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Applying a synthetic approach to the resilience of Finnish reindeer herding as a changing livelihood

Simo Sarkki, Cultural Anthropology, University of Oulu, Finland
Teresa Komu, Cultural Anthropology, University of Oulu, Finland
Hannu I Heikkinen, Cultural Anthropology, University of Oulu, Finland
Nicolás Acosta García, Cultural Anthropology, University of Oulu, Finland
Élise Lépy, Cultural Anthropology, University of Oulu, Finland
Vesa-Pekka Herva, Archaeology, University of Oulu, Finland


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Reindeer herding is an emblematic livelihood for Northern Finland, culturally important for local people and valuable in tourism marketing. We examine the livelihood resilience of Finnish reindeer herding by narrowing the focus of general resilience on social-ecological systems (SESs) to a specific livelihood while also acknowledging wider contexts in which reindeer herding is embedded. The questions for specified resilience can be combined with the applied DPSIR approach (Drivers; Pressures: resilience to what; State: resilience of what; Impacts: resilience for whom; Responses: resilience by whom and how). This paper is based on a synthesis of the authors’ extensive anthropological fieldwork on reindeer herding and other land uses in Northern Finland. Our objective is to synthesize various opportunities and challenges that underpin the resilience of reindeer herding as a viable livelihood. The DPSIR approach, applied here as a three step procedure, helps focus the analysis on different components of SES and their dynamic interactions. First, various land use-related DPSIR factors and their relations (synergies and trade-offs) to reindeer herding are mapped. Second, detailed DPSIR factors underpinning the resilience of reindeer herding are identified. Third, examples of interrelations between DPSIR factors are explored, revealing the key dynamics between Pressures, State, Impacts, and Responses related to the livelihood resilience of reindeer herding. In the Discussion section, we recommend that future applications of the DPSIR approach in examining livelihood resilience should (1) address cumulative pressures, (2) consider the state dimension as more tuned toward the social side of SES, (3) assess both the negative and positive impacts of environmental change on the examined livelihood by a combination of science led top-down and participatory bottom-up approaches, and (4) examine and propose governance solutions as well as local adaptations by reindeer herders as equally relevant responses to enhance livelihood resilience.

Key words

adaptation; cumulative pressures; DPSIR approach; environmental governance; land use; livelihood resilience; pastoralism

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes 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