Moscow hosts international forum “The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue”

Moscow hosts international forum “The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue”

11 October 2010

The Arctic: Territory Dialogue, an international forum organized by the Russian Geographical Society, was held in Moscow in late September 2010. The forum focused on this region's most pressing issues, including the development of its natural resources and the conservation of the environment, national interests and international cooperation in the Arctic.


Nearly 600 people participated in the forum, including 200 Russian and 87 foreign experts from 15 countries. The forum's guests included Vladimir Putin, Sergei Shoigu and Prince Albert II of Monaco.


In his report, "The conservation of the biological diversity of the Arctic," Vyacheslav Rozhnov described the Severtsov Institute's current programmes. Vyacheslav Rozhnov is a doctor in Biology, deputy director of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and head of the permanent expedition of the Russian Academy of Sciences to study species listed in the Red Data Book of Russia and other significant species. He emphasised the Programme to Study Polar Bears in the Russian Arctic financed by the Russian Geographical Society.


To preserve the biodiversity of the Arctic a systematic approach is needed for the assessment of projects being carried out in this region, including the potential risks for the environment, as well as an eco-friendly approach when planning the parameters for the fishing of aquatic resources. When assessing the plans for these projects, including the fishing of aquatic resources and the development strategy for the Arctic, possible climate and ecosystem changes and the value of the ecosystems' functions need to be taken into account. If these variables are ignored, the damage brought about by the degradation of the Arctic ecosystems' crucial functions could exceed the revenues from any resources produced. This approach, including the prioritisation of nature's essential functions, is an integral part of the environment-centric management concept as proposed by the Severtsov Institute. This is a far-reaching concept, but its implementation must start now.


The experience of studying Arctic marine mammals has proven that the most pressing issue in preserving the Arctic's biodiversity is to organise a system to monitor it. Currently, Russia's part of the Arctic, which is home to most of this biodiversity, has only a few stations that collect data on biodiversity dynamics, the so-called wildlife index. As the first step in this direction, monitoring mechanisms can be tested on polar bears and white whales. The polar bear monitoring system should include the registering of data involving all encounters of polar bears, special research into the population of polar bears and their migration as well as data on ice conditions.


A special centre is needed to store and analyse these data. Since it is impossible to cover the entire Arctic with biological monitoring stations, the capacities of various government organisations present in this region should be used to collect data on biodiversity, including the Border Service of the Federal Security Service, meteorological stations of the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring and vessels in the Arctic seas, nature reserves and other protected territories of the Arctic. The Russian Geographical Society could coordinate these efforts.


Russia boasts long-standing traditions in Arctic research and is now intensifying its work in this region. This is why cooperation in the Arctic is necessary both in reviving the Northern Sea Route and in carrying out scientific research.


The forum also featured reports on the issues of the Arctic indigenous peoples, the development of natural resources and conservation of the region's unique fauna.


The Russian Geographical Society is planning to hold this forum every year as a venue to gather leading international experts to address the current issues of developing the Arctic.