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  • Lammert Hilarides
  • Tom Langendoen
  • Stephan Flink
  • Merijn van Leeuwen
  • Bart Steen (Corresponding author)
  • Alexander Kondratyev
  • Andrea Kölzsch
  • Tomas Aarvak
  • Helmut Kruckenberg
  • Didier Vangeluwe
  • Emil Todorov
  • Anne L. Harrison
  • Eileen Rees
  • Adriaan Dokter
  • Bart Nolet
  • Taej Mundkur
Economic development and energy exploration are increasing in the Arctic. Important breeding habitats for many waterbird species, which have previously been relatively undisturbed, are now being subjected to these anthropogenic pressures. The conservation of the habitats and the species they support is a significant challenge for sustainable development. Even if governments and corporates operating in this fragile environment are committed to sustainable development, there is little information available to avoid, mitigate and manage environmental risk and impacts. Taking a risk management perspective, we followed the International Finance Corporations (IFC) Performance Standard 6 (PS6) criteria on Environmental and Social Sustainability and developed an approach to identify "critical habitat", as defined in IFC PS6, for waterbird species breeding in the Arctic. While the range of these waterbirds is roughly known, more accuracy is needed for proper risk assessment. We have therefore gone a step further by modelling suitable habitat within these ranges. Depending on the relevance of the species for IFC PS6 and the level of certainty we separated the classes likely and potential critical habitat. We tested the approach for Russian breeding populations of five Anatidae species (White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons, Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus, Brent Goose Branta bernicla, Redbreasted Goose Branta ruficollis and Bewick's Swan Cygnus columbianus bewicki). Likely critical habitats were identified through a review of literature and available data for these waterbird species and multi-species congregations. To address the information gap for most of the Russian Arctic a species distribution modelling approach was used. The outputs of this approach were labelled as potential critical habitat, indicating the lower level of certainty than likely critical habitat. Based on existing information the amount of likely critical habitat is estimated to be at least x,xxx,xxx km2. For the five Anatidae species, X,XXX,XXX km2 potential critical habitat was identified; 95% of these areas were outside of the area boundaries of likely critical habitat for the species. Insufficient data in the east of the study area did affect the results, as some areas known to support breeding populations were not identified as suitable. Conversely, species' distributions may be overpredicted in other areas; It should also be recognized that the analyzed species currently have depressed populations and may therefore only utilize a proportion of suitable habitat available. For risk assessment purposes however, it is better to predict false positives, rather than false negatives. The study indicates that there are large areas in the Arctic that are potentially important for each of the Anatidae species modelled, but are not yet recognised as key important areas. The results confirm that there is still much to learn about waterbird distribution and abundance in the Russian Arctic. Synthesis and applications: The critical habitat maps produced do not just provide a new source of information for the economic development sector, but provide it in a way that is relevant to the sector and directly applicable. The maps are useful for initial risk assessments of potential developments, to identify likely impacts and to consider mitigation options, in accordance with IFC PS6. Risk assessors should exercise caution and detailed surveys for any development in areas predicted to be suitable for each species should be carried out.
Original languageEnglish
JournalbioRxiv
DOI
StatePublished - 01 Jan 2017

ID: 5854790