, Volume 121, Issue 2, pp 285-299
Date: 15 Sep 2013

Identifying the exposure of two subsistence villages in Alaska to climate change using traditional ecological knowledge

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Abstract

Dramatic climatic change in the Arctic elevates the importance of determining the risk of exposure for people living in vulnerable areas and developing effective adaptation programs. Climate change assessment reports are valuable, and often definitive, sources of information for decision makers when constructing adaptation plans, yet the scope of these reports is too coarse to identify site-specific exposure to the impacts of climate change and adaptation needs. Subsistence hunters and gatherers in the Arctic are valuable knowledge holders of climate-related change in their area. Incorporating both their traditional ecological knowledge and information found in climate science assessment reports can offer adaption planners a deeper understanding of exposure to climate change and local adaptation needs. In this study, we compare information found in assessment reports of climate change in the Arctic with what we have learned from the Alaskans Sharing Indigenous Knowledge project from 2009 to 2012, a research project documenting traditional ecological knowledge in two Native villages in Alaska, Savoonga and Shaktoolik. Content analysis of the interviews with hunters and gatherers reveal the site-specific impacts of climate change affecting these two villages. We find that their traditional ecological knowledge is complimentary and largely corroborates the climate science found in assessment reports. Traditional ecological knowledge, however, is more current to the social and local conditions of the villages, and presents a more unified social and biophysical portrayal of the impacts of climate change. If taken together, these two forms of knowledge can focus adaptation planning on the pertinent needs of the communities in question.