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Where the poles come together - POLAR 2018

The latest research regarding both the north and south poles and high altitude ecosystems was shared publicly by leading experts during this year’s Polar 2018 conference in Davos, Switzerland.

POLAR 2018 conference - which took place from 15-26 June, concluded last week in Davos, Switzerland where 2.515 delegates from 64 countries shared their knowledge and gained a better understanding of all aspects regarding polar ecosystems. The joint event between the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and the International Arctic Science Committee covered a wide base of topics including natural sciences, history, social sciences and medicine.

Over 1000 oral presentations were given by many interdisciplinary attendees,from astrophysicists to polar historians, presenting the “results of an extraordinarily diverse research effort on the physical, ecological and climatic changes affecting the north and south poles, as well as high mountain environments” (Prof David Keith, RLE Thematic Group - IUCN). Examples include geneticist Prof Jan Strugnell from the James Cook University, and political scientist Oran Young, from UC Santa Barbara, who presented on how the genetics of marine organisms can be used as evidence of past ice sheet behavior, and Polar Governance; respectively. 

Prof David Keith, leader of IUCN’s Red List of Ecosystems Thematic Group, presented case studies offering insights on its potential contributions to decision-making for the future of polar ecosystems and catalysing discussions on collaborations with polar scientists. Already the Antarctic shallow invertebrate-dominated ecosystems of the Antarctic have been assessed as Not Threatened (NT) using the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Categories and Criteria, and a larger assessment is in progress. Various high altitude regions have also been assessed using other methodologies.

A theme running throughout the conference was the importance of a fair, diverse and interdisciplinary approach to polar research, as well as a community-driven approach for all things related to the international network of Arctic observing systems. Parallel sessions, which took place from June 19-23, accomplished this by addressing a wide array of topics  grouped into 12 categories. Discussions took on issues such as the presence of microplastics even in hard-to-reach ecosystems, how the formation and properties of clouds are changing due to shifts in large scale atmospheric dynamics, what can be learned from the holistic approach that Indigenous communities take to understanding the environment, and how the humanities and social sciences should and will play more of a role in polar research.

The Polar 2018 conference was made as accessible as possible (you can watch the plenaries filmed live here), and gained a lot of social media visibility reaching over a million visits just on twitter alone.



Written by: Daisy Hessenberger

Style and format: Clara Gómez and Lila García

Provita Jul 13, 2018


IUCN Red List of Ecosystems


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