Arctic Biodiversity of Chars - Network for Monitoring and Research

Project Description
Short Title: ABC-NET
Proposal URL:

The theme of this project is to establish comprehensive, arctic-wide, locally driven monitoring programmes for biodiversity of Arctic char through two linked components: 1) Community-based monitoring, and 2) Research-based Monitoring. Such work will allow for both local indigenous peoples and researchers to document changes in the biodiversity of char populations and their local ecosystems and to link their findings into a comprehensive view of global change as it affects this key Arctic fishery resource. During the IPY period (2006-2008) this activity will: a) establish a network and outreach among northern communities, char researchers, conservation groups, and other IPY projects; b) research and/or summarise present local and global biodiversity in chars; c) develop appropriate monitoring protocols for char status and diversity; and, d) establish relevant local and global monitoring/research sites and teams in as many Arctic countries as possible. Using these IPY short-term products as the background, the long-term goals are to establish long-term funding for the Network, extend it to un- or under-represented areas, and establish legacy databases and trained individuals, assessment schedules, and monitoring approaches and research topics suitable for long-term monitoring and research. This activity is fundamental to the conservation and sustainability of this pivotal arctic aquatic resource and will contribute to this by documenting present status and impacts on this fish and its Arctic ecosystems, project future status, and provide the foundation for adaptation strategies designed to meet challenges of change in the Arctic.
Further, this activity is a direct response fulfilling a specific aim and initiative of the Arctic Council as follows. In its acceptance of the findings and projections from the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), the Arctic Council directed two of its working groups, Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) to examine the ACIA findings and develop follow-on programmes and activities, both individually and jointly, to address key projections for the future of the Arctic. A primary response of the CAFF working group was the implementation of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme (CBMP, IPY133) formally released in September, 2005 ( The CBMP calls for the development of a number of specific networks designed to monitor the status and change of key Arctic organisms of primary importance to the integrity of Arctic ecosystems and the culture and livelihood of indigenous peoples. Arctic char was specifically designated by the CBMP as a target species for monitoring the general health and biodiversity of Arctic aquatic ecosystems. Results and activities from this char network will contribute directly to CBMP work; furthermore, additional networks (e.g., Freshwater Biodiversity, IPY202) and specific research endeavours (e.g., Arctic char thermal habitat use; IPY 144) developed through IPY stimulus are directly linked to this IPY proposal (i.e., lead on this project, J. Reist, is a member of the CBMP, and is a co-lead (144) or named participant (202) of other projects). A component of this project is also linked to the IPY Youth project (IPY168). This proposed network is also tightly linked to established existing char researchers (i.e. International Society of Arctic char Fanatics, ISACF IPY project co-lead, J. Hammar, is principal of ISACF and J. Reist is a long-time member).
Chars are a group of closely related fish species that collectively form a key renewable resource for northern peoples from the sub-Arctic through to the northernmost freshwaters of all Arctic nations. Chars exhibit great biodiversity both within and among locations (e.g., ecological forms, life history types, etc.). These forms may act as distinct ecological "species" in Arctic systems thus contribute to ecosystem stability and resilience. Chars also may occupy and migrate among many habitats during their life history, thus are key components of, and linking entities between, freshwater (both lakes and rivers), estuarine, and near-shore ecosystems. Chars are usually apex predators within their ecosystems thus they integrate lower-level ecosystem impacts. Chars are highly responsive to many anthropogenic impacts and are pivotal integrators of both short-term (e.g., exploitation, contaminants, habitat change, industrial development) and long-term (e.g., climate variability and change) direct effects both on themselves and indirect effects on their ecosystems. Chars are also widely fished supporting local food, commercial and sport fisheries as well as northern aquaculture endeavours. Thus, chars are of primary interest to northern peoples as a key resource, hence interest and involvement of community-based monitoring is high. Accordingly, chars are useful both as monitors of ecosystem change and for understanding responses of northern resources and ecosystems to anthropogenic drivers at many temporal and spatial levels. This network will provide the basis for integrating these activities throughout the Arctic thereby establishing a lasting legacy for a key northern renewable resource.