About MOSJ

MOSJ (Environmental Monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen) is an environmental monitoring system and part of the Government’s environmental monitoring in Norway. An important function is to provide a basis for seeing whether the political targets set for the development of the environment in the North are being attained. The environmental goals for the polar regions are presented at State of the Environment Norway.

Figure shows the relation of MOSJ to other environmental monitoring and research.
Figure 1. MOSJ viewed in relation to other monitoring and research. The width of the triangle indicates the extent to which various activities which gather data are included. The uppermost levels must rely upon the ones below. For instance, monitoring rests upon research. Figure: Norwegian Polar Institute

MOSJ focuses on environmental information that is strategically important for politicians and environmental managers. Consequently, considerably more environmental monitoring takes place in Svalbard and Jan Mayen than that which is included in MOSJ.

A thorough scientific understanding of the state of the environment there requires that we monitor far more than what may at the moment seem most relevant for decision making. This takes place in thematic monitoring programmes performed by, for instance

  • The Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI)
  • The Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU)
  • The National Institute for Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES)
  • The Norwegian Meteorological Institute (MET)
  • The Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR)

MOSJ obtains relevant information from these programmes on land, in the air and in the sea. Examples are monitoring of pollutants in the air in Ny-Ålesund, commercially valuable species of fish, and temperature and precipitation.

MOSJ employs a selection of key indicators from the various thematic programmes and places them in context across disciplines and topics. This can create new understanding of connections between different kinds of environmental pressures and impacts in the natural world.

Diagram showing MOSJ activities
Figure 2. Diagram showing MOSJ activities. The core activities in the system are shown in blue within the red frame. The yellow boxes denote activities beyond the system itself, which either supply or receive information.

Good environmental monitoring must be built on research. It is research that can tell us what is most relevant to monitor; for example, when we want to find indicator species which can give a typical picture of an ecosystem. Research is also necessary to find out how we must monitor, in other words, which methods are most appropriate. In addition, we need research to be able to interpret and explain the data collected through monitoring. These are important reasons why research must be closely integrated with monitoring programmes.

The MOSJ structure

MOSJ consists of a number of indicators which contain one or more data sets. An indicator gives a simplified description of the reality.

Environmental indicators should contain information on what is typical or critical for the environmental quality. They should be able to show whether a development is positive or negative. Comparison with reference values should say whether the state is good or poor. Each indicator has one or more parameters (data sets).

Most environmental monitoring systems, such as State of the Environment Norway, sort the information according to Driving forces – Pressures – States – Impacts – Responses (the DPSIR model). The objective is to display the connection between human activities and the environment.

MOSJ only has indicators for pressure and state.

The indicators for climate are difficult to classify while we only use these two divisions. If we study emissions of greenhouse gases and measures to combat undesirable changes in climate, the indicators in MOSJ will mostly be indicators for state. If we are interested in changes in the plant and animal life, the climate will be an important pressure factor. This is why we have differentiated climate as a separate area in MOSJ.

Proposals for responses are given in the state of the environment reports which MOSJ produces. MOSJ gives recommendations to the individual authorities which are responsible. It is up to these, both environmental authorities and various sectors, to decide how far they will follow the recommendations.

Interpretations of data sets

MOSJ is not just a system for presenting data, it also interprets the data.

An explanation of what the monitoring shows is given for each indicator. This is done by assessing whether or not a trend in the development exists and, based on this, whether the status can be characterised as good or poor as indicated by reference values or norms.

Possible causes and impacts of a trend must also be assessed.

Evaluations of the state of the environment

Emphasis is placed on performing assessments of the state of the environment based on all other relevant knowledge, since the MOSJ data alone cannot explain all aspects of the development.

MOSJ normally undertakes such assessments of the state of the environment annually, and the topic varies from year to year. These assessments attempt to determine whether the national environmental goals for Svalbard are being attained or, in more general terms, whether there are aspects which give cause for concern.

If the goals are not being attained, or worrying aspects in the development are observed, an assessment must determine whether a response should be set in motion and, if so, who is responsible for it. MOSJ will then send recommendations to the responsible authorities.

It is often concluded that there is a need for better knowledge to have an adequate basis for assessing goals and aspects in the development. MOSJ can then recommend starting new or improved monitoring, or recommend that new research be started. MOSJ and the data suppliers are dependent upon the authorities or other bodies complying with these recommendations and starting responses.

Organisation of MOSJ

The Section for Environmental Management at the Norwegian Polar Institute is the secretariat for MOSJ and consequently has principal responsibility for developing and operating the system. Persons to contact are Therese Sigurdsen and Stein Ø. Nilsen. The Norwegian Polar Institute is responsible for the MOSJ web site.

The MOSJ Scientific Board comprises representatives from

  • The Norwegian Environment Agency
  • The Directorate for Cultural Heritage
  • The Governor of Svalbard
  • The Norwegian Institute of Marine Research
  • The Norwegian Meteorological Institute
  • The Norwegian Polar Institute

Its most important tasks are to give advice on which indicators should be included in MOSJ and how they should be prioritised, discuss the most important problems linked with the further development of the indicators, including which management-related questions the monitoring should answer, help to ensure that monitoring is started and is reported to MOSJ, and advise management authorities on the need for responses and institutions on the need for knowledge.

The data presented in MOSJ come from many institutions which perform monitoring. The individual data suppliers are responsible for the quality assurance of their data and for interpreting trends in the individual data set.

The principal data suppliers are