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No. 89: Biological Interest Areas in West and Southeast Greenland

Christensen, T., Aastrup, P., Boye, T., Boertmann, D., Hedeholm, R., Johansen, K.L., Merkel, F., Rosing-Asvid, A., Bay, C., Blicher, M., Clausen, D.S., Ugarte, F., Arendt, K., Burmeister, A., Topp-Jørgensen, E., Retzel, A, Hammeken, N., Falk, K., Frederiksen, M., Bjerrum, M. & Mosbech, A. 2016. Biologiske interesseområder i Vest- og Sydøstgrønland. Kortlægning af vigtige biologiske områder. Aarhus Universitet, DCE – Nationalt Center for Miljø og Energi, 210 s. - Teknisk rapport fra DCE - Nationalt Center for Miljø og Energi nr. 89. http://dce2.au.dk/pub/TR89.pdf 


The Ministry of Independence, Nature, Environment and Agriculture under the Government of Greenland requested DCE - Danish Centre for Environment and Energy, Aarhus University to prepare this report identifying particular ecological and biological valuable areas in West and Southeast Greenland. The purpose of the report is to provide a biological and technical platform for strategic efforts in relation to the protection of ecological and biological valuable and vulnerable areas in Greenland.

This study is based on data from DCE and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources (GINR) generated through strategic environmental impact assessments (SEIA´s), including mapping of important and sensitive areas, conducted prior to mineral and oil exploration in Greenland. Data from GINRs monitoring activities related to advise on sustainable exploitation of living resources to the Government of Greenland is also included. Moreover is information from technical and scientific reports included.

The report provides an overview of important areas for ecosystems and species and the report identifies three types of important areas:

1)    Species specific core areas: These are “hot spots” critical for specific species. They may be areas containing relatively large numbers of individuals, migration corridors or other types of important areas. More than 65 species in Greenland are included.

2)    Important habitats, nature types or other ecosystem components: These include areas with high biological productivity, areas that are biologically unique; and/or possess high biodiversity etc. The report presents 15 of these areas.

3)    Ecological and Biological valuable areas are defined as areas where the species specific core areas and important habitats, nature types or ecosystem components are particularly close. The report identifies 23 of these areas.

The single layers of these three types of areas are available in a GIS-format that allows them to be used in spatial analyses.

The areas were identified by applying a set of criteria. These criteria took into account national priorities and also, incorporated criteria used by a) the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) to identify Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs), b) the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to identify Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA), c) the Ramsar Convention to identify important wetlands, and d) the World Conservation Union (IUCN) for the identification of key biodiversity areas.

Twentythree ecological and biological valuable areas were identified through a combination of expert judgement and a spatial analysis of the data layers describing species specific core areas and important habitats, nature types or other ecosystem components. Each data layer was ranked according to the used criteria. The result can be seen in Figure 49, where red indicates (in 2.5 X 2.5 km2 grid) a high density of species specific core areas or important areas for habitats, nature types or other ecosystem components while blue indicates a lower density.

The report concludes that 23 Biological valuable areas can be regarded as a network which, if protected against actual threats, could safeguard a representative part of important habitats, ecosystems and species in West- and Southeast Greenland. These 23 areas cover 44 of the Greenland land area and 13% of the marine areas (excluding the Greenland Ice Cap – if the Ice Cap is included this number is 7%). If the National Park is included these numbers are 66 % of the land area (excluding the Ice Cap – if the Ice Cap is included the number is 44%) and 12 % of the marine areas compared to whole Greenland. The report also concludes that if Greenland applies appropriate protection of species, habitats and ecosystems within these 23 areas it could meet several of the CBDs Aichi 2020 targets, including Target 11 to protect 17% of a countries land area and 10% of its marine area especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

However the report recommend, that while further strategic work related to nature protection should focus on these 23 areas there may be a need for protection of certain species specific core areas outside of these areas.

The potential impacts that might arise due to changes in climate, industrial activities, fishing and hunting, shipping, agriculture etc. could potentially act together as cumulative impacts and the report conclude that the application of Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) can prove beneficial in the management of ecological valuable and sensitive land and sea areas in Greenland. Applying EBM would entail assessing impacts from different sectors in an integrated and adaptive approach, with engagement of relevant stakeholders and citizens.

The report recommends a two phase approach which would entail:

1)    Assessing the sensitivity of the identified important areas,to anthropogenic stressors;

2)    Analyzing the vulnerability of the Ecological and Biological valuable areas to anthropogenic disturbances and assess the need for protection.

In this regard the GIS method developed in this report can contribute to such assessments. The results of the analysis can then be used for development of possible mitigation and conservation measures.