How about Arctic wetlands?

14/03/2013

In 1996 the Arctic Council was established as a high level intergovernmental forum to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States (Canada, Finland, Denmark with Greenland and the Faroes, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, USA), with the involvement of different Arctic indigenous communities, on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic region (www.arctic-council.org).

Ice sculptures at the entrance of the government building overlooking Lenin square in Yakutsk


The Arctic Council established six working groups focusing on contaminant action and monitoring and assessment programmes, emergency prevention, sustainable development, marine protection and the conservation of flora and fauna. Ramsar signed a Resolution of Cooperation during COP11 in Bucharest with the latter programme on the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF).

CAFF addresses the conservation of Arctic biodiversity and communicates its findings to the governments and residents of the Arctic. A small secretariat in Iceland coordinates substantial monitoring and assessment programmes and focused research (www.caff.is). On 11-14 February 2013, CAFF held its biennial meeting in Yakutsk on the shores of the frozen Lena river in Siberia. The meeting was opened, and generously hosted, by Egor Borisov, president of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) of the Russian Federation. It took place in the well-heated government hall, with outside temperatures oscillating between minus 45 and 35°C. The cornerstone of CAFF’s activities is the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) focusing on terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity. Later this spring, it will publish the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment, a major effort to provide a much needed description of the current status and a suite of policy recommendations (watch this space for further news).

Twilight near the orthodox church

The meeting served also to explore best ways of cooperation between CAFF and Ramsar in a terrestrial area of which more than 60% is wetland, with currently 68 designated Ramsar Sites. Working together, CAFF and Ramsar will be able to better understand changes in the fragile and unique Arctic ecosystems and their services. Direct links between the Arctic and the rest of the world are highlighted through the work of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership, one of Ramsar’s regional initiatives, that focuses on waterbird migration from the nesting grounds in the Arctic to faraway places around the globe. Further opportunities for cooperation will be addressed during the forthcoming meeting of Ramsar’s Nordic-Baltic regional initiative on 3-5 September 2013 at Ilulissat in Greenland. This will be an occasion to discuss work for an assessment of Arctic wetlands, their diversity and distribution, to start a programme with a view to reducing negative effects of mining activities on Arctic wetlands, river basins and coastal areas, and to work on ecosystem services pilot projects. With global warming, Arctic wetlands will come more and more into the limelight. We will continue to keep you informed.

A sunny spell on the outskirts of the city at the border of the Lena floodplain.


Report and photos by Tobias Salathé, Senior Regional Advisor for Europe


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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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