GRID Polar Division News

Protecting Arctic Biodiversity - New publication launched

The Arctic is experiencing some of the most rapid environmental changes on the planet. Whilst this presents enormous challenges for conserving biodiversity, it also offers opportunities for enhancing cooperation between nations and reforming environmental governance to meet the challenges of the 21st Century, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

View the report online

The Arctic contribution to global biodiversity is significant. Hundreds of migrating species (including 279 species of birds and the grey and humpback whales) travel long distances each year in order to take advantage of productive Arctic summers.

However, evidence of warming in the Arctic is mounting year on year - with serious consequences for biodiversity. This year is no exception. One well-publicised impact of warming is the loss of habitat for species dependent on sea ice, such as polar bears.

But this is only one change. Across the Arctic, many habitats that are considered critical for biodiversity, such as the tundra, have been disappearing over the last few decades.

Launched to coincide with the 10th Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, the report, entitled Protecting Arctic Biodiversity: Strengths and limitations of environmental agreements, was researched by UNEP’s Polar Centre GRID-Arendal in Norway. The report underlines that although tried and tested solutions to the current biodiversity crisis in the Arctic exist in the region itself, important conservation gains will only be won if root causes originating outside the Arctic region are addressed.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “We are currently witnessing unprecedented change in the Arctic, which will have important and far-reaching consequences not only for the region itself, but for the rest of the world.”

Wednesday 27 Oct 2010