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Comparing adaptive capacity of Arctic communities responding to environmental change

Matthew D Berman, Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage
Jennifer I Schmidt, Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage
Gary P Kofinas, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks


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Adaptive capacity (AC) is a widely used concept denoting assets or resources that people or a system can draw upon to cope with environmental change. When applied to a community, careful definition and measurement of AC is essential for identifying patterns and generating findings that may be useful for policy and transferable to other places. We identified and compared measures of 22 indicators for eight communities on Alaska’s North Slope, based on consistency with theory, availability of data, and measurable community differences. Despite many cultural and institutional similarities, we found systematic differences among communities in each of the seven AC domains measured. Although every community had strengths in some domains, we could divide communities into three groups: high overall AC (one community), moderate overall AC (four communities), and low overall AC (three communities), based on average rank order across all domains. The comparative approach we developed can be helpful in identifying productive policy opportunities for strengthening community AC.

Key words

adaptive capacity; Arctic communities; climate change; Iñupiat; local institutions; oil development; resilience

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087