How Resilient are Social-Ecological Systems of the Arctic to Global Change?
Gary Kofinas, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Berman, University of Alaska Anchorage
Brad Griffith, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Gennady Belchanski, Russian Academy of Science
David Douglas, US Geological Survey
Bruce Forbes, University of Lapland
Konstantin Klokov, St Petersburg State University
Leonid Kolpashikov, Extreme North Agricultural Research Institute
Stephanie Martin, University of Alaska Anchorage
Craig Nicolson, University of Massachusetts
Don Russell, Environment Canada
How resilient are social-ecological systems of the Arctic to global change? This paper examines that question through an examination of the heterogeneity of regional Human-Rangifer Systems of North America and Russia. A Human-Rangifer System is a set of interacting ecological and social processes underlying the human use of Rangifer (reindeer/caribou). These processes include bio-physical interactions, socio-economic dynamics, and social institutions that shape human adaptation. Human-Rangifer Systems have historically provided and continue to provide keystone ecosystem services to Indigenous Peoples of the North, with Rangifer being the most important terrestrial subsistence resource of the Arctic System. Rapid change (e.g., climate change, industrial development, economic and political change) in the Arctic may threaten this important human-animal relationship, although there is high heterogeneity in forces for change and the regional conditions in which change unfolds. We take an interdisciplinary approach to compare regions and identify the interaction of key fast and slow variables for understanding social-ecological dynamics, and present a framework for the assessment of Arctic social-ecological resilience. The collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent decrease in herding in some regions of Russia and the restoration of previously depressed caribou populations and renewal local hunting in regions of North America illustrate the vulnerabilities, transformability, and significant adaptability of these systems. This study is being funded under the NSF Arctic System Science Program.