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Saami Reindeer Pastoralism under Climate Change: Applying a Generalized Framework for Vulnerability Studies to a Sub-Arctic Social–Ecological System

31 May 2007

A generalized vulnerability framework was used to structure an interdisciplinary and intercultural examination of factors that influence the ways in which reindeer pastoralism in Finnmark (northern Norway) may be affected by climate change. Regional and local (downscaled) climate projections included scenarios that can potentially influence foraging conditions for reindeer. None of the projections were without precedent; several climate change events in Finnmark during the last 100 years were at least as great as those projected in the next 20–30 years. Herders’ traditional responses to changes in both the natural and the socio-economic environments have depended on a flexibility in herding practice that is currently being eroded by several non-climate factors. The reduced of freedom of action resulting from loss of habitat, predation and aspects of governance (especially economic and legal constraints) potentially dwarves the putative effects of projected climate change on reindeer pastoralism. It may, however, also lead to situations in which new climatic conditions threaten the system in unprecedented ways. Developing appropriate methodologies for assessing the adaptive capacity, the vulnerability and the resilience of social–ecological systems to global changes remains a challenge. Recognition of the knowledge systems of Arctic cultures and the full engagement of local people throughout the process are key elements of the solution.

Tags: Arctic climate change pastoralism reindeer

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