There are several definitions of “the Arctic”, based on physical-geographical characteristics or on political and administrative considerations within different countries. Even if no delineation of the region is easy, the Arctic countries are undisputedly eight: Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) is one of the five Working Groups of the Arctic Council. It was established in 1991 to advise involved governments on matters relating to pollution, as a part of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy. AMAP responsibilities include measuring the levels, and assessing the effects of anthropogenic pollutants in all compartments of the Arctic environment, including humans; documenting trends of pollution; documenting sources and pathways of pollutants; examining the impact of pollution on Arctic flora and fauna, especially those used by indigenous people; reporting on the state of the Arctic environment; and giving advice to Ministers on priority actions needed to improve the Arctic condition.
AMAP deals with the following contaminant groups and issues: persistent organic contaminants (POPs), heavy metals (in particular mercury, cadmium, and lead), radioactivity, acidification and Arctic haze, petroleum hydrocarbon pollution, climate change monitoring (environmental consequences and biological effects in the Arctic), stratospheric ozone depletion (biological effects due to increased UV-B), effects of pollution on the health of humans living in the Arctic (including effects of increased UV radiation as a result of ozone depletion, and climate change), and combined effects of pollutants and other stressors on both ecosystems and humans.
The sampling work is based on existing national and international monitoring and research programs. For instance, ARCRISK aims to assess the influence of climate change on pollutant transport and risk implications for human populations. Data analysing is carried out in five areas: atmospheric, terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments, and human populations with respect to human health.
AMAP has produced a series of high quality scientifically-based assessments of the pollution status of the Arctic since 1997. Assessment Reports are fully referenced, comprehensive, technical and show an assessment of all validated data on the status of the Arctic environment in a scientific way. They make up the background material and provide the accessible scientific basis and validation for any statements made in the Ministerial reports. These are more concise reports presenting the results of AMAP with recommendations specifically addressed to Ministers.
The AMAP assessments are the result of cooperation between a large number of scientists, indigenous peoples’ representatives, and representatives of the Arctic countries and AMAP observing countries and organizations. These inputs provide the necessary basis for the design of a comprehensive climate change strategy for the Arctic region.
AMAP Secretariat, 2003, Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) website