Each year, Arctic Beringia is the site of a staggering migration—hundreds of thousands of caribou, over 150,000 walruses, 17,000 bowhead whales, and millions of shorebirds, waterfowl, and seabirds. A diverse array of indigenous cultures—including the Chukchi, Siberian Yupik, St. Lawrence Island Yupik, Central Yup'ik, Iñupiat, Inuit, Athabaskan, and Aleut—are closely connected with and reliant upon this region's wildlife and environment for food security, cultural continuity, and vitality, too.
Arctic Beringia is one of the fastest-changing places on Earth today. Rapid climate change, burgeoning industrial development, and profound social shifts are altering the natural rhythms of the wildlife and indigenous communities that have called this place home for millennia.
2times as fast
Arctic Beringia is warming at almost twice the rate of the rest of the world.
1million metric tons
Over a million metric tons of cargo has been transported annually through the Northern Sea Route and Bering Strait in recent years.
Implement effective conservation solutions that mitigate the impacts of climate change, transportation of people and products in and through the region, and site-based industrial activities.
How Will We Get There?
Our primary approach is to work with local indigenous populations to understand the needs of wildlife and people and then work with policymakers to ensure conservation, and food and cultural security goals are met.
Our strategies include:
Help lead the development of an Arctic Waterways Safety Plan to address burgeoning shipping activity.
Conduct extensive wildlife surveys in the National Petroleum Reserve to advise land managers on how best to mitigate the impacts of development.
Provide indigenous wildlife agencies the information they need to manage local lands and waters.
Continue to foster interaction between Russian, American, and Canadian researchers working in the same ecosystem.
Increase knowledge about how to support healthy wildlife populations in a changing climate.
1of 5 groups
WCS is established in the region. In 2015, our scientists secured a two-year, $372,000 grant from the National Park Service for work on coastal lagoons and conservation concerns for fish species critical to Alaska natives' food security—one of five funded out of 40-plus applicants.
On Our Strategies
Help Lead the Development of an Arctic Waterways Safety Plan
We are working with the U.S. Coast Guard to convene all stakeholders under the auspices of the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee. This will allow us to develop a plan that will be the go-to document for all maritime activities (both international and domestic) — ensuring responsible behavior around wildlife and maritime subsistence activities.
Conduct Extensive Wildlife Surveys in the National Petroleum Reserve
These ongoing surveys will allow us to better understand a) the habitat needs of key wildlife (e.g., nesting seabirds, wolverines, caribou), and b) how these habitats will change with climatic warming in the Arctic. We can then provide land managers with the information they need to mitigate long-term impacts to wildlife and people as the area is developed, including areas that should be fully protected (e.g. the NPR-A Special Areas) and those areas where time/area restrictions or best practices are sufficient.
Increase Knowledge on How to Support Healthy Wildlife Populations in a Changing Climate
In the Canadian Beaufort Sea, we are collecting baseline acoustic and ecological data on marine mammal movement and foraging activity. This will provide important information on how the coincident impacts of climate change and human development relate to the broader Arctic Beringia ecozone, while forging a strong partnership with the local Inuvialuit.
December 19, 2017 -- The following statement is by WCS Senior Conservation Scientist George Schaller on allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is part of the tax bill expected to pass Congress and be signed into law this...