Polar bears: An indicator of the health of the Arctic environment

Polar bears: An indicator of the health of the Arctic environment

9 April 2015

Polar bears, walruses and white whales, along with 111 other animal and plant species, can be an indicator of the health of marine ecosystems in the Arctic.


The list of these animals and plants, prepared by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, is designed to encourage effective and low-impact development of Russia’s Arctic zone.


The oil and gas companies that are implementing projects on the Arctic shelf and in the internal waters, the territorial sea and the contiguous zone will be advised to comply with this list when drafting their biodiversity conservation programmes.


The indicator species are biological species that are sensitive to and therefore serve as evidence of environmental changes through their presence/absence or changes in their external appearance, chemical composition or behaviour. The use of indicator species for environmental monitoring often yields more important information than does the use of special equipment, because these species respond to all kinds of influence. Moreover, the indicator species have a “memory,” and hence their response to pollution stems from a long time in the past.


The order on the approval of the list prepared by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has been posted on the regulation.gov.ru website of planned legislation for public discussion.


The list was compiled with assistance from experts of the Komarov Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Research Institute of Environmental Protection, the Botanical Gardens of the Moscow State University Faculty of Biology and the World Wildlife Fund.