During the last two decades, the Arctic region has become an area of international strategic importance for states, businesses, NGOs and other stakeholders. The rapid environmental changes in the Arctic create new opportunities for different actors that may impact negatively on ecological and social values. Global climate change (CC) and ocean acidification (OA) change the habitats of the cold-adapted organisms living in the Arctic, with the risk of exterminating unique biodiversity.
This third expert workshop on Marine Protected Area (MPA) networks in the Arctic was held in Helsinki (Finland) and its outcome is a contribution to the “PAME MPA-network toolbox” project. An MPA, as defined by PAME, is “a clearly defined geographical space recognized, dedicated, and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values”. An MPA network is a collection of individual MPAs or reserves operating cooperatively and synergistically, at various spatial scales, and with a range of protection levels that are designed to meet objectives that a single reserve cannot achieve. During this third expert workshop the scientific basis of how MPA networks may reduce negative effects of CC and OA in the Arctic region was discussed. Workshop participants were mainly scientists with expertise on Arctic marine ecosystems, CC, OA and MPAs. The intention of the workshop was not to reach consensus and provide a fixed list of recommendations, but rather to summarize: (1) the best available knowledge that can already be applied to the planning of a Pan-Arctic MPA network, and (2) the primary uncertainties and, hence, what necessary scientific knowledge is still lacking. As such, the six main outcomes from the workshop below contribute to the scientific basis for the potential of MPAs as a tool to meet the threats posed by CC and OA to Arctic ecosystems and livelihoods:
- A paradigm shift for establishing MPAs is necessary
- Existing MPA network criteria should be adapted to Arctic conditions
- Additional stresses should be targeted
- The location of Arctic MPAs should be carefully considered
- The scientific knowledge basis should be improved
- Identification of research priorities
This meeting report was contributed by IASC MWG Member Pauline Snoeijs Leijonmalm. If you are interested in representing IASC at an upcoming Arctic meeting, please contact the IASC Secretariat.