice layers, and the subsequent impact on ground conditions, e.g., temperature and ice layers.

The Arctic fox is most directly affected by lemming population dynamics as it is a primary food source. In the European Arctic, the Arctic fox has declined to near extinction because it has not recovered from historical over-harvesting and recent lemming declines. Just 200 individuals remain, compared to over 15,000 in the mid-1800s. In North America, the Arctic fox is abundant. In both regions, the red fox has expanded northward into historic Arctic fox-only territories. The red fox, twice the size of the Arctic fox with about twice the home range area, affects the Arctic fox via competition for resources and predation. 

The ARC also indicates that caribou/reindeer populations appear to be within their natural ranges, and many herds that have experienced declines are beginning to stabilize or increase.


Effects of sea-ice loss 

Sea ice. Photo: Carsten Egevang/shutterstock.comThis year the Arctic summer sea ice extent hit a record low. Sea ice is an important regulator primary productivity, and affects the abundance and composition of algae and phytoplankton, the elements that kick-start the marine food web. New satellite observations suggest that previous estimates of annual primary production in waters may be about ten times too low in places.

Shifts in primary and secondary production have direct impacts on benthic communities. Recent findings include: species range changes in sub-Arctic seas and on inflow shelves; changes in feeding guild composition in the deep Fram Strait; reduction of benthic biomass in the Barents and northern Bering seas; and no apparent change in infaunal biomass in the Kara Sea. Recent sea ice declines have allowed gray whales to stay longer and feed on both benthic amphipods and zooplankton in the Barrow Canyon region of northwest Alaska.

Seabirds, long considered a valuable indicator of changing marine conditions, are showing changes in phenology, diet, foraging behavior and survival rates across the Arctic. Seabirds, it is believed, are responding, at least in part, to warming sea surface temperatures and concurrent changes in prey availability. 



Management and response

CAFF’s Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA) work is highlighted in another section of the ARC. It summarizes what is known about population sizes, trends and distributions for species that inhabit sub-Arctic and Arctic waters. The ABA will create a baseline of information which will be constantly fed by the CBMP to improve rapid detection of system perturbations and provide scientific understanding to support decision-making.

NOAA scientist conducting benthic sampling. Photo: Bodil Bluhm/NOAA

New programs are underway to more effectively measure, monitor and document changes in the marine ecosystem. The Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO) is an international change detection array for the identification and consistent monitoring of biophysical responses in the Pacific Arctic. One essay highlights provisional results from a production ‘hotspot’ in Barrow Canyon, which was investigated during the DBO pilot program.

During International Polar Year (2007-2009), the first coordinated, year-round sampling of underwater acoustic marine mammal habitats at two sites in the high Arctic documented the seasonal occurrence of both Arctic and sub-Arctic species in Fram Strait (Atlantic Arctic), but only Arctic species on the Chukchi Plateau (Pacific Arctic). The Fram Strait recorders also discovered that Spitzbergen’s bowhead whales were singing almost continuously through the winter, suggesting that this critically endangered population may be larger than previously thought and that Fram Strait may be an important over-wintering area for it.



Mike Gill


Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program

+1 867 334 3258

Mike EP_DOT gill EP_AT ec EP_DOT gc EP_DOT ca 


CAFF has teamed up with the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) to provide early career scientists with an excellent opportunity to become involved in CAFF's Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP).

CAFF has asked APECS to nominate representatives to participate in the CBMP, an international network of scientists, government agencies, Indigenous organizations and conservation groups working together to harmonize and integrate efforts to monitor the Arctic's living resources.

CBMP experts are developing four coordinated and integrated Arctic Monitoring Plans to help guide circumpolar monitoring efforts. Results will be channelled into effective conservation, mitigation and adaptation policies supporting the Arctic. These plans represent the Arctic's major ecosystems:

APECS is asked to nominate representative’s to help implement the Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Plan within each of the following expert groups:

  • Plankton
  • Benthos
  • Seabirds
  • Marine mammals
  • Fish
  • Sea ice biota 

Find out more about the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Plan.

The role of early career scientists would be to assist in the tasks of aggregating and analysing the data within each expert network which would then subsequently be published and presented in assessments with key findings to the Arctic Council.  Early career scientists would gain experience of working on an international level and also on bridging science and policy, gain experience and insight into how science can inform policy and muchmore.

If you are a PhD student or PostDoc working on one of the themes mentioned above and are interested in these great opportunities, then please email info EP_AT apecs EP_DOT is with a single PDF of a statement of interest, noting your research interests, experience and your CV by 10 November 2012

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