Climate Change is starting to affect subsistence in the Arctic

The importance of interactions between physical and social sciences

Increased climate change in the Arctic has already led to changes in the interactions between its inhabitants and the available natural resources, which may put into question the cultural practices of indigenous peoples, i.e. their identity, as well as their security to feed.

Through the analysis of the perceptions of 71 harvesters from four indigenous communities in Alaska, climate trends and the observed effects of these trends on the availability of subsistence resources were described, namely: abundance, distribution and accessibility.

Location of four indigenous communities participating in research on the impact of climate change on subsistence resources.

These results were related to climate projections based on climate studies, in order to predict how the availability of subsistence resources could change in the future. From this correlation, a prediction of a reduction in the availability of subsistence resources in the next 30 years related to the climatic challenges, results mainly in the difficulty to their access and not by changes in the abundance or distribution of resources.

The study highlights a small but important subset of changes related to resource access in the 4 indigenous communities related to climate change. While the focus is on the effects of environmental factors, researchers recognize that various social and economic factors can also influence hunting patterns and resource availability, such as high fuel prices that limit the number and distance of subsistence trips.

While this study has provided valuable insights, highlighting the importance of interdisciplinary when trying to understand climate change and its consequences, there is still much uncertainty as to the extent of climate implications for high-altitude subsistence communities. Research in various fields (impact of rural innovation, characterization of environmental disruption mechanisms…) is needed to assess the social consequences of climate impacts on livelihood practices.

Climate-driven forecasts in changes in availability (with and without accounting for access) of key subsistence resources between the decades 2000–2009 and 2030–2039 based on perceived relationships identified by harvesters in the Alaskan communities of Fort Yukon, Venetie, Wainwright, and Kaktovikaktovik.


Source: Brinkman, T. J., Hansen, W. D., Chapin, F. S., Kofinas, G., BurnSilver, S., & Rupp, T. S. (2016). Arctic communities perceive climate impacts on access as a critical challenge to availability of subsistence resources. Climatic Change, 139(3-4), 413-427. doi: 10.1007/s10584-016-1819-6

Author: Patrícia Azinhaga