ARCTIC-BIODIVER – filling gaps in Arctic freshwater biodiversity knowledge

Last changed: 04 November 2021
A group of people posing for a photo.

Arctic freshwater ecosystems are under increasing threat from stressors such as climate change, land-use changes, introduced species, increased UV-radiation and exploitation of natural resources. Climate change is predicted to cause direct and indirect effects to these ecosystems and the biodiversity they support, including the fish used by people inhabiting the Arctic.


The project aims to facilitate development of biodiversity scenarios at national and circumpolar scales. A primary focus will be to develop strong links between climate change predictions, biodiversity scenarios, and the consequences for ecosystem services in Arctic freshwaters. ARCTIC-BIODIVER will also contribute to circumpolar harmonization of sampling methods, data storage, and large-scale analysis to promote future circumpolar assessments of biodiversity change.


Ongoing sampling activities in Canada, Norway, and Sweden

In 2019, field work was been postponed due to Covid-19, but this summer Canada, Norway and Sweden are collecting river and lake samples along north-south gradients.


The human footprint on Arctic ecosystems is increasing rapidly. Climate change scenarios are predicted to affect vegetation cover, permafrost stability, and freshwater quality and quantity, including changes in basal resources and animals at higher trophic levels. Predicted changes in biodiversity are related to the impact of growing competition from southern species expanding northwards. Ecosystem services to humans also will be affected through various impacts such as changes in fisheries harvest, drinking water source and waste disposal. 

Implementation and organization

In ARCTIC-BIODIVER, monitoring data from 7 of the 8 Arctic nations (Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and USA) will be analyzed. Within each region, selection of data will focus on maximizing spatial and temporal coverage to ensure that the data cover the variability in Arctic lakes and rivers. In addition, new data on basal food resources and food webs will be collected from field studies of lakes and rivers across latitudinal and nutrient gradients in Northern Europe (Scandinavia, including Svalbard), as well as on the Eastern (incl. Greenland) and Western sides of the North American continent.

The specific objectives of ARCTIC-BIODIVER are to

  1. Evaluate biodiversity and functional trait patterns in relation to environmental drivers, including climate, nutrient enrichment, and terrestrial land use change;
  2. Identify biodiversity hotspots and food web changes in lakes and rivers across latitudinal gradients in the Arctic;
  3. Provide insight into how direct and indirect drivers related to climate change impact the biodiversity and trait composition of aquatic assemblages, and ultimately fish production;
  4. Use bio-economic models to evaluate socio-economic trade-offs and potential shifts in ecosystem services in Arctic lakes and rivers associated with climate change, nutrient enrichment, and resource exploitation;
  5. Contribute to the development of assessment criteria that better quantify the ecological change in Arctic freshwaters and provide strategies for the early detection of new and/or invasive species;
  6. Inform policy makers, NGO’s, people who live in the Arctic, and the global community about the ongoing change in Arctic freshwater ecosystems.

The project is organized in six work packages:

  • Project coordination, stakeholder engagement, and communication
  • Baselines for change in Arctic freshwater
  • Scenarios for Arctic freshwater biodiversity: responses to a changing climate
  • Validating Arctic freshwater biodiversity scenarios: changes in basal resources
  • Impacts of climate change biodiversity scenarios on ecosystem services
  • Improving scientific assessment criteria for Arctic freshwaters through harmonization

Study design and common methods for field work

In order to ensure harmonized sample collection and data compatibility among field sites, a handbook for field work has been agreed upon by the project partners. The handbook provides a detailed description of the space for time study design along latitudinal gradients in the Subarctic and Arctic regions of Europe and North America and of the methods for field work.


ARCTIC-BIODIVER is co-led by SLU and Wilfrid Laurier University. The project will run 2019–2022. and consists of six partners:



The project is financed by Belmont Forum-BiodivERsA and five national funders:

Participants from SLU