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Climate change affecting even remote arctic environment, study says

The remoteness of one of the world's largest ecosystems has not made it immune from global environmental problems, according to a major new report on the state of Arctic biodiversity, funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

"Arctic Flora and Fauna: Status and Conservation" was released today in Finland by the Arctic Council's working group for the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF). The report includes contributions from more than 150 specialists and experts throughout the Arctic.

"Many scientists or groups of specialists have looked at parts of the Arctic or at different species, but until now no one has taken a comprehensive look at the state of the entire Arctic," said Sune Sohlberg of Sweden, who chairs the CAFF working group. "Thanks to this report, we now have a better idea of conservation needs around the circumpolar region."

At the local level, the report argues, there is clear evidence that several economically-important species have been exploited, and habitat has been fragmented due to development activities.

It adds that climate change is already having measurable effects on Arctic species, permafrost, and sea ice; alien invasive species are increasingly penetrating the region; and contaminants released thousands of kilometers away are appearing at high levels in human and wildlife communities.

The report also highlights the lack of critical information in many areas. Population figures for plants and animals may be uncertain, and the scientific understanding of the ways the Arctic ecosystem functions in changing environment is incomplete. However, these population figures provide a baseline for later research and monitoring data.

The report was developed over a two-year period and funded in part by a $56,000 grant from NSF's division of environmental biology. Based on the latest scientific information, the book-length report provides a clear understanding of the importance of the Earth's largest
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Contact: Peter West
pwest@nsf.gov
703-292-8070
National Science Foundation
10-Jun-2001


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