The Northern Bering Sea-Chukchi Sea region is experiencing unprecedented ocean warming and loss of sea ice as a result of climate change. Seasonal sea ice declines and warming temperatures have been more prominent in the Northern Bering and Chukchi seas than almost all other areas of the Arctic.
Chronic and sudden changes in climate conditions in this Arctic gateway are increasingly impacting marine species and food-webs and expanding opportunities for commercial activities (shipping, oil and gas development and fishing), with uncertain and potentially wide-spread cumulative impacts. There are strong concerns about the impacts of climate change and industrial activities, and these impacts may be particularly pronounced in Arctic Indigenous communities dependent on the health and stability of the ecosystem. The combination of unprecedented, rapid change and increased interest in the Arctic in general and the Northern Bering and Chukchi seas specifically make this an opportune time for a synthesis of issues and knowledge. An integrated ecosystem assessment (IEA) can accomplish this synthesis and together, ICES and PICES have recently established a Joint Working Group on Integrated Ecosystem Assessment of the Northern Bering Sea-Chukchi Sea (WGIEANBS-CS).
At ICES, we use the ecosystem approach to develop integrated ecosystem assessments (IEAs) – these are quantitative evaluations and syntheses of information on the physical, chemical, and ecological processes and human activities taking place within an ecosystem.
To develop IEAs, and provide the scientific understanding needed to deliver advice that considers the different trade-offs between various policy options, we need to understand the relationships between human activities and marine ecosystems, to evaluate the services these systems provide us with, and to estimate the overall pressures exerted, from fishing to pollution to habitat damage, and their varying impacts.
Libby Logerwell, NOAA, US and co-chair of WGIEANBS-CS, explains that group aims to assemble an interdisciplinary and international membership that includes Arctic peoples and Indigenous Knowledge systems and identifies and consults with partners and institutions.
To begin with, the group will determine an approach and methodology for conducting an IEA in the Northern Bering – Chukchi Sea Large
Marine Ecosystem (LME), compile an inventory of scientific metadata, develop indigenous knowledge sharing with knowledge holders to facilitate co-production of knowledge, and describe the key physical, biological and human elements of the ecosystem.
The work of WGIEANBS-CS aligns with other expert groups internationally, one of which is the Arctic Council joint Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Ecosystem Approach Expert Group (EA-EG) also chaired by Libby Logerwell along with Lis Lindal Jørgensen, IMR, Norway. The EA-EG works to facilitate integration of EA implementation into the overall work of the Arctic Council. It also provides a mechanism to facilitate the exchange and review of information and experiences gained to support the development of a common and coordinated approach to the implementation of the EA by Arctic states. In addition, the work of the WGIEANBS-CS will compliment the work of the ICES/PICES/PAME Working Group on Integrated Ecosystem Assessment of the Central Arctic Ocean (WGICA).
As the group has only recently been established, Logerwell encourages those with the relevant expertise to get in contact with her prior to the next meeting in October 2021. She adds that the group, “welcome new members with expertise in the fields of ocean and climate modelling, physical oceanography, biological oceanography, biogeochemical oceanography, fisheries, benthic ecology, seabirds, marine mammals, social sciences, economics, Indigenous knowledge, traditional knowledge, Integrated Assessment, ecosystem modeling and management."
To find out more and contact the group, visit WGIEANBS-CS.