CAFF, the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna

by Mr Tom Barry, Executive Secretary, CAFF


The acronym CAFF stands for the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna. CAFF is the biodiversity Working Group of the Arctic Council. CAFFs mission statement is to:

To address the conservation of Arctic biodiversity, and communicate the findings to the governments and residents of the Arctic, helping to promote practices which ensure the sustainability of the Arctic’s living resources
When considering the term biodiversity it is important to be conscious that for CAFF this encompasses not just flora and fauna but also has a human dimension. CAFFs mandate also allows for it to consider protected areas. In the light of climate change protected areas are becoming increasingly relevant and play an important role in biodiversity research and management. It is important to note that many of the management agencies and bodies involved in the establishment and management of protected areas in the arctic are represented on CAFFs management board.


The CAFF program is guided by the CAFF Strategic Plan for the Conservation of Arctic Biological Diversity and biennial CAFF Work Plans, which are developed by the CAFF Working Group for approval by the Arctic Council. CAFF has four guiding principles: - The use of a broad, ecosystem-based approach to conservation and management;
- Cooperation with other conservation initiatives to minimise duplication and increase effectiveness;
- Communication of CAFF program activities;
- The involvement of indigenous and local people and use of traditional ecological knowledge.


It is possible to successfully conserve the natural environment and allow for economic development, but this requires solid baseline data on long-term status and trends of Arctic biodiversity, habitats and ecosystem health. CAFF’s projects provide data for informed decision making in resolving conflicts which are now arising in trying to both conserve the natural environment and permit regional growth. Bearing this in mind the CAFF program has five core objectives:
- Monitoring of Arctic biodiversity;
- Conservation of Arctic species and their habitats;
- Consider the establishment of protected areas;
- Conservation of nature outside protected areas;
- Integration of conservation objectives and measures for economic sectors of the society.

CAFF: Structure

The CAFF WG is headed by a Chair and a Vice-Chair, who rotate on a biennial basis. The Chair is currently held by Greenland and the Vice-Chair by Iceland. The CAFF International Secretariat is the body through which the work of CAFF is coordinated and administrated. The Secretariat executes decisions made by the CAFF Board, provides administrative and advisory functions to the National Representatives. The CAFF Secretariat is located in Akureyri, Iceland

The CAFF Management Board is comprised of
- National Representatives assigned by each of the eight Arctic Council Member States;
- Representatives of Indigenous Peoples Organisations that are Permanent Participants;
- Arctic Council observer countries and organisations.

Expert Groups

CAFF can establish expert groups with specific mandates related to key activities for CAFF. There are at present three expert groups.
- The CAFF Flora Expert Group (CFG) - also serves as the IUCN Arctic Plant Specialist Group
- The CAFF Seabird Expert Group (CBird)
- Circumpolar Protected Area Network (CPAN)
These ensure that scientists, conservationists, and managers interested in arctic flora and vegetation have a forum to promote, facilitate, and coordinate conservation, management, and research activities of mutual concern. They have been invaluable in synthesising, coordinating and publishing research.


CAFF continues to work on the projects listed in its 2006-2008 Work Plan. There is also a strong focus on building upon the recommendations contained in Arctic Climate and Impact Assessment (ACIA). ACIA called for improved capacity to monitor and understand changes in the Arctic. The two primary vehicles via which CAFF is responding this are:
- The proposed Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA) whose purpose is to Synthesize and assess the status and trends of biological diversity in the Arctic. It will create a baseline for use in global and regional assessments and inform future Arctic Council work. This baseline will be used to identify gaps in the data record, identify the main stressors and key mechanisms which are driving change and finally to produce recommendations
- The Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP). The CBMP is a mechanism for harmonizing and enhancing long-term biodiversity monitoring efforts across the Arctic in order to improve our ability to detect and report on significant trends and pressures. It adopts an ecosystem based management approach and currently has 33 Arctic Biodiversity monitoring networks connected. The resulting information will be used to assist policy and decision making at the global, national, regional and local levels. The CBMP will contribute to forming the first product to be delivered from the ABA In addition to research and monitoring, CAFF also focuses upon education and outreach. While recognizing the need to acquire the data, CAFF also puts emphasis on getting data out to stakeholders, policymakers, researchers and the public.