WCS’s long-term conservation work on migratory birds in the Arctic is part of a new archive of animal tracking studies designed to facilitate future collaboration and analysis of animal movements in one of the earth’s most rapidly changing landscapes.

Described in the latest issue of the journal Science, the new Arctic Animal Movement Archive (AAMA) is a growing collection of 201 standardized terrestrial and marine animal tracking studies from 1991–present. The AAMA will facilitate long-term and large-scale ecological studies of the Arctic and reveal the timing and extent of changes to animal behavior patterns.  Authors from more than 100 scientific organizations contributed to the study.

The Arctic is entering a new ecological state, with alarming consequences for humanity and wildlife. Animal-borne sensors offer a unique window into these changes. Although substantial animal tracking data from the Arctic and subarctic exist, most are difficult to discover and access. Collaborative efforts using open-source data available to wider networks of researchers are critical to promoting evaluation of how animals, and especially birds, may adapt and modify their annual movements, which often span multiple ecosystems.

Said Rebecca McGuire, Avian Ecologist for WCS’s Beringia Program and one of the co-authors of the Science paper: “With three billion birds having been lost in North America since 1970, including a nearly 25 percent decrease in birds from arctic tundra regions of North America, we need to understand where they are going and the factors leading to their losses. WCS is committed to supporting and engaging in collaboration between researchers that lead to effective, science-driven management, which we see as the only hope for preserving the rest of our avifauna for our children.”

WCS has been researching birds in the Arctic since 2002. Its long-term place-based participation in the collaborative circumpolar Arctic Shorebird Demographic Network has helped identify threats to birds throughout their annual cycle, and determine how best to mitigate these threats. One of the network’s key findings is that we will not conserve Arctic migratory birds without working with diverse partners elsewhere to protect them during migration.