Linking Strategic Environmental Assessment and monitoring of the Arctic

Juan Azcárate & Berit Balfors (Royal Institute of Technology) and Arvid Bring & Georgia Destouni (Stockholm University)

Azcárate et al. (2013) published an article entitled Strategic environmental Assessment and monitoring: Arctic key gaps and bridging pathways. Given rapid change in the Arctic region, environmental assessment and monitoring is needed in order to facilitate decision making which responds to changes and impacts on Arctic societies and ecosystems. In their article, implementation of Arctic-relevant Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and monitoring is analysed and important implementation gaps are elucidated. To overcome these gaps, an overarching SEA framework is proposed to systematically link and improve SEA and monitoring in the Arctic region. These are further linked to adaptive governance. In addition to the standard components of SEA (screening, scoping, reporting, consulting, monitoring and decision making), the proposed SEA framework includes observation systems which explicitly handle gaps and uncertainties (Figure 1). Where key knowledge and information gaps are identified by either SEA components (i.e. decision making and reporting) or adaptive governance, it should be possible to cycle back and (re)formulate observation systems (arrows linking framework components at the bottom of Figure 1). Note that this should be carried out in conjunction with consultation involving authorities, other stakeholders and the public. Ongoing coordination initiatives for environmental monitoring in the Arctic exist, such as the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, and the Sustaining Arctic Observation Networks; also, the UN’s more general Federated Water Monitoring System is relevant for the Arctic. The success of these coordination initiatives may depend on successful implementation of such an overarching SEA framework, which sets consistent goals and systematically links environmental assessment with programmes for observing and monitoring environmental change.

Figure 1: SEA adaptive governance framework for gap/uncertainty handling and environmental monitoring linked to observation systems.
Figure 1: SEA adaptive governance framework for gap/uncertainty handling and environmental monitoring linked to observation systems.