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32nd Annual Arctic Workshop Abstracts
March 14-16, 2002
INSTAAR, University of Colorado at Boulder

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SUSTAINABILITY OF ARCTIC COMMUNITIES: AN INTERDISCIPLINARY COLLABORATION OF RESEARCHERS AND LOCAL KNOWLEDGE HOLDERS

AUTHORS

KRUSE, JACK . University of Alaska Anchorage.
White, Bob . University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Griffith, Brad . Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit.
Chapin, Terry . University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Kofinas, Gary . University of Alaska Anchorage.
Berman, Matt . University of Alaska Anchorage.
Epstein, Howard . University of Virginia.
Nicolson, Craig . University of Massachusetts.

How will climate change affect the sustainability of Arctic communities over the next forty years? This is the question that motivated a four-year collaboration of 23 researchers and four Arctic communities: Old Crow YT, Aklavik NT, Arctic Village AK, and Fort McPherson NT. This article provides an overview of results of the first phase of this ongoing study.

We drew on existing research and local knowledge to examine how the combined effects of climate change, petroleum development, tourism, and government cutbacks might change the sustainability of Arctic villages. The project's four partner communities defined sustainability in terms of five community goals. We worked together to incorporate research and local knowledge-based understandings in a spreadsheet-based Synthesis Model and a web-based Possible Futures Model. We used these models to run and present experimental simulations linking scenario choices with output indicators. We modeled vegetation changes, caribou population dynamics, local labor markets, mixed subsistence and cash economies, and oil field-caribou interactions. The user can view an explanation of which modeled relationships are responsible for the observed simulation results for a chosen indicator. The Possible Futures Model includes a feedback capability so that remote users and meeting participants can communicate their own thinking to the research team.

Simulation results suggest that climate warming will increase total plant biomass for high and low Arctic tundra ecosystems. Year-to-year variations in caribou population dynamics can mask or accentuate the apparent effects of climate warming and petroleum development; however, the PCH is more likely to decline under climate warming. Simulations suggest a 45 kilometer displacement of cows and calves during a three-week period in June would be sufficient to halt growth the PCH. Under most simulations, producing a decline in community harvests would take climate warming coupled with displacement of cows and calves from all of the coastal plain during a three week period in June.

For additional materials regarding this continuing study, please visit our project website at: http://www.taiga.net/sustain or contact Jack Kruse at afjak@uaa.alaska.edu

 

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