Bering Sea Sub-network: International Community-Based Observation Alliance for Arctic Observing Network (BSSN)
Basic Project Information
Indigenous peoples around the economically important Bering Sea region are launching a project that will monitor environmental changes in the region. The project will involve Native organizations in western Alaska and in the Russian northeast.
The Bering Sea, one of the most productive seas in the world, which includes globally important habitats for many biological resources, is now undergoing far-reaching environmental changes including climate change that alarm scientists, coastal residents and others from around the world. The region is of vital economic importance to both the US and Russia. The health, economic well-being, and ways of life of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in the region are connected to the Bering Sea and its natural resources. The socioeconomic development of coastal villages along the Bering Sea, on both the Russian and United States sides, is dependent on maintaining ecologically sustainable conditions in the region.
"This monitoring project is critical to the future of the region and of the peoples who live there," says Michael Zacharof, the president of the Aleut International Association, which is leading the project. "People in our communities notice even the slightest changes in nature but they do not have resources and tools to document them properly and to conduct research. In the Native communities, there are no "field seasons". We are in the field all year around and we think it is necessary to bring research, monitoring and observation capabilities to the local communities. By involving the people who live there, we can do this cost-effectively."
The Bering Sea Sub-Network: International Community-Based Environmental Observation Alliance for Arctic Observing Network (BSSN), endorsed by IPY Joint Committee, will involve six local indigenous communities, three each in the U.S. and Russia, to monitor and share the changes they observe. Changes could include the shift of southern species north, changes in distribution and abundance of fish and other temperature-sensitive species, changes in ice patterns, and weather observations. Observations will be collected using surveying methods across the network based on standard protocols. BSSN will address the questions of: 1) historical and present distribution and properties of economic and subsistence important species as derived from collective indigenous and traditional knowledge; 2) types of major variables and indicators that could be correlated with western science to develop predictable models based on indigenous and traditional knowledge; and 3) spatial and temporal convergence and divergence of community-derived and western science data.
This project will assess large scale environmental changes in the Arctic by looking at both the physical and human dimensions of change and its impact. Success of this project will leave a legacy not only for IPY but also for a broad community of arctic residents striving to organize an observing system that is a valid partner in pan-arctic observations.
- Name: Lilian Alessa
- Department: Resilience and Adaptive Management Group
- Organization: University of Alaska Anchorage
- Email: lalessa [at] alaska [dot] edu
- Name: Joan Eamer
- Department: Polar Programme
- Organization: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/GRID-Arendal)
- Email: joan [dot] eamer [at] grida [dot] no