SNAP's Todd Brinkman and colleagues document how a changing climate challenges subsistence

Hunters on the ice. (NSIDC)

Excerpted from From rotten ice to wildfires: hunting and fishing become complicated in a changing Alaska

Rural Alaskans are talking about how unpredictable the weather is now, and how that makes it harder to get out on the land.

Those are exactly the kinds of issues UAF-SNAP biologist Todd Brinkman and his team found when they set out to assess the impact of climate change on subsistence use. “Our take-home finding was relatively surprising, in that we found that climate effects on the environment are having the largest impact on people’s ability to travel across landscapes and access these resources,” Brinkman said.

In other words, the biggest effects right now aren’t on, say, the populations of caribou or seals. The biggest effects are on people’s ability to get to those animals.

Brinkman and his colleagues conducted interviews in four villages — Wainwright and Kaktovik on the Arctic coast; and Venetie and Fort Yukon in the Interior — for a paper published this fall. Residents told them ice is thinner. Rivers are shallower. Permafrost is deteriorating. The biggest problem is just getting places. 

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