Local land use associated with socio-economic development in six arctic regions

Abstract

The socioeconomic causes of land use change are complex. They are highly context dependent, but most often studied through case studies. Here, we use a quasi-experimental paired block design to investigate whether better access to wage income leads to more visible land use around 28 settlements in six regions of the circumpolar Arctic. We mapped visible land use on high-resolution satellite images taken both close to the settlements, and in a more remote area of extensive land use, and payed special attention to tracks of off-road vehicles (ORV). Despite considerable differences among regions, there was an overall positive relationship between better access to wage income and land use. Reindeer herding was also associated with more visible use, in particular ORV tracks. These results suggest that access to wage income in the mixed subsistence-cash communities of the Arctic could lead to more local use related to harvesting and reindeer herding.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the people living in the settlements we visited for providing useful background information, and Graciela Rusch and two anonymous reviewers for their contribution to improve the manuscript. This study was funded by FRAM - High North Research Centre for Climate and the Environment through the Terrestrial Flagship (Project Tundrascape) and the Flagship MIKON (Project RConnected), and by the Research Council of Norway through the project “TUNDRA” (Grant No. S192040/S30) and the Belmont Forum “Arctic Observing and Research for Sustainability” (Norwegian Research Council 247474).

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Correspondence to Dorothee Ehrich.

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Ehrich, D., Thuestad, A.E., Tømmervik, H. et al. Local land use associated with socio-economic development in six arctic regions. Ambio 48, 649–660 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-018-1095-y

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Keywords

  • Arctic tundra
  • Motorized vehicles
  • Remote sensing
  • Resource use
  • Socio-ecological systems
  • Subsistence