The Circle

Arctic Biodiversity: Where is it heading?

© NOAA Photo Library, Dr. Louis M. Herman, CC,

The animals that inhabit Arctic ecosystems are uniquely adapted to life in the area’s cold, icy waters, where the sun doesn’t rise for months at a time. But as KATE STAFFORD writes, human activity and the rapidly changing climate are having profound impacts on the Arctic’s physical and biological environments, leading to changes in biodiversity.

In this issue

In this issue of The Circle, we highlight the importance of Arctic biodiversity and need for immediate action to protect nature in the Arctic.

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The march of the beaver into the Arctic

The Arctic has long been home to species that are well-adapted to the region’s cold, harsh conditions—from polar bears and caribou to narwhals and ringed seals. But now these species have a new neighbour: the beaver. And its appearance in Alaska could have significant consequences for ecosystems and biodiversity.

Birds without borders need protection everywhere

Arctic migratory birds fly through dozens of countries on their way to and from the North—so whose birds are they, anyway? For example, if a bird migrates from southern Africa but breeds in the Arctic, is it a South African bird or an Arctic one? For the bird, it really doesn’t matter: what matters is being adequately protected from climate-related threats along the entire flyway. To that end, WWF–Sweden has launched the Tavvavouma Arctic Flyways project to study and protect an important wetland used by wading sandpipers.


Tom Arnbom / WWF-Sweden

Mainstreaming nature in the Arctic

There is no time left in the Arctic to work in silos. As a leading multilateral platform, the Arctic Council proposes integrated solutions to protect climate, nature, land management, health, food and water and to support political and economic stability. It is clear that separate responses are not viable. ELIZABETH MREMA, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, shares her thoughts.

Alaska Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CC,

Northern wildfires endanger black spruce trees

A NEW STUDY published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America has found that more frequent Arctic wildfires are causing black spruce trees to lose their resilience and capacity to regenerate.

Photo: Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

Creating the right climate for conservation

As a conservation organization, WWF’s mission is to create a world where people and wildlife can thrive together. But as VANESSA PÉREZ-CIRERA writes, that goal is increasingly threatened by the climate crisis: as we are seeing all too vividly in the Arctic, warmer temperatures are destroying ecosystems that have evolved over millions of years, pushing untold numbers of species toward extinction.

Deep seabed mining would destroy biodiversity—and we don’t need it

Covering around half the Earth’s surface, the ocean’s deep seabed is an uncharted world teeming with life that exerts a major influence on the whole ocean ecosystem and on our climate. It’s also rich in metals and minerals—and as we slowly deplete mineral deposits on land, there is increasing pressure to look to the deep seabed. But JESSICA BATTLE of WWF–Sweden explains why deep seabed mining is an idea whose time should never come.

Tuomo Lindfors, CC,

We are all tied to the Arctic

Arctic biodiversity knows no borders—nor do the environmental drivers affecting it. But the carrying capacity of the Earth has limits, and they are not negotiable. MIA RÖNKÄ explains why the ongoing biodiversity and climate crises call for collaboration and co-creation—and how the Finnish chairship of the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) from 2021 to 2023 will emphasize a sustainable, participatory approach and a just transition that acknowledges the knowledge, cultures and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Arctic Council Secretariat / Linnea Nordström

Advancing conservation and protecting biodiversity in the Russian Arctic

The global pandemic has made it clearer than ever that nature underpins our society, economy, health and well-being—and that we need to transform our relationship with it. VICTORIA ELIAS explains how the Russian chairship of the Arctic Council can advance conservation in the region.

Allen Shimada NOAA NMFS/OST/AMD.

The future of the Bering Sea depends on tribal-led management

The Bering Sea is one of the world’s most important ecosystems. With its critical socio-environmental, economic and cultural values, it is also a bellwether of Arctic change. LAUREN DIVINE describes the rapid transformations that are taking place in the ecosystem of the Indigenous Unangaxˆ(Aleut) communities of St. Paul and St. George—the islands comprising the Pribilof Islands in Alaska’s Bering Sea—and how local, traditional and Indigenous knowledge and tribal-led management are addressing them.

The Circle is a magazine produced by the WWF Global Arctic Programme. Our goal is to inform decision-makers, scientists and the interested public about Arctic environmental and development issues.
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The Circle 01.2022