ARCTIC NEEDS AN ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING SYSTEM
On December 22, the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation held two roundtable discussions on environmental monitoring, which featured contributions from WWF-Russia.
The Arctic region was the focus of the discussion. The roundtables were moderated by: Irina Sannikova, member of the Civic Chamber's Committee for Ecology and Environmental Protection; Irina Onufrenya, head of WWF-Russia's biodiversity conservation projects; and Natalya Troitskaya, director of the Non-Profit Partnership for Reserves organization and member of the Expert Committee for Specially Protected Natural Areas at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia.
"The Arctic is one of the world's most rapidly changing territories, and obviously, monitoring its ecosystems is a highly promising research field that will give us an understanding of what is happening to our environment, how it is changing, and how we may preserve it," Irina Onufrenya explained. "For maximum efficiency in this area, we require an action plan that will help researcher from different organizations to join efforts, as well as a unified system that will store the entire pool of data we receive and may potentially be used by government agencies, public organizations, businesses, and the research community."
Members of academic circles, reserve employees, and representatives of government-owned companies and public organizations all came together to share their experience and discuss the issues that they face most often. As it turned out, one of the main challenges is the lack of a consolidated approach and coordinated action.
"We are improving our work tools and gaining a better understanding of the processes involved. But we still have no structure. Our system cannot just assemble itself from within like DNA. We need government regulations, explicit legal definitions," said Maria Gavrilo, employee of the State Research Center "Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute", head of the Open Ocean project, member of the Marine Heritage association.
"Many researchers that presented their projects today had a chance to both share their discoveries and the results of their studies and find out what is going on in other specially protected natural areas nearby, in addition to hearing their colleagues' opinions. "And this is a huge plus of our meeting, which, once again, showed how fragmented the work on environmental monitoring really is, both in the Arctic and in other regions of the country," said Natalya Troitskaya. "Based on the results of the roundtable discussion, we will assemble all the proposals and ideas that were voiced today, and compile recommendations for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the directors of specially protected natural areas, and the WWF project. The recommendations will touch upon the appropriate ways of identifying priority monitoring target, coordinating work in the region, summarizing and analyzing materials, and making administrative decisions based on research data. In addition, these recommendations emphasize that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment needs to approve the pre-developed streamlined monitoring program for federal specially protected natural areas, in addition to a regional program for studying the Arctic. This will make it possible to engage in environmental monitoring in a more efficient, coordinated manner, summarize and analyze research data, and use the research insights competently for conservation purposes in Russia."
A series of WWF-Russia webinars involving the specially protected natural area staff included a presentation of a standard federal program for environmental monitoring in SPNAs, which had been developed by Russian researcher. The recommendations on approving this program, along with other insights gained during the roundtable discussion, will later be submitted to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia.
The discussion's hosts have expressed hope that such meetings may be turned into annual events, with even more participants.
"We have, once again, reaffirmed the value of protected areas, the highest level of research quality, and the fact that we have huge scientific potential that has not yet been fully acted upon. Hopefully, joining forces will help optimize research and improve its output," Natalya Troitskaya concluded.
The regional program of environmental monitoring in the specially protected natural protected areas of the Arctic is part of a WWF-Russia project titled "Conservation of the biodiversity in the northern regions of Russia for the purposes of meeting the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity by reinforcing and expanding the range of specially protected natural areas that have been adapted to climate change". The project is supported by the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The initiative is also backed by the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit, BMU), as per a decree by the German government