The Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Monitoring Plan- click to downloadThe Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Monitoring Plan is the third of four pan-Arctic biodiversity monitoring plans developed by the CBMP to improve the collective ability of Arctic traditional knowledge holders, northern communities and scientists to detect, understand and report on long-term change in Arctic terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity.

The CBMP-Terrestrial Plan will facilitate more powerful and cost-effective assessments of Arctic terrestrial ecosystems through the generation of and access to harmonized pan-Arctic data sets. This will allow for more informed, timely and effective conservation and management of the Arctic terrestrial environment.

The development of the CBMP-Terrestrial Plan is designed to facilitate connections and harmonization amongst national and sub-national research and monitoring networks, including scientific, TK, and community-based knowledge networks, increasing their power to detect and attribute change. In addition, the increased power will come at a reduced cost, compared to the cost of multiple uncoordinated approaches allowing for these savings to be invested in filling critical gaps in our monitoring coverage.

Goals and objectives of the Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Monitoring Plan

  • Identify key agency, industrial, community and TK management needs for terrestrial biodiversity information and key ecological relationships.
  • Identify a common suite of biological focal ecosystem components (FECs), attributes, parameters and comparable methods to coordinate the monitoring of change across Arctic terrestrial ecosystems.
  • Identify key abiotic drivers, relevant to terrestrial biodiversity, which should be monitored and integrated with biological parameters.
  • Identify existing monitoring capacity and data that can be aggregated to establish baselines and form the backbone of a monitoring scheme.
  • Identify new partners in government, industry, communities and academia that could contribute to an evolving terrestrial monitoring effort.
  • Identify a sampling strategy to meet identified monitoring objectives, making efficient use of existing monitoring capacity and planning for the future.
  • Identify priority gaps (taxa, spatial, and/or temporal) in coverage and opportunities to address gaps where feasible
  • Identify key monitoring methodologies and ways to incorporate TK expertise and to build and extend collaborative initiatives and partnerships to identify priorities, needs, and knowledge gaps
  • Facilitate communication and coordination among Arctic terrestrial biodiversity researchers and monitoring groups.

 Key management questions

  1. What are the status, distribution, and conditions of terrestrial focal species, populations, communities, and landscapes/ecosystems and key processes/functions occurring in the Arctic?

  2. How and where are these terrestrial focal species, populations, communities, and landscapes/ecosystems and key processes/functions changing?

  3. What and how are the primary environmental and anthropogenic drivers influencing changes in biodiversity and ecosystem function?

  4. Where are the areas of high ecological importance including, for example, resilient and vulnerable areas (related to the FECs) and where are drivers having the greatest impact?

 Where to monitor?

The CBMP-Terrestrial Plan closely follows the definitions, geographic boundaries, species and ecosystem coverage as outlined by the CAFF Arctic Biodiversity Assessment. The CBMP-Terrestrial Plan scope includes high and low Arctic consistent with the Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map’s subzones A-E.

  • Subzone A has a maximum average July temperature of 3 °C, is mostly barren with some lichen and moss cover, and vascular plant cover is less than 5% of the area.
  • Subzone B has a maximum average July temperature of 5 °C, and has some vascular plants less than 5 cm tall and covering up to 25% of total area.
  • Subzone C has 7 °C as the maximum average July temperature, and may include prostate dwarf shrubs reaching 15 cm; vascular plants may represent 50 % of total cover.
  • Subzone D has 9 °C as the maximum average July temperature; vascular plants and dwarf shrubs may reach up to 40 cm and cover may be up to 80% of total area.
  • Subzone E, the warmest, can reach 12 °C, include vascular plants and shrubs reaching up to 80 cm in height, and may reach 100% vegetation cover (closed canopy).

 Circumpolar Arctic bioclimate subzones and location of long-term monitoring sites, programs and infrastructure that can contribute to monitoring capacity as part of the CBMP-Terrestrial Plan. This map includes all biotic groups.

What to monitor?

Four main terrestrial biotic groups were selected for systematic monitoring:

  1. vegetation (including fungi);
  2. invertebrates (including some arthropods with life stages in aquatic environments);
  3. birds (resident and migratory); and
  4. mammals (resident and migratory).

How to monitor: Focal Ecosystem Components (FECs) 

The CBMP-Terrestrial Plan is structured around a set of focal ecosystem components (FECs) which are the targets of the monitoring effort, and their related attributes (characteristics).

FECs and attributes were identified by:

  • determining critical information needs related to biodiversity and ecosystem function,
  • creating conceptual models to understand key ecological relationships, processes and drivers and
  • evaluating current and potential capacity to conduct long-term monitoring and the relative feasibility of various approaches.

Common set of core attributes for all biotic groups: 

  • diversity,
  • composition,
  • phenology,
  • demographics,
  • spatial structure,
  • temporal cycles,
  • health,
  • productivity, and
  • ecosystem functions and processes.

FECs were prioritized as either essential or recommended according to the following four criteria:

  1. ecological importance as identified through the development of conceptual ecological models;
  2. Relevance to ecosystem services;
  3. importance to Arctic indigenous and non-indigenous peoples and communities; and
  4. importance for management and legislation needs.

For each attribute, sampling parameters (measurements in the field), methods, monitoring frequency and spatial scales were identified. Methods were categorized as either basic (requiring knowledge, training or equipment that is easy to acquire) or advanced (requiring a higher level of experience, expertise or more sophisticated equipment) to allow for participation across a range of capacity of potential contributors.


Terrestrial Steering Committee


Terrestrial Plan

Photo: Susan Morse 

Terrestrial data

Photo: BMJ/




Photo: Stanislav Duben/


Arctic Fox

Photo: mevert/


Arctic States

dk   ca   fi   is   no   ru   sw   usa

Permanent Participants

aac  raipon  icc   GCI Logo Vertical RGB 121x90  aia  saami_councile