Arctic marine ecology benchmarking program: Monitoring biodiversity using scuba

J. Schultz, J. Heywood, D. Gibbs, L. Borden, D. Kent, M. Neale, C. Kulcsar, R. Banwait, and L. Trethewey

Having reliable baseline data and carrying out ongoing monitoring are important to fully understanding the changes underway in Canada’s Arctic. This knowledge will enable effective management strategies and conservation plans to be developed. However, very few surveys of nearshore marine flora and fauna in the Canadian Arctic have been conducted.

This project gathered biodiversity data at key sites near Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Long-term marine nearshore ecosystem monitoring was also started. Since 2014, the Ocean Wise Conservation Association and Polar Knowledge Canada have surveyed 26 nearshore sites using scuba diving in the region around Cambridge Bay. Data on habitat type and species diversity were collected. The 2017 Arctic Marine Ecology Benchmarking Program marks the next stage of the research. This involved shifting from exploration and cataloguing to systematic documentation and ecological benchmarking. The 2017 benchmarking program scientific dive team quantified the biodiversity and abundance of marine algae, invertebrates, and fish species at six selected sites in the Cambridge Bay area. This effort serves as a pilot study to assess how the survey is designed and to make recommendations for future research and monitoring efforts.

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