Transitions of social-ecological subsistence systems in the Arctic

In this round-table, I will discuss how global change are transforming small-scale, native, resource-dependent communities in the Arctic. These social-ecological systems are increasingly exposed to global warming, industrial development and globalization, which subsequently alter the local SES dynamics. Subsistence use of fish and wildlife is a cornerstone in these communities. This traditional utilization of natural resources are commonly assumed to be donor-controlled, in which the users do not control the resource level but adapt to the fluctuating availability of fish and wildlife. A combination of increased harvest efficiency through the introduction of new technology, increased resource demand through population increase and commercialization, and reduced resource stocks by exogenous pressures such as climate change, is likely to increase the pressure on the stocks of fish and wildlife. The result could be a transition of the SES from a provisioning action situation, where the collective challenge is to secure subsistence on a local scale, to an appropriation action situation where the collective challenge is to avoid overuse of a common-pool resource on the scale of the resource stock. We applied cross-national comparison of Arctic Alaska, Canada and Greenland, synthesized secondary data from documents, official statistics and grey and scientific literature, and asked: What are the evidence for SES transitions in the Arctic? Which exogenous pressures are associated with transitions, and what conditions might prevent transitions? How does the transitions change the focus and sustainability challenges faced by the governance systems?

Although the results I will present are from the Arctic, I hope the talk will stimulate a more general discussion on how global change might transform local social-ecological systems.

Dr Per Fauchald

NCEAS visiting scientist

Senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research


From the top of the mountain to the top of the world: vegetation change in the tundra

Join us for our roundtable discussion on March 4th with Dr. Anne Bjorkman from he German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).

Abstract: Identifying large-scale patterns in functional traits has become a hot topic in community ecology over the past decade, as understanding current biogeographical patterns can help us predict future shifts under climate warming. In the Arctic, where temperatures are warming faster than anywhere else on the planet, shifts in vegetation and associated functional traits can have direct consequences for ecosystem function. For example, increases in shrub cover could affect summer and winter soil temperatures and thus influence the depth of permafrost thaw, while specific leaf area (SLA) and leaf nitrogen concentration can influence decomposition rates, relative growth rates, photosynthetic rates, and carbon fixation, all of which in turn influence carbon cycling and net primary productivity (NPP).

As part of an international synthesis effort based at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (“iDiv” – the German equivalent of NCEAS, or at least we like to think so), we are investigating patterns of functional traits across climate space and over time by combining a circumpolar vegetation database with a large and growing tundra plant trait database. This is very much a work in progress, so I will present some of our work so far and would love to have your feedback!

Anne at her study site

Anne at her study site