Carry out coordinated circumpolar population research and monitoring to monitor progress toward achieving the vision of the CAP


Objective Leads

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Norwegian Environment Agency)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)


Actions associated with Objective 7 in the 2020-2023 Implmentation Plan

(see top-left sidebar for further information on the actions)

RMV-A1: Investigate the feasibility of developing and implementing a long-term plan to monitor the Arctic Basin Subpopulation

RMV-A2: Examine the following two actions, identify studies already conducted/published which address these questions, identify (in collaboration with the PBSG) any appropriate additional studies that could help monitor progress toward achieving the CAP vision:

a. Investigate how climate change effects vary among polar bear subpopulations on both temporal and spatial scales

b. Conduct a cumulative effects analysis of climate change and human activities on polar bear and their habitats

Polar Bear threats linked to the Objective and how the Objective’s Actions will address them:

This objective is linked directly to the CAP Vision rather than a threat. All other objectives in the CAP are designed to address specific threats to polar bears, and progress in implementing the actions under the objective should in turn address the threats. Therefore, accomplishing the other objectives identified in the CAP will contribute toward achieving the CAP Vision. Objective 7 will monitor progress toward the CAP Vision, as well as implementation of identified research actions of an overarching nature.

This objective does not have any specific actions linked to it from the 2020-2023 Action Plan that was adopted at the 2020 Meeting of the Parties (MoP). When the midterm review was completed, sufficient time was not available to refine this objective and the associated actions. Therefore, several actions were placed as candidates in the template, but a final workplan was not developed. After the MoP, a review of the 12 candidate actions was carried out, and actions for the current implementation plan period were identified.
The first action under Objective 7 (Investigate the feasibility of developing and implementing a long-term plan to monitor the Arctic Basin Subpopulation) addresses a key gap in the existing CAP (i.e., persistence of the existing subpopulations). With declining ice, it is predicted that polar bears will move into habitats not currently occupied. The Arctic Basin is beyond the jurisdiction of any one Party, therefore, international collaboration to monitor the use of this area by polar bears is a progressive action. During this Implementation period we propose to work collaboratively to determine the feasibility of developing and implementing a monitoring plan to fill that information need.

The second action under this objective is focused on understanding the responses of polar bear subpopulations to climate change. This understanding has implications for the other objectives that are designed to address threats to polar bears and their habitats. An improved understanding of how a rapidly changing climate may influence the impact of those threats, on polar bears and their habitats will allow us to manage in an informed and adaptive way. We recognize that there has been a great deal of work already accomplished on this topic. Therefore, the action will identify relevant work and any additional studies necessary to inform monitoring progress toward the CAP Vision. The assessment should build on the outcomes and recommendations of the Polar Bear Range States (PBRS) research workshop in Lyngen, Norway in 2019.

Levels of the Threats: Low to High

Expected impact (outcome) of the Objective:

[Explain the expected overall short-, medium- and long-term impacts the Objective’s Actions will have on e.g. threats, stakeholders’ awareness, scientific and/or traditional knowledge, polar bear management, the status of polar bear populations]
Our ability to track changes in the persistence of polar bears will inform our domestic, bilateral and international efforts. Changes in the status of polar bears will tell us whether our efforts are successful or whether we need to intensify our efforts or focus in other areas. Our assumption is that we have identified the highest level threats, and that we have identified effective strategies to address those threats collaboratively at the circumpolar level. If correct, then we may detect an effect on the persistence of polar bears. We must recognize, however, that polar bears are expected to continue to decline despite our efforts. The primary goal, therefore, is to slow and/or reduce the severity of the decline while we remain optimistic that the global community will address the primary threat to polar bear persistence– climate change.

How the progress toward the Objective will be evaluated:

Measuring progress needs to incorporate the following two separate, but related, tasks: 1) measure/evaluate the overall status of polar bears, and 2) measure/evaluate the effect of the CAP on the overall state of polar bears. Task 1 will be assessed using the information provided by the PBSG on subpopulation size, subpopulation trend and sea ice metrics. For task 2, if we successfully establish plans for each action and each objective, we will be able to identify which actions have been implemented and will be able to assess the contribution of the suite of actions to affect the objective. The assessed impact on the objective is a measure of the effectiveness of circumpolar action toward addressing the identified threat.
In adopting these two methods of measuring progress toward the Objective (and CAP Vision), we acknowledge that this will be a qualitative assessment of the relationship between the effectiveness of CAP implementation in addressing the objectives and the observed status of polar bears. While the PBSG status table is a report on the status of polar bears, a direct link between any changes in status and actions taken under the CAP may never be assumed. We also note that the CAP is a ten-year plan, and even if actions are successfully implemented and achieve their objective, it is unlikely that a significant change in the status of polar bears could be detected in that timeframe.

If the PBRS decide in the future that they want to have a more quantitative method for evaluating the impact of CAP implementation on the status of polar bears, an approach will need to be developed. It is important to acknowledge that we fully expect that subpopulation size, subpopulation trend and sea ice metrics will decline regardless of the effectiveness of the actions implemented by the Range States through the CAP, in combination with domestic and bilateral management plans. Given that, monitoring these metrics may provide a quick view on the status of polar bears, but does not necessarily provide a measure of the effectiveness of our management actions or provide a view of status relative to critical thresholds for genetic, behavioral, life history and ecological diversity. Ideally, in order to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the CAP, we would be able to identify the difference in the probability of persistence with and without implementation of the CAP actions. Teasing out the incremental impact of CAP actions, however, would be a very complicated exercise. If the PBRS believe such a metric is critical and development is worthy of the significant investment of time and resources that would likely be required to develop and monitor such a metric, an action could be added to the plan to include this investigation in consultation with the PBSG.

Performance Metrics:

At a minimum, a metric will be the number of subpopulations (and change in the number) in each of the status categories established by the PBSG (data deficient, very likely decreased, decreased, likely decreased, likely stable, very likely stable, stable, likely increased, increased, very likely increased) as well as changes in sea ice metrics. These population status metrics provided in the PBSG status table could be supplemented by assessment of progress toward the CAP objectives, as provided by an evaluation of each objective.
In future assessments, the PBRS may decide to identify a more quantitative method for evaluation, but that would not be available for this monitoring cycle.

Baseline of Performance Metrics:

Table 1 in the CAP Mid-Term Report contains the subpopulation estimates and trends at the time the CAP was drafted and will serve as the baseline metrics. Given that the second method for monitoring progress toward this objective is being evaluated through progress on the other CAP Objectives, the baseline for each of those objectives will also serve as the baseline for Objective 7.

Liaison with other CAP-Objectives:

Coordinated research and monitoring enables knowledge-based adaptive management. In the CAP 2-Year plan progress schematic included in the CAP Life History diagram, a role for the CAP Implementation Team (CAP IT) is to look across objectives. One of the purposes is to identify where coordination across research and monitoring actions may result in greater efficiencies and effectiveness.

In addition to the research and monitoring that may be necessary to inform and monitor the other objectives, there is a need to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the CAP in achieving the Vision. Objective 7 broadly supports the other objectives by improving the capacity to make informed management decisions. Actions associated with this objective will bridge gaps in the CAP as an analytical framework and in our circumpolar frame of information.

Liaison with external bodies

(i.e. organizations, communities, stakeholders, expert groups, etc.):

As noted above, the metrics for this Objective will be informed by the PBSG status table.

Expected dissemination of Deliverables and Outcome to stakeholders

(public, policy makers, legislators etc.):

Progress towards the CAP Vision, as measured by changes in the status of polar bears and collective progress toward the CAP Objectives, is intended to help inform the PBRS as to whether actions are successful or need to be intensified or changed. As previously noted, however, such a linkage is challenged by the timeframe of the evaluation. The information on changes in the status of polar bears will also be of interest to PBRS partners and constituencies who share our interest in the persistence of polar bears.

Recommendations on the feasibility of monitoring the Arctic Basin Subpopulation will allow the PBRS to determine if this is an area of future collaboration. Given that this area is not the singular jurisdiction of any Party, international collaboration is essential to implementing a monitoring program for this subpopulation. In addition, the evaluation conducted during this CAP implementation cycle of studies investigating the interaction between climate and other threats to polar bears and their habitats will help determine if there is a critical gap that could be filled by international collaboration through the PBRS.

Potential Challenges and how they will be addressed (mitigation actions)[1]:

Activities during this CAP implementation cycle primarily involve assessing ongoing or completed work and developing a proposal for future work to fill in any critical knowledge gaps identified. Having the capacity and expertise to conduct these assessments will be challenging. It will also be a challenge to conduct any identified research to fill those gaps. This is outside the scope of these identified actions as such, but should be kept in mind when conducting the assessments in order to identify realistic next steps.