Meetings >> Report of CEON Planning meeting >> Development of CEON

Section 4.1: Welcome, Background, Perspectives and Challenges for the development of CEON

The meeting was opened by Mr Krister Nilsson, State Secretary at the Ministry of the Environment, Sweden. Nilsson highlighted the social trends of the 1960's and 70's where the ecological footprint of the developing world was regarded as almost limitless. Nowadays, the sustainability of human activities and the associated impacts on the environment are increasingly under scrutiny. Accordingly, Nilsson stressed the importance of science not becoming a vacuum and the need for better linkages between science, policy, politics and management in order to promote the sustainable interaction of humans and their environment. Nilsson emphasized the need for long term monitoring, the involvement of indigenous peoples and the importance of networks and international cooperation in performing these tasks in the Arctic. Nilsson closed his talk by welcoming participants to the CEON meeting and to the Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Craig Tweedie presented the background and recent developments of CEON, including the rational for CEON's inception, and the scoping activities in which he has been involved with since these began in July 2002. A summary of this information is provided in Section 2 above. Simon Stephenson and Patrick Webber, current Presidents of FARO and IASC, then described the involvement of their affiliated organizations, which have endorsed the concept of CEON and its development. Stephenson and Webber suggested that the latest developments within CEON be presented to FARO and IASC during ASSW in Reykjavik, Iceland during April 2004. Webber highlighted the potential availability of 'seed' funds from IASC to support the initial planning and development of CEON.

Bill Heal discussed the role CEON can play in promoting international collaboration, exchange of knowledge, education, and 'big picture' science in the Arctic. Heal opened by identifying the Arctic as the only true circum-polar system on the globe and alluded to the diverse range of observed and modeled changes occurring in this region. Changes are resulting from drivers originating both within and outside of the Arctic system. These changes are of global significance and are having effects on the sustainability of natural resource use. Understanding and forecasting social, economic and environmental changes needs integrated information sources and an understanding of regional variability within the Arctic. Heal stressed the importance of integrating monitoring with research and reducing assessments of change to human time scales. The minimal or initial steps CEON can promote include the following:

  • Establishing a circum-arctic consortium of sites (a CEON).
  • Establishing accessible databases (of site features, long-term datasets, key publications etc).
  • Determining environmental representation of sites within networks and identifying gaps in measurements.
  • Define and encourage initial comparative observations.
  • Define responses to ACIA projections.
  • Develop an education and outreach program.
  • Represent the consortium of interests in Arctic and Global connections (e.g. with AC, IASC, FARO, IPY - The International Polar Year, GTOS - the Global Terrestrial Observing System, IGBP - the International Geosphere Biosphere Program, and ILTER - the International Long Term Research Program).
Terry Callaghan and Margareta Johansson presented the relevance of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) to CEON based on their collaborative involvement in ACIA assessing the impacts of climate and UV radiation on arctic tundra and polar dessert ecosystems. This assessment forms a key chapter of the ACIA Scientific Report, which will be released in mid to late 2004. ACIA aims to evaluate and synthesize knowledge on climate variability, climate change, and increased ultraviolet radiation and their consequences in the Arctic in order to provide useful and reliable information to the governments, organizations and peoples of the Arctic on policy options to meet such changes. Products from ACIA will include a Science Document, an Overview Document, a Policy Document and outreach. Callaghan and Johansson's presentation focused on identifying problems and gaps encountered during the ACIA that CEON could address. The ACIA is based on data gathered from several approaches including monitoring, modeling, indigenous knowledge and experiments to assess paleo and current change in species and ecosystem structure and function, and regional processes and feedbacks. Sub-regional syntheses have been performed and key uncertainties and policy recommendations have been identified. Key findings of ACIA relate to species relocation, adaptive abilities and the resulting changes in biodiversity, highlighting those species that will be particularly sensitive. The key findings also produce results of recent state of the art models that show relocation of forest, tundra and polar deserts and the implications of this relocation for the various feedbacks to the climate system. The ACIA chapter includes a detailed discussion of the uncertainties surrounding the key findings and recommends mechanisms to reduce these uncertainties. Suggestions that the ACIA terrestrial ecosystem chapter are likely to make that have relevance to CEON and that CEON can enhance includes the following:
  • There is a need to increase the stability of international observing networks that include local peoples and are suitable for validating models and ground-truthing remotely sensed products.
  • Mechanisms need to be developed to analyze, synthesize and scale existing observational materials including remote sensing and ground-based observational data.
  • Interdisciplinary connections need to be made among the modelling communities and observational networks focusing on transient observations.
  • There is a need to establish long term, large scale manipulative experiments to simulate various aspects of changes in climate, UV and CO2 including extreme events.
  • High resolution models are needed to simulate local changes and to aid visualization by local peoples.
  • Circum-arctic funding is required to build on existing initiatives such as FATE (Feedbacks on Arctic Terrestrial Ecosystems, TTI (the Tundra-Taiga Initiative), SCANNET, ITEX (the International Tundra Experiment), ENVINET etc (the European Network for Arctic-Alpine Multidisciplinary Environmental Research).