U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed a comprehensive environmental agreement May 11 among eight nations that adopted the first Arctic Invasive Alien Species (ARIAS) strategy and action plan, developed by representatives of those nations including the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future’s David Lodge.
Meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, the Arctic Council, with representatives from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States, signed the Fairbanks Declaration, which endorses the ARIAS plan. The council promotes sustainable development and environmental protection. In addition to signing the declaration, Tillerson joined his international counterparts to mark the rotation of the Arctic Council’s leadership from the U.S. to Finland.
“I'm thrilled that the Arctic Council has adopted this plan,” said Lodge, the Francis J. DiSalvo Director of the Atkinson Center, who initiated the action on invasive species when he served as a Jefferson Science Fellow in the State Department in 2014. He has not been actively involved in the last year due to Cornell responsibilities.
“The Arctic is the world’s most pristine ocean because it has been previously covered by ice much of the year. Now with sea ice declining by 13 percent annually and the number of ship voyages increasing 20 percent every year, the region is very vulnerable to biological invasion,” Lodge said.
“It is now or never to prevent the introduction of invasive alien species and protect the Arctic’s unique ecological, social and economic systems,” he continued.
The declaration recognized that human activity outside the Arctic region greatly contributes to climate change and pollution there; members noted “with concern” that the Arctic is warming at more than twice the global average, resulting in widespread negative environmental and economic impacts.
In addition to the Fairbanks Declaration’s call for climate mitigation and adaptation actions, member nations agreed that rapid climate change in the Arctic increases the region’s vulnerability to invasive alien species. The members adopted ARIAS to encourage prevention, keeping invasive alien species from entering the Arctic; early detection and eradication before an alien species are established or become widespread; and to control populations of alien species to minimize their spread.
“We have a unique opportunity in the Arctic. We know what needs to be done. Climate change invites invasive species, which in turn drives the loss of native flora and fauna, threatens cultural survival, reduces natural capital and creates economic hardship,” said Lodge, paraphrasing portions of the plan. “We can act decisively to prevent and mitigate the adverse impacts of invasive alien species in the Arctic that plague much of the rest of the world if we join together now.”