Changes in Arctic marine biodiversity indicate environment on verge of major shift


Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council released a report in May 2017 highlighting  how changing food availability, loss of ice habitat, increases in contagious diseases, and the impending invasion of southern species are taking their toll on Arctic marine animals, and pointing to an ecosystem on the verge of a shift   The following text is courtesy of the CAFF press release of May 11 2017.

The State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report identifies trends in key marine species and points to important gaps in biodiversity monitoring efforts across key ecosystem components in: sea ice biota, plankton, benthos, marine fishes, seabirds and marine mammals. Changes in these species are likely to indicate changes in the overall marine environment.


Over 60 international experts in CAFF’s Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) sifted through existing data on key elements of the Arctic marine species. Key findings and evidence include:


Food resources are being lost for many Arctic species in Arctic marine environments. Many species must travel further and expend more energy to feed, leading to concerns about individual health and potential effects at the population level.

  • Reduced ice cover has led to increased polar bear predation on ground-nesting common eiders and cliff-nesting murres.
  • Barents Sea harp seals have reduced body condition associated with reduced food availability as their travel time to the ice edge to feed is longer.
  • Some Indigenous communities have noted a change in walrus stomach contents, with more open water fishes and less clams, indicating that the distribution and availability of benthic resource species are changing in some areas.
  • Ivory gull declines coincide with reduction in their sea ice feeding areas.


The report provides advice to improve Arctic biodiversity monitoring activities to provide scientific information to policy makers more quickly. These include better coordination, standardisation of methods, improved consideration of Traditional and Local Knowledge, and attention to filling key information gaps. Check out the full report on the CAFF website

12 May 2017