The Arctic is among the most fragile ecosystems on Earth and is also under immense environmental pressure as the effects of global warming are felt most acutely at northern latitudes. Small changes in climate conditions have been predicted to influence the ecological structure of northern species (e.g. abundance, diversity, range). Currently, there is a need to document such changes so that we may better understand the breadth of their impact. Arthropods are excellent barometers of environmental change due to their abundance and potential for rapid population growth. Moreover, they represent a major source of food for many northern birds, mammals and fish, and alterations in their ecological structure may have important implications for other northern animals.
An innovative approach to documenting change
The NBP aims to document changes in Canada’s northern arthropod fauna by comparing results of the 1947-1962 Northern Insect Survey (NIS), a unique initiative that sampled arthropod diversity at 72 arctic, subarctic and northern boreal localities, with contemporary surveys (2010-2011) implemented across three major northern eco-climatic zones. The NBP will evaluate the effects of ecological changes on the abundance and diversity of arthropods and will explore potential adaptation of certain species to changing northern conditions.
The objectives of the NBP are classified into four themes
Theme 1 – Diversity and Ecological Structure: this theme will explore how and to what degree the structure of arthropod communities changes between the northern boreal, sub-arctic and high arctic Ecolimatic zones.
Theme 2 – Adaptation and Community Change: this theme will assess how arthropod communities have adapted to recent (50-60 yr.) environmental changes by comparing contemporary survey results with those of the NIS.
Theme 3 – Evolutionary Change: this theme reflects the use of molecular genetic techniques to aid in species identification and to help explore longer-term biogeographic patterns.
Theme 4 – Northern Awareness, Education, and Legacy: this theme encompasses the long-term goals of linking scientific knowledge with traditional knowledge in two northern communities in particular (Kugluktuk, NU and Norman Wells, NT).
Field season 2010
The 2010 field season is fast approaching! Our field teams will be collecting arthropods in Goose Bay (Newfoundland and Labrador), Moosonee (Ontario), Schefferville (Quebec), Churchill (Manitoba), Iqaluit (Nunavut), and Lake Hazen (Ellesmere Island, Nunavut). These sites will be sampled as part of meeting our objective for Themes 1-3. Our field teams will comprise Master’s students, field assistants and researchers from our three main collaborating Universities (McGill University, University of Toronto, and University of Prince Edward Island). We will also have a PhD student stationed in Kugluktuk (Nunavut) to start working on our Theme 4.