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Observing and Responding to Pressures on Arctic Marine Ecosystem Services

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    Dr. Brent Else University of Calgary

This project will work with the community members of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, to identify risks to ecosystem services – the direct and indirect contributions ecosystems make to human well-being.

The overarching objective of this project is to develop observation and response strategies for the Arctic that are tailored to protect the marine ecosystem services most valued by coastal communities.  Although this project has only been in the MEOPAR portfolio since the beginning of 2016, it builds off several smaller activities that were already operating in the Cambridge Bay region.  Therefore, the research team has been able to make significant progress already: 

  • Samples collected during the 2015 R/V Martin Bergmann cruise were analyzed to begin work on assessing marine ecosystem structure and ocean acidification
  • A paper was published detailing Arctic char movements; students were recruited for key positions
  • Preliminary interviews were conducted to begin assessing perspectives on ecosystem services
  • Equipment was purchased to add to the monitoring and response capabilities of the R/V Martin Bergmann

The project is now well positioned to undertake a comprehensive oceanographic survey next summer, and to begin in-depth interviews and consultations throughout the year. The primary focus for knowledge transfer is to deliver research results to the community of Cambridge Bay.  This will mostly be accomplished through workshops held at the end of the project, but the team has already begun the process of community engagement through interviews, by hiring community research assistants, and by meeting with the local Hunters and Trappers Organization.

This project is one of nine research projects funded through MEOPAR's partnership with Irving Shipbuilding Inc.  Read More

Partners:

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • The Arctic Research Foundation
  • University of Calgary
  • Polar Knowledge Canada
  • Ekaluktutiak Hunters and Trappers Organization
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
  • Fonds de recherché du Quebec – Nature et technologies
  • Campus Alberta Innovates Program

Investigators:

  • Elena Bennett McGill University
  • Aaron Fisk University of Windsor
  • Casey Hubert University of Calgary
  • Anna Maria Hubert University of Calgary
  • C.J. Mundy University of Manitoba

MEOPeers:

  • Aurelie Delaforge University of Manitoba
  • Marianne Falardeau McGill University

Publications:

  • Fisk,Aaron,Moore, J.-S., L.N. Harris, S. Kessel, L. Bernatchez, R.F. Tallman. 2016, Preference for near-shore and estuarine habitats in anadromous Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) from the Canadian high Arctic (Victoria Island, NU) revealed by acoustic telemetry, Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 10.1139/cjfas-2015-0436.
  • Atkinson,David,Bell,Trevor,Dawson,Jackie,Falardeau,Marianne,Ford,John,Tremblay,Bruno, Couture N. J., Flynn M., Harper S., James T. S., Labbe J., Lanz T., Mauro I., Myers E., Ogden N., Parewick K., Pearce T., Radosavljevic B., Riedlsperger R., Sayles J.. 2016, Chapter 5 – Perspectives on Canada’s North Coast region, Canadian Coastal Climate Change Assessment,

The Inuit of Canada’s Arctic rely on the coastal marine environment to provide ecosystem services – the direct and indirect contributions ecosystems make to human well-being. One obvious ecosystem service is food provisioning; Inuit communities rely on fish and marine mammals for subsistence gathering, while some communities even have established commercial fisheries (e.g. the char fishery in Cambridge Bay, the turbot fishery in Pangnirtung). Arctic ecosystems also provide cultural services, such as education, artistic inspiration, and cultural heritage. Of course, ecosystem services are vulnerable to impacts from natural and anthropogenic pressures. The vulnerability of a particular service will depend on several factors, including how the ecosystem operates, how people interact with the ecosystem, and the nature of the external pressures. Two pressures that could have very negative impacts on ecosystem services in the coastal Arctic are ocean acidification, and hydrocarbon spills.

This project will provide the first comprehensive assessment of ecosystem structure in the Cambridge Bay region, with a focus on the foodweb interactions that support Arctic char. It will also catalogue the key ecosystem services accessed by the residents of Cambridge Bay. Combined, these products will be used to produce a targeted assessment of how pressures on the local ecosystem may affect services in the future. We will identify geographic regions that may be vulnerable to acidification, and link those regions to char habitat/migration to prioritize future monitoring efforts. Similarly, our knowledge of ecosystem structure and char movement will be used to prioritize oil spill tracking, and we will develop a bioremediation strategy for future use. Ultimately, our project seeks to overcome the challenges of limited observational and response capacities in the Arctic by using adaptive, targeted techniques with the support of a community-based, multi-use vessel.