Colorado mountains

Regional Consequences of Changing Climate-Disturbance Interactions for the Resilience of Alaska's Boreal Forest

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Presenter/Primary Author: 
Roger Ruess

Rapid environmental change in interior Alaska over the past century has altered the interrelationships among physical, biological and social drivers of the regional system. Climate warming has altered the dynamics of and interaction among disturbance regimes, notably fire size and severity, surface hydrology and rates of permafrost thaw, and the outbreak behavior of insects and pathogens. Changes in the regional system include threshold shifts in biogeochemical cycling, successional trajectories, and ecosystem and landscape function, leading to significant changes in atmospheric feedbacks of carbon, water and energy.  Changes in climate, fire regime and economic conditions are also affecting rural Alaskan communities where indigenous people depend on subsistence resources as hunters, fishers, and gatherers.  In some cases, the rigidity of formal institutions, such as regulations for hunting and fishing, are constraining local residents’ adaptive responses. Local sources of resilience to address these challenges include local residents’ intimate knowledge of village homelands, oral traditions transmitted by community elders, and traditional sharing networks that maintain community identity, while sustaining food supplies to the most vulnerable households.

Background Photo by: Nicole Hansen - Jornada (JRN) LTER