Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 187

187 Arctic Yearbook 2015 There are many more potential invaders, and yet our scientific understanding of Arctic marine ecosystems is sufficiently poor that we do not have an adequate baseline to know what invasions might threaten or indeed if new observations of species are new introductions or just new data on native species. Research challenges in the Arctic not only make the establishment of such a baseline extremely costly, but also research is limited by the seasonality of what is feasible, and by research foci that stem from prioritizing the gathering of more information on direct resource use rather than broader ecosystem functioning. This all leads to the introduction of research biases that direct both policy and research dollars in inefficient ways. Research efforts that aim to fill in gaps in knowledge about baseline conditions, seasonal ecosystem effects and interactions between trophic levels are likely to produce particularly valuable gains, especially if they are integrated with expectations about changes in human behaviors that will change the likelihoods of both deliberate and accidental introductions. A broader approach that includes frequently overlooked microorganisms is also recommended to capture the greatest returns for protection of ecosystems and the resources they support. The examples here highlight several important considerations for policy development and governance of invasive species issues. These include both bio-economic and strategic aspects of invasive species problems, and range from difficulties in aligning strategic incentives to fight ecosystem change, as we see in the Barents, to difficulties in adapting lessons from one species and location to another, even if they seem potentially quite similar (Kaiser et al. 2015). Increased coordination of Arctic marine governance at the international level in the form of the Polar Code has failed to include invasive species management. We anticipate this could prove to be a very costly mistake. Increased research and coordination of preventative measures in particular present opportunities for joint (cost-saving) actions across jurisdictions, resource users, species’ threats and ecosystems. The authors of this article and their colleagues are engaged in a long term research project through the Belmont Forum to investigate specifics of viable policy options for the Arctic that address the ecological and economic complications laid out here. It is certain that successful multilateral coordination efforts must address realities of both ecosystem and human behavior, so that in the case of marine invasions in particular, policies that front-load interception and disruption of pathways for introduction and establishment of exotic species rather than delay efforts until a serious problem is identified, are likely to be most cost effective. Furthermore, beyond international agreements, successful policy will require integration to identify, prevent and treat threats within communities with differing marine resource uses and users. The vast scope of these differences in the Arctic creates a particular set of challenges that add to the importance of incorporating ecosystems directly into policy decisions. Since scientific understanding of existing Arctic ecosystems is relatively incomplete, promoting ecosystem resilience with cooperative actions to slow climate change should be considered valuable investment in prevention. Still, prevention of invasive species is imperfect. We can only reasonably expect to delay changes. We must engage in improved monitoring of invasive species and harness the observational capacity of local resource users to widen the net for detection and subsequent reparative action. Kourantidou, Kaiser & Fernandez