"How Tensions With Russia Are Jeopardizing Key Arctic Research"

"With the Ukraine war, international collaborations with Russia on Arctic research and governance have been strained or broken off. This loss of critical cooperation is compromising efforts to confront mounting environmental risks in the Arctic, from shrinking sea ice to pollution."

"Biologist Eric Regehr and his colleagues at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began studying polar bears from the American side of the Chukchi Sea, which stretches from Alaska to Russia, in 2008. But as the region warmed, and the increasingly thin spring sea ice off the Alaskan Coast made helicopter landings unsafe, he knew he would need to find another base from which to survey the health and size of the population.

Russia’s remote Wrangel Island made an ideal alternative: a large proportion of Chukchi Sea polar bears take refuge here during the summer, and the Russian Federation had, in 2000, signed an agreement with the U.S. to protect this population. Collaborating in the field, Russian and American scientists were eventually able to confirm, in 2016, that the population of 3,000 animals appeared to be faring well, despite the rapidly receding sea ice and Indigenous subsistence hunting.

After a two-year hiatus because of Covid-19, Regehr, now with the University of Washington, was eager to return to his research on Wrangel. But when Russia invaded Ukraine last February, his plans abruptly changed. So did those of virtually every government, university, institute, and nonprofit scientist working with Russian colleagues. Suddenly, nearly every international collaborative effort with Russia in the Arctic — from polar bear and whale studies to research on commercial fishing, permafrost thaw, sea-ice retreat, peatland ecology, and wildfires — was on hold."

Ed Struzik reports for Yale Environment 360 February 7, 2023.

Source: YaleE360, 02/08/2023