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Tuesday, April 10 • 11:00am - 11:15am
AQUATIC, COASTAL AND MARINE ANIMALS: Estimating Biological Risk in Alaska's Arctic: Ecological Synthesis of the Western Beaufort Corridor

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AUTHORS: Benjamin Sullender*, Melanie Smith – Audubon Alaska

ABSTRACT: Alaska’s Arctic coastal plain and the nearshore waters of the Beaufort Sea are recognized for their internationally significant biological value. However, myriad stressors threaten components of this terrestrial-coastal-nearshore ecosystem, including increased oil and gas development, elevated vessel traffic, and a wide range of climate change-related impacts such as coastal erosion.We completed a spatially explicit analysis to prioritize biological areas in relation to relevant stressors. As part of this process, we integrated decades of cetacean, shorebird, waterfowl, terrestrial mammal, and other wildlife data at a regional scale. Core biological areas included caribou calving grounds, waterbird molting sites, and bowhead whale migration pathways. Stressor datasets included monthly vessel traffic densities, coastal erosion rates, oil and gas exploration well sites, and projected rate of permafrost degradation. For key taxa, we analyzed how wildlife distributions change over time, identifying particularly resilient areas that provide vital habitat across years. We used our aggregated results to assess expected impacts of stressors across terrestrial, coastal, and nearshore domains.Our combined spatial and temporal results highlight a number of key areas such as the waters surrounding the submarine Barrow Canyon, the Colville River Delta, and the tundra-thermokarst landscape around Teshekpuk Lake. Within key areas, vessel traffic and oil development arise as the most significant stressors. We recommend management actions such as designating Areas to Be Avoided and speed restrictions for ships, and energy leasing restrictions to mitigate negative impacts and conserve the ecological integrity of this region.

Tuesday April 10, 2018 11:00am - 11:15am CDT
LaSalle 1 (7th Floor)

Attendees (5)