Fostering understanding, awareness, and appreciation of the Polar Regions through outreach, education, and research. Penn State University.

Resilience in social-ecological systems in Northwest Eurasia (RISES)

Posted on

Resilience in social-ecological systems in Northwest Eurasia (RISES)
Dr. Bruce C. Forbes, Research Professor, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland
Wednesday February 17, 2016 4:00 – 5:00 pm Paterno Library, Foster Auditorium
In N Fennoscandia and NW Siberia, temperatures have increased 2°C over the past 30 years. RISES is a project funded by the Academy of Finland 2012-2016. It aims to understand how resilient the social-ecological systems (SESs) of NW Eurasia have been throughout periods of dramatic climate change of the late Holocene e.g. the Medieval Warm Period, Little Ice Age and late 20th century. Robust answers to such a complex question require: (i) an interdisciplinary approach to research framing, execution and dissemination; (ii) time scales ranging from decades to centuries; and (iii) state-of-the-art methods for field/lab sampling and analyses. Our general objective is to analyze the long-term resilience of integrated SESs that have been characterized by both climate change and the agency and constant adaptation of, respectively, the Yamal Nenets and the Sámi and their huge reindeer herds. We hypothesize that: (i) the oral histories of Nenets elders can be linked to archaeological excavations for reconstructing peopling processes; (ii) former Sámi reindeer gathering sites represent latent resource patches of high
quality/productivity waiting to be exploited anew as focal points for relatively intensive, nutrient-rich grazing conditions; (iii) existing graminoid-dominated tundra swards in both regions are buffered against ongoing climate-driven invasion by woody taxa as long as
reindeer remain at high densities; and (iv) the long-term resilience of Nenets vs. Sámi nomadism succeeds or fails in large part on herders’ ability to fully exploit year-round an ecosystem that extends over several degrees of latitude and longitude. The absence of
fenced reindeer pastures in West Siberia affords a rare opportunity to test this assumption. Intensive participant observation and interviews for developing oral histories will take place at all times of year. Multiple palaeoecological lines of evidence will be investigated via: (i) fossil/subfossil pollen and coprophilous fungus data from high-resolution peat cores; (ii) geoarchaeolgical analysis to determine spatial patterning of dense congrations of reindeer during the late Holocene; and (iii) fossil/subfossil wood/insect fauna from indigenous campsites/environs.