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Alaskan wild food harvester information needs and climate adaptation strategies

Casey L. Brown, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA; Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, La Grande, OR, USA
Sarah F. Trainor, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA
Corrine N. Knapp, Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, USA
Nathan P. Kettle, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA


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Changing biophysical conditions due to amplified climate change in northern latitudes has significant implications for species’ habitat and populations and can dramatically alter interactions between harvesters and local resources. Tribal, regional, and state governments, federal agencies, and other local planning entities have begun documenting observations of changing harvest conditions and the information necessary for communities to adapt to shifting resource availability. We identify and evaluate what stakeholders are saying about wild foods in the context of climate change information needs in Alaska through a review of published grey literature (n = 87). Documents consistently expressed that climate change was impacting habitat conditions, resource distribution, and the abundance of wild foods. They solicited more information on biophysical processes (e.g., sea ice conditions) and population-level responses (e.g., shift in migration patterns). They also recommended that future projects focus on information that will improve food security, travel access, and community well-being. Documents suggested that communities have successfully sustained harvest practices, but most current adaptations are localized decisions being made by harvesters to manage the risks of current climate change. Strategies include finding new areas to hunt, substituting harvest species with other wild foods, or using new modes of travel. Documents also identified several adaptation strategies that still need to be implemented, and are dependent on actions by actors at larger scales; these strategies include legal, policy, and management actions to help reduce climate change impacts to wild food harvest. This review of the grey literature complements the climate-change literature by describing information needs of Alaskan wild food harvesters as well as providing tangible suggestions about how to improve adaptation and management strategies for harvesters grappling with changing resource conditions in the Arctic.

Key words

adaptive capacity; Alaska; Arctic; cultural services; needs assessment; subsistence; wild foods

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