Alaskan Marine Arctic Conservation Action Plan for the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas

Created: 7/01/2010 - Updated: 12/05/2018

Summary

The Nature Conservancy developed the Conservation Action Planning (CAP) tool in order to guide projects’ design, implementation, and evaluation. The Alaska chapter has developed a CAP for the Arctic marine region of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. This plan identifies priority conservation targets and stressors and delineates potential strategies for improving conservation and management actions. Climate change and its effects are identified as the primary threats to natural resources of ecological and cultural importance in the region.

Background

The Arctic marine environment of Alaska is home to many species of ecological and cultural importance, including polar bears, bowhead whales, seals, seabirds, and fish. Climate change-related threats to the region include habitat and species loss, changes in community structure, habitat alteration, and the resulting effects on indigenous communities and the economy. Melting sea ice is of primary concern as its disappearance will lead to increased development and expansion of commercial fisheries, energy exploration and production, and transportation lanes, which may in turn increase the risk of oil spills, ship strikes, and habitat degradation or destruction. The Alaska chapter of The Nature Conservancy recognized the need to develop a CAP to guide the chapter’s response to these threats; this plan covers coastal, nearshore, and marine environments of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the State of Alaska.

Implementation

An expert advisory panel and stakeholder input were used to provide guidance for the development of the CAP, which identifies conservation targets, stressors, and strategies. Six conservation targets were chosen:

  • Bowhead Whale;
  • Ice-Dependent Marine Mammals (e.g., Pacific walrus, polar bear, and ringed, spotted, bearded, and ribbon seals);
  • Seabirds;
  • Boulder Patch Communities (support rare Arctic kelp species);
  • Benthic Fauna (e.g., sea stars, barnacles, sponges); and
  • Arctic Fish.

Five stressors were identified that threaten the Arctic marine ecosystem:

  • Climate Change;
  • Energy Exploration, Development, and Production;
  • Transportation and Shipping;
  • Fisheries; and
  • Cumulative Impacts.

The CAP also provides recommendations to improve conservation and management in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. These include:

  • Promoting climate adaptation strategies and integrated ecosystem-based management;
  • Investing in research and data collection, especially to establish baseline datasets;
  • Encouraging collaboration between different sectors, including federal and state agencies, managers, industry, local communities, and conservation groups, especially around marine spatial planning opportunities in the region;
  • Identifying and protecting climate refugia, especially for ice-dependent animals;
  • Protecting the cultural practices of subsistence communities;
  • Supporting precautionary approaches to planning and management; and
  • Encouraging consideration of natural systems in future development of fisheries, energy exploration, and transportation lanes.

The creation of the CAP was funded with grants from Shell Oil International and the Oak Foundation. The Alaska chapter worked with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks to develop climate scenarios to support the development of adaptation strategies.

Outcomes and Conclusions

This CAP is an internal guidance document to direct the Alaska chapter’s actions. The plan identifies strategies for The Nature Conservancy to use to address climate change in their conservation efforts.

Status

Information based on interviews and online resources. Last updated on 7/1/10.

Citation

Gregg, R. M. (2010). Alaskan Marine Arctic Conservation Action Plan for the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas [Case study on a project of The Nature Conservancy - Anchorage]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/alaskan-marine-arctic-conservation-act... (Last updated July 2010)

Project Contacts

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.

We address the most pressing conservation threats at the largest scale. Thanks to the support of our more than 1 million members, we’ve built a tremendous record of success since our founding in 1951:

The University of Alaska-Fairbanks includes seven campuses across the state and is home to more than 11,000 students from all over the world.

Keywords

Scale of Project: 
State / Provincial
Sector Addressed: 
Conservation / Restoration
Research
Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Air temperature
Biodiversity
Economics
Habitat extent
Range shifts
Water temperature
Other
Climate Type: 
Polar
Subpolar
Timeframe: 
1-3 years
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate future conditions into natural resources planning and policies
Capacity Building
Coordinate planning and management
Taxonomic Focus: 
Mammals
Birds
Plants
Fishes
Other Invertebrates
Effort Stage: 
Completed