Integrating local knowledge and downscaled climate projections, our study documents the effects of global-scale climatic variables on the local availability of ecosystem services important to the resilience of rural Alaskan communities. As part of the Arctic social-ecological system (SES) rural Alaskans rely substantially on ecosystem services such as moose, salmon, and marine mammals for subsistence, cultural identity, and community livelihood. However, this SES is undergoing dramatic changes, many of which are attributable to the magnified effects of climatic warming at high latitudes. As a consequence, the availability of resources like moose and salmon may be shifting. Establishing a baseline understanding of the relationships between climate and the ecosystem services that form the foundation of resilience in rural communities is critical to begin planning for and adapting to changing future conditions in the Arctic SES.
We are conducting semi-structured interviews with local hunters and fishers of four rural Alaskan villages to document local perceptions of how environmental variables affect the availability of important ecosystem services. Using a modeling framework, we are creating future scenarios of ecosystem service availability based upon local knowledge and climate projections. In addition, we are developing models derived from science inputs to compare and potentially combine with local knowledge inputs. This allows us to assess, from several perspectives, how a critical component of community resilience may change in the future. Model outputs will be used to facilitate discussions in the communities on adaptation options that could minimize the negative consequences while seizing upon positive opportunities.
Location: Alaska, United States
System Type: Forest/woodland,Tundra
Contact: Todd J. Brinkman, Winslow D. Hansen
Collaborators: F. Stuart Chapin III; T. Scott Rupp; Shauna BurnSilver; Gary P. Kofinas
Organization: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Project Dates: 2008-Present
Keywords: Alaska; climate change; ecosystem services; social-ecological systems; rural communities; boreal forest; Arctic; subsistence; adaptation planning