Conservation of Polar Species Endangered by Climate Change


Program of the scientific seminars (Redfield Auditorium)


8:45- 9:00 am: Stephanie Jenouvrier: Introduction to goals of colloquium

Interaction between science and policy: Climate change impact polar species

9:00- 9:45 am: Shaye Wolf, Climate Science Director, Center for Biological Diversity:

The role of science-based policy and scientists in protecting climate-threatened polar species

Strategies for protecting polar species from climate change threats must include “mitigation” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and “adaptation” to help species cope with current and committed climate change. We discuss the diversity of strategies being used to protect polar species and ecosystems, highlighting challenges, the potential to create meaningful change, and the role of science and scientists. We focus on the U.S. Endangered Species Act as an important tool for achieving science-based protections for species threatened by climate change. The polar bear and two Arctic ice seals have been protected under the Act solely due to climate change threats, and the emperor penguin is under review for listing. What protections have these listings provided and what is the potential?  How does science inform the listing process and ESA protections, and how do listings help drive science? How can scientists participate?

9:45- 10:30 am: Lynn Scarlett, Managing Director, Public Policy at The Nature Conservancy:

Connecting Science and Decision:  Making under the Endangered Species Act: The Case of Polar Bears

In 2008, the US Department of the Interior listed the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the first such listing in which significant threats to the species were linked to climate change. The decision required information drawing from global circulation modeling of projected sea ice conditions over 100 years, bear biology, and linkages between physical and biological scientists in a context of limited data, all of which present significant uncertainties. Yet the law requires decisions within a specific timeframe, applying legal terms such as "foreseeable future" and "reasonably likely to occur." Decision makers and scientists engaged in ongoing dialogue across 'boundaries' to frame questions that resulted in additional scientific analysis designed to reduce uncertainties and inform the final decision.

10:30- 11:00 am: break

11:00- 11:45 am: Scott Doney, Senior Scientist, Director of the Ocean and Climate Change Institute, WHOI: Impact of climate change and other human pressures on polar ecosystems.

In marine ecosystems, rising atmospheric CO2 and climate change are associated with concurrent shifts in temperature, circulation, stratification, nutrient input, oxygen content, and ocean acidification, with potentially wide-ranging biological effects. Population-level shifts are occurring because of physiological intolerance to new environments, altered dispersal patterns, and changes in species interactions. Together with local climate-driven invasion and extinction, these processes result in altered community structure and diversity, including possible emergence of novel ecosystems. Impacts are particularly striking for the poles because of the sensitivity to sea-ice retreat and poleward species migrations.  Aggregated effects from climate change and other human factors--for example pollution, overfishing--may modify energy and material flows as well as biogeochemical cycles, eventually impacting the overall ecosystem functioning and services upon which people and societies depend.

Population models for policy needs

11:45- 12:30 pm: Stéphanie Jenouvrier, WHOI: Assessment of population responses to climate change for policy decision makers

Projecting the impact of future climate change on population persistence hinges on good measurements and thorough understanding of species’ susceptibility to climate change, which are critical to both the quality of science and its application to public policy.  In this talk, I will illustrate a general and comprehensive three-step approach to (i) Measure; (ii) Understand; and (iii) Project the impacts of climate change on populations. The MUP (Measuring, Understanding, and Predicting) approach provides a general framework where an enhanced understanding of climate-population processes, along with improved long-term data, are merged into coherent projections of future population responses to climate change. This approach can be applied to any species, but I will illustrate its benefit using Antarctic seabirds as examples. I will discuss how the MUP approach is useful for conservation strategies and discuss the need for a new paradigm for determining conservation status under climate change.

12:30-1:30pm: lunch for participants

1:30- 2:15 pm: Katie Dugger, US Geological Survey, Oregon Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University

Importance of long term data to species conservation and management: measuring vital rates at the relevant scale

Long-term monitoring programs are often given a bad rap in the eyes of funding agencies and even the scientific community, yet the analytical advances associated with the marking and recapture of individuals in the last 25 years has made the importance of these longitudinal data sets to the conservation and management very clear.  Understanding basic vital rates that impact population changes is a fundamental component of population dynamics and can be critical to the development of policy and legal protection for at-risk species.  For example, under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, a species can be listed as threatened or endangered, based on whether one or more factors can be show to “imperil the survival of a species”; thus, accurate, precise estimates of species vital rates and the factors that influence them is a key step in the process of proving they need protection.  In addition, understanding major threats to a species persistence is required if there is any hope of stemming the population declines.  Climate change for example, poses a major threat to many species, particularly those adapted to polar systems.  The effect of climate on populations can be complex, as both direct and indirect (through prey and habitat change) pressures associated with average conditions as well as the range of variation in local weather can impact species vital rates, and ultimately, population size, often in very complex ways.  Longitudinal, individual-based research that allows the measurement and understanding of how climate influences various vital rates of animals is the first step to understanding the potential impact of predicted global change on vulnerable species.  This requires data collected at the appropriate temporal and spatial scale, with little hope of understanding climate/population relationships with short time-series, particularly for long-lived, k-selected species which are often the species most vulnerable to environmental change.  In addition, from the perspective of setting management and conservation policy, understanding the meta-population demographics of a species across its entire range is key, as the threat of extinction and/or importance of spatially explicit source-sink population dynamics can drive the development of protections or specific management actions.  Unfortunately understanding population dynamics across a species range is usually beyond the scope of one or even a few researchers, but collaborative models that involve multiple research teams and multiple data sets can produce large-scale information on population dynamics that couldn’t be reached by individual researchers.  An example of how this kind of collaboration can work for the conservation and management of a threatened species comes from my work with Northern Spotted Owls in the Pacific Northwest of North America.  Demographic data has been collected for this species on between 11 and 14 study areas across the species range (OR, WA, CA) since the species was listed as “threatened” under the ESA in 1990.  Every 5 years these researchers get together and conduct a meta-analysis to understand the trends in spotted owl vitals rates and the factors that most affect them.  This is done during a week-long workshop, with a large analytical team and complete transparency as to the protocols and objectives of the effort. Reports and publications are produced from this multi-researcher effort and the results of this long-term monitoring have been instrumental in the policy and conservation decisions that have been made for spotted owls, including the review of their listed status in 2004, the development of a recovery plan, and most recently designation of critical habitat, all components of the protection offered under the ESA.  This kind of collaborative approach to understanding the long-term status and trends of species of concern across its range should be the model, not the exception, particularly as we strive to understand the consequences of global climate change on our planet.   

2:15- 3:00 pm: Heather Lynch, University of Stony Brook: Data fusion modeling approaches for tracking Adélie penguin abundance, distribution, and demography

Historically, intensive (e.g., mark-recapture) and extensive (e.g., population surveys, remote sensing) streams of data on wildlife populations have been analyzed independently and with relatively little coordination across research groups. At the same time, there has been little effort to synthesize data coming from long-term research programs with the much larger number of short-term research projects (‘dark data’, ‘the long-tail of science’) which expand the spatial scale for inference about the spatial and temporal dynamics of populations. I will discuss advances in data fusion through hierarchical Bayesian modeling that allow us to integrate multiple streams of data in a spatially-explicit way that is easily scaled from individual breeding populations to biologically-relevant meta-populations to areas of interest for Southern Ocean fisheries management. Although the techniques are broadly applicable, I will discuss two case studies in which these techniques are being applied to models of Adélie penguin abundance, distribution, and demography.

3:00- 3:30pm: break

3:30- 4:15 pm: Hal Caswell, WHOI: Populations, climate change, and viability. 

The fate of populations is determined by their demography (rates of mortality, reproduction, growth, maturation, movement, etc.) and by the response of those rates to environmental factors. Population viability analysis uses models of the life cycle to quantify the risks of extinction, or decline, of populations. In the case of climate change, the requirement to base population viability analyses on future --- and hence imperfectly known --- environments makes the problem particularly challenging.  It is helpful to specify the components of the analysis, and to clearly state the results as hypothetical statements conditional on each of those components. Modern statistical and mathematical methods provide powerful tools for population viability analysis in the context of climate change.


Future climate change and their impacts

9:00- 9:45 am: Kris Karnauskas, WHOI:  CMIP5 Climate Models, Experiments, and 21st Century Projections

In this talk, I will review the state of international climate modeling efforts and their relationship to the assessment reports periodically published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In particular, the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) framework will be reviewed as it has evolved from CMIP3 to CMIP5 and looking forward at CMIP6. Types of climate models, their spatial and temporal scales, and particular experiments will also be discussed including how they can be utilized by the broader research community.

9:45- 10:30 am: Ted Maksym, WHOI: The Changing Antarctic Sea Ice Environment – Knowns and Unknowns

Sea ice change and variability has had, and will continue to have, enormous impacts on polar ecosystems. While there have been dramatic decreases in both observed and predicted ice extent in the Arctic, the Antarctic remains a conundrum. Model predictions of a moderate decline in extent contrast with the slight overall increase that has been observed. I will discuss what we know and don’t know about Antarctic sea ice extent and its response to climate change and variability, but also what we really don’t know – the response of sea ice thickness and volume. Factors driving these changes include the confounding effects of combined wind-driven, thermodynamic, and freshwater forcing and feedbacks. A key gap in our ability to unravel these mechanisms is a lack of sustained, integrated observations of the air-ice-ocean interactions controlling sea ice advance and retreat and thickness evolution. I will highlight some recent efforts to address these gaps, and what future observational campaigns are needed.

10:30- 11:00 am: break

11:00- 11:45 am: Stephanie Jenouvrier, WHOI: Linking climate to demographic models for ecological- impact assessments and conservation decisions.

The polar regions, particularly the Arctic and the Antarctic Peninsula, are warming faster than the rest of the world with a dramatic decline in sea ice cover and duration. Many polar species rely on the sea ice to feed and breed, and may be jeopardized by anticipated sea ice decline. To develop polar conservation strategies, policy experts and scientists will have to overcome significant challenges. First, integrating effects of climate change into existing management strategies requires population models that (i) incorporate climate projections from models participating in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report and (ii) predict populations over the entire species range. This requires an interdisciplinary approach bringing together biologists, demographers and climatologists. Second, such approach needs to address the mismatch between the scales of ecological processes and climate projections in CMIP5.  Finally, climate- change and population viability projections are inherently uncertain due to data, model, and prediction uncertainties.  Conservation and management decisions must address the uncertainties in future population projections.

Conservation strategies in polar environment

11.45 12:30 pm: Colin Southwell, Australian Antarctic Division: CCAMLRs ecosystem-based management approach for the Southern Ocean - the CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program-  How science on seabirds and seals can be used in CCAMLR management decisions.

The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources is an international treaty that was adopted in the 1980s as a multilateral response to concerns that unregulated fishing in the Southern Ocean could be detrimental for Antarctic marine ecosystems. This talk will focus on one aspect of CCAMLR’s work, the CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program (CEMP), which was developed in the mid-1980s with the primary aim of detecting and distinguishing between change in the ecosystem due to fishing and change due to physical and biological variation. The ecosystem-based management approach relies on data from the higher-order predators such as penguins which are used as indicator species. The talk will outline the history of CEMP including current work to develop a feedback monitoring and management system that can take into account environmental variation related to climate change. The emphasis will be on how data from seabirds and seals can be used for management purposes.

12:30- 1:30pm: lunch for participants

1:30-2:15 pm:  Rodolfo Werner, PEW Charitable Trusts: Penguins And Krill: Life in a Changing Ocean

Populations of Adélie and chinstrap penguin in the West Antarctic Peninsula/Scotia Sea have declined more than 50% during the last 30 years. Changes in the abundance of their main prey - Antarctic krill - as a result of climate-driven changes could be the cause of this reduction of penguin populations. As the extent of the impact of climate change on krill populations remains uncertain, the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR; should keep a precautionary approach in the management of the krill fishery to secure the protection of penguins.  This paper provides an overview of the history of the Antarctic krill fishery and current challenges in the management of this fishery so as to maintain krill availability to penguins in key areas.

2:15- 3:00 pm: David Ainley, H.T. Harvey & Associates: Environmental Management as Diplomatic Method: CCAMLR’s Marine Protected Area Challenge

Borrowing, in part, the title from Hemmings (2013), we discuss CCAMLR’s efforts to designate, thus far unsuccessfully, a representative network of marine-protected areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean. Over the last decade, CCAMLR has been working towards this goal convening a series of workshops and celebrating their first high seas Southern Ocean MPA in 2009 (South Orkneys southern shelf). Following several planning workshops subsequently, proposals for other large MPAs in the Ross Sea and East Antarctic were tabled in 2011. Despite extensive discussions, and a special 2013 intercessional meeting dedicated to making progress on MPA proposals, their adoption stalled in part owing to concerns over interference with “rational use,” or fishing. A synthesis of the CCAMLR MPA process to date combined with analysis of CCAMLR fishing trends, 1982 to 2012, reveal that the number of fishing states has increased four-fold, correlating with the rise of toothfish fisheries. While historically and in the present, krill constitute the largest catch in the Southern Ocean, toothfish landing values are 20 times higher. The shift among fishing to non-fishing States, from 1:2 at the outset to 5:3 currently, along with increasing pressure to develop toothfish fisheries, apparently is affecting CCAMLR’s ability to further implement MPAs in the Convention Area. Adding to the political complexity, Member States’ positions for or against additional MPAs may well be driven by national policy rather than conservation incentives, e.g. 1) “MPAs” (but not reserves) established around peri-Antarctic islands, within the CCAMLR Area but independent of CCAMLR, as expressions of Member State Exclusive Economic Zone rights; 2) the Ross Sea MPA was largely developed and driven by New Zealand, which historically claimed the Ross Sea; and 3) Australia has led the way on an East Antarctic MPA, within their historic claim. These latter efforts could be viewed as reinforcing sovereignty claims heretofore “frozen” under the Antarctic Treaty, and blocking these MPAs could be a way of refuting those claims. While CCAMLR Members have collectively agreed that MPAs will help conserve the ecological integrity of the Southern Ocean, as written into the Convention, and with much evidence existing from elsewhere that MPAs are consistent with “rational use,” the great challenge and responsibility remains for CCAMLR Member States to see the MPA effort through.

3:00- 3:30 pm: break

Southern Ocean ecosystem components, their drivers and potential climate change impacts

3:30- 4:15 pm: Louise Emmerson, Australian Antarctic Division:  Adélie penguins and their interaction with the environment: a co-ordinated effort to compare drivers of survival

Antarctic breeding higher-order predators such as Adélie penguins encounter dramatically variable marine environments both within and between breeding seasons across their breeding range. Understanding the factors that influence a predator’s response is particularly relevant for Southern Ocean species because of the large regional differences which exist for aspects of the environment that influence predators. The ever-changing sea-ice environment within the breeding season means that penguins must respond to their physical and biological environment to successfully breed and sustain their populations. During the winter months, Adélie penguins travel up to several thousands of kilometers away from their breeding sites spending time within the sea-ice rather than on land. Their large winter migration means that penguin survival can be influenced by factors over enormous spatial scales. In this talk I will present an overview of studies of Adélie penguin survival across contrasting marine environments and highlight the need for a collaborative effort to identify key drivers of survival across the Adélie penguin breeding range.