HARC Online Workshops 2001 | Overview
Northern Treeline: The Location of the Arctic Treeline and Its Implications for Humans
26-30 November 2001
Moderated by Sakari Kankaanpää and Frans Wielgolaski
"What will determine the location of the Arctic treeline in 2100, and what will its location mean for humans?"
Summaries of the workshop discussion for each day:
The location of the treeline is determined by several factors, including climate, topography, soil characteristics, biological interactions such as grazing, and human pressure such as farming or logging. In Norway, mountain birch forms the treeline, which has been moving northward and upward because of both climate change and reduced grazing. The latter change is the result of changes in Norwegian society that have led to reduced outfarming in mountain regions. Traditional use of the treeline ecosystem, for example by Saami reindeer herders, may also change and affect the treeline. Tourism, in particular the construction of vacation cottages, is increasing in this region. These visitors may harvest trees for firewood. More tourists may lead to more ski areas and ski lifts, which cause considerable ecological damage. Hydroelectric dams have caused significant landscape and aquatic changes in Norway, influencing human settlements and in some cases stopping reindeer migration routes and reducing grazing resources. Reindeer are also affected by roads and railways, and the reindeer population overall is affected by many social, economic, political, and cultural factors.
In short, the location of the treeline is a complex question involving numerous physical, biological, and social phenomena, each of which is in turn affected by many factors. Predicting the location of the treeline in 2100 may be difficult or impossible, but assessing the relative effects of various forces may help us understand the dynamics of the system, which in turn can lead to more effective management and perhaps sustainable utilization of the ecosystem.
Achieving this goal also requires understanding how the treeline affects humans.
What are the factors influencing the position of northern treeline?
How does treeline influence people?
How do people influence treeline?
How do social, economic, and cultural influences affect the human-treeline relationship?
What will treeline look like in 100 years?
"The major thrusts of the HARC initiative are
to broaden our understanding of the arctic system and to assist arctic
peoples to understand and respond to the effects of large-scale chagnes.
HARC is also concerned with the effects of change in the arctic system
on people who live outside the Arctic."
-- People and the Arctic: A Prospectus for Research on the Human Dimensions of the Arctic System.