Climatic Change

, Volume 139, Issue 3–4, pp 413–427 | Cite as

Arctic communities perceive climate impacts on access as a critical challenge to availability of subsistence resources

  • Todd J. BrinkmanEmail author
  • Winslow D. Hansen
  • F. Stuart ChapinIII
  • Gary Kofinas
  • Shauna BurnSilver
  • T. Scott Rupp


Amplified climate change in the Arctic has altered interactions between rural communities and local wild resources. Shifting interactions warrant analysis because they can influence cultural practices and food security of northern societies. We collaborated with four indigenous communities in Alaska and conducted semi-directed interviews with 71 experienced harvesters to identify local perceptions of climate-driven trends in the environment, and describe the effects of those trends on the availability (i.e., abundance, distribution, accessibility) of subsistence resources. We then linked local perceptions with scientific climate projections to forecast how availability of subsistence resources may change in the future. Hunters identified 47 important relationships between climate-driven changes in the environment and availability of subsistence resources. Of those relationships, 60, 28, and 13 % focused on changes in harvester access, resource distribution, and resource abundance, respectively. Our forecast model indicated a net reduction in the availability of subsistence resources over the next 30 years. The reduction was caused primarily by climate-related challenges in access, rather than changes in abundance or distribution of resources. Our study demonstrates how giving insufficient attention to harvester access may produce misleading conclusions when assessing the impacts of climate change on future subsistence opportunities.


Indigenous Community Traditional Ecological Knowledge Local Perception Bowhead Whale Bearded Seal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank all the harvesters who participated in this study and the following government and tribal organizations for assisting with interviews: City of Kaktovik, Council for Athabascan Tribal Governments, Fort Yukon Tribal Council, North Slope Borough Wildlife Department, Olgoonik Corporation, Venetie Village Council, and Wainwright Traditional Council. Funding was provided by the Resilience and Adaptation Program (IGERT, NSF 0114423), the Bonanza Creek LTER (NSF 0423442), the International Polar Year (NSF 0732758), and the Alaska EPSCoR (NSF 1208927).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Todd J. Brinkman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Winslow D. Hansen
    • 1
    • 2
  • F. Stuart ChapinIII
    • 1
  • Gary Kofinas
    • 1
  • Shauna BurnSilver
    • 3
  • T. Scott Rupp
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Arctic BiologyUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of Wisconsin, MadisonMadisonUSA
  3. 3.School of Human Evolution and Social ChangeArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  4. 4.Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic PlanningUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA

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